Review – The Improvised Panto!

Dec 10 2013 | By More

✭✭✭✩✩ Happy ending achieved

Impro FX: Will Naameh, Steve Worsley, Harry Gooch and Charlie Hindley. Photo © Thom Dibdin

Impro FX: Will Naameh, Steve Worsley, Harry Gooch and Charlie Hindley. Photo © Thom Dibdin

City Night Club
Mon 9 – Fri 13 December 2013
Review by Thom Dibdin

The route was convoluted and the going sometimes harder than it should have been, but Impro FX brought the happy ending home on the opening night of their improvised panto. Eventually.

Of course that happy ending never really was in doubt – although there were times when, in the best pantomime tradition, it might have seemed otherwise.

This is an impressively ambitious undertaking from the Edinburgh-based comedy troupe, who are staging a unique pantomime every night of this week, at the City Nightclub on Market Street.

The formula – and there is a formula despite what Harry Gooch, leader of the four-strong troupe will tell you – is simple. Grandad is reading the children a bedtime story on Christmas Eve.

Having had all his suggestions rejected, he calls on the audience to provide various characters and traits. These are then wound into a panto-style tale – with the help of Dan McGurty on keyboards.

What there isn’t, is any set form to the ensuing tale. A few costumes and props are on hand, though. An all-in-one Dame frontage and dress, a one-person pantomime horse and a magic mirror – not to mention various bindles, wigs and cat’s ears. Which should cover enough variations to give a panto gloss to almost any eventuality.

So far, so entertaining. On opening night a semi-professional rugby playing hooker of a dame thwarted a dastardly plot to drown Santa. And saw her lovely fire-obsessed lad Alexander marry gossiping princess Ursula of Cornwall. And a horse jumped down a well in a fine act of selfless decency.

Along the way there were songs – of a sort, plenty of banter and more kinks and twists than, well, a kinky, twisted thing.

Will Naameh made a gorgeous-pouting Princess, Steve Worsley got both the boos as baddy Miguel and cheers as pyromaniac Alexander, Harry Gooch had conversations with himself as both the Dame and Santa, while Charlie Hindley made a superb horse – and, disturbingly, royal mother.

It feels most like an improvised musical

Great fun, but it lacks too many of pantomime’s elements to really call it such. Despite the stock panto characters, it feels most like an improvised musical. Although it is to the 12 bar blues rather than the delights of Broadway that the greatest nods are given in the singing department.

And, given that this is performed on licensed premises in a night-club, there is no need to curb the innuendo.

Pantomime has a real rhythm to it in the call and response, in the patter of bad jokes, the bringing of local references into the plot and the use of popular music to provide the soundtrack.

It has its own rituals and set-pieces which, to be fair to Impro FX, do not necessarily sit easily with the idea of an improvised show. But which could have been brought into play if they had the deep knowledge of those rituals and their different interpretations.

That would have been a very different show – but what is there works well. The troupe gel nicely – although they could pick up from each other faster and pass roles around much more. And it will work even better once it begins to pick up a decent sized audience.

Running time 1 hr 15 mins
Monday 9 – Friday 13 December 2013
Daily, 8pm for an 8.15pm start.
City Nightclub, 1a Market Street, EH1 1DE
Details on Impro FX website:
Tickets from XTSpro:


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