King’s Head, London – until 18 March 2017
“Because everything’s better as a musical.”
Between Austentatious and The Showstoppers, I’ve been thoroughly entertained (and consistently left in awe) by my dips into the world of improv so there’s always been a slight sense of trepidation about going further afield to see others do it, just in case they’re not as good! But the company to get me over myself were Waiting for the Call, the “original all-female long-form musical improv team”, and their promise of a unique blend of comedy, improv and musical group work.
Their show Notflix just played at the VAULT Festival and is following that up with a week at the King’s Head, ahead of a return to Edinburgh in the summer. And you can see why, as improv does carry with it a certain appeal to the festival market in its rapid-fire wit and scrappy energy and in that, WftC are certainly pitching themselves to the right places.
Notflix is sparked by audience suggestions of the last film they watched, one of which is then selected to receive the musical improv treatment. The night I saw it, The First Wives Club and Batman vs Superman did battle and The First Wives Club won, and what we got was a surreal interpretation of the film (if there’s any weakness to the evening, I think it should be more explicit that the group are going to be riffing on the film in question) that jettisoned two of the wives and replaced them with a subplot about duelling window-cleaning brothers both called Doug.
Between diamond pacifiers, Squeegee4000s and pony memes, the wackier the storytelling got, the funnier it became, especially once the construction of a sex swing got started. And musically, the show got stronger as it made bolder choices about the musical styles it was aping, the Hamilton spoof was inspired and I could probably listen to Gemma-Marie Everest wocka-wocka-wocka all night long. There’s a palpable chemistry between the company, even though it rotates members, and a genuinely quickwittedness that was frequently laugh out loud funny (if I had to pick favourites, I think Aisling Groves-McKeown just edged it with her physical comedy skillz).
It is far too easy for me to say that the music and lyrics could occasionally have done with a bit more variation (relying a little too much on repetition). or that a couple of the performers need to work on their game faces (there was a moment where no-one seemed to want to take the lead), but that’s not to ignore how much fun Notflix was, or how much admiration I have for the exponents of this most enjoyable of artforms.