REVIEW: Bristol Improv – Offscript! and Dynamite! Edinburgh Fringe 2019 ★★★★☆

As a filmmaker, my literal worst nightmare is having to improvise decisions and story on the spot on set, and that’s before we get to my other worst nightmare of having to improvise comedy live on the spot on stage at the Edinburgh Fringe. But that’s what makes the framing of Bristol Improv’s Offscript! so fun: the audience comes up with a title, and the performers go from there. I very much wish I had written it down because now my inability to remember it is incredibly frustrating, but it was definitely about runaway dogs.

The story took a little while to get going and sometimes felt a little meandering; there were moments where it felt like the cast had written themselves into a corner, which is always the risk you run with improvised storytelling (and, because it’s a different show every night, such critiques are inevitably doomed to be time capsules from my singular sitting).

Nonetheless, all of the cast carve out strong characters from the get-go: the struggling actor playing Prime Minister, the slightly-crazed dog owner, the incredibly inadequate director (where particular credit must be paid to actor Sarah Alli), the onions-obsessed caterer. The character work is unequivocally the highlight of Offscript!, and I would recommend it on that alone before we even get to the comedy (it’s funny, too!).

If you’re into film-related improv, then check out Bristol Improv: Offscript! at TheSpace @ Surgeon’s Hall, 22:10, August 1 – 10, 12 – 17.

But that’s not all. The team at Bristol Improv are also blowing up Edinburgh Fringe with some Dynamite! (yes I am really funny thanks).

Mixing up improvised games and sketches,  performers take the audience on a slightly more informal journey through the wonders of what can be thought up on the spot. From genre-switching storytelling (done absolutely seamlessly) to improvised innuendos (“sex with me is like an umbrella – only useful when it’s wet”), the improvisers demonstrate an eclectic range of skits to show off their talents.

Much like with Offscript!, there is the odd moment when performers don’t quite gel or a skit overstays its welcome; indeed, it would have been nice to have more involvement from the entire cast. But, again, it’s to be expected with improv, and the show will no doubt transform completely if you (yes, you!) go and check it out. What’s important is to cultivate the right energy in the room and ensure tight chemistry amongst the cast, which the team pull off successfully.

Bristol Improv: Dynamite! is performing at PBH Free Fringe @ Brewdog Lothian Road, 20:25, until August 24.