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The Parentheticals: Improdyssey
The Water Rats
5th August 2017


Publicity image for The Parentheticals: Improdyssey

Photography © Tom Oswald

Is there a story that you would really like to see performed on stage? Well, you might just be in luck. With The Parentheticals: Improdyssey, you dictate the show. For roughly one hour, Brendan Way, Gilead Amit, Guillaume Desqueyroux, Joe Colgan, Kate Oswald, Nat Ruginis and Sean Toole are your comedy puppets, ready to play out whatever scenario you have in mind.

Upon entering, the audience is asked to write down three things that you wouldn't normally say aloud. Spoiler alert: some of these will be read later! Whilst I wasn't sure what to expect from this exercise, it produced some very comical results. Like much of the show, to kick this section off, we were asked to suggest a relationship between two parties. This scenario was then improvised on stage with the notes being quoted at thoroughly random, inappropriate moments. Although this inevitably resulted in some nonsensical speech, the Parentheticals mostly did a good job of integrating the points with quick responses from the characters.

Audience participation is critical throughout the show. However, this is done in a friendly, collective way and nobody is picked on. At the start of the performance, the audience is asked to name a story that we would really like to see - perhaps unsurprisingly given the current mood, someone suggested Brexit. We then came up with five key points, which included a certain Boris Johnson and the terrible morning after the referendum. With London being prime Remainer territory everyone seemed happy with the choices. The Parentheticals then got down to the improvisation without any preparation time. The group were well coordinated and while it naturally wasn't a fully polished production, I couldn't tell that it was being made up as they went along. The cynic in me might say that they had rehearsed a similar scene before, but some of the group did look rather nervous when waiting for the five points to be confirmed, suggesting they too had no idea what was to follow next.

The best part of the show was an improvised story about the quest to find a hairless rat in Mordor. Again, the subject of the quest and the setting were decided by the audience. This was an incredibly well-executed and imaginative performance in which I couldn’t help but become immersed. I particularly liked the detail about the orc (Way) who was trying to hide the fact that he had a hobbit (Ruginis) for a wife! The fact that this was all allegedly 100% improvised blew my mind as everything flowed as it should. Now, I can’t guarantee that they didn't have friends in the audience who had preselected the topics (I simply wasn't quick enough to call something out myself). However, from where I was sitting, it all looked genuine to me. If you have a burning desire to see something acted out on stage, warm up those vocal chords in advance and shout first and loudest!

Overall, this was a very enjoyable performance from the Parentheticals and I would be interested to see what crazy stories they come up with next. And I guess that is what improv is all about. If you go on Sunday you will probably be watching an entirely different production making this review immediately irrelevant - personally I find this rather refreshing.

The Parentheticals: Improdyssey opened on 5th August and runs until 6th August 2017 at the Water Rats, as part of the Camden Fringe.

Nearest tube station: Kings Cross (Northern, Piccadilly, Victoria, Circle, Metropolitan, Hammersmith & City)

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