REVIEW: Showstopper! The Improvised Musical (The Other Palace) ★★★★★

Theatre is renowned for its risk – financial restraints, the inherent vulnerability that comes with sharing ideas and the unpredictable variables of audience respect and enjoyment. However, a forgotten line or tripping up aside, thorough rehearsals mean there is little on the line where actual performance is concerned.

What makes multi-award winning Showstopper! so novel is the company’s active pursuit of stripping themselves of every ounce of control. Established in 2008 by Dylan Emery and Adam Meggido, the ensemble let the audience choose absolutely every detail from the location, songs and storyline. Even the lighting and band are seasoned improvisors following the company’s Listen, Accept, Commit technique as they study together to achieve the elitism which results in such sustained success.

The concept is simple – the host and producer played on this night by Emery himself, asks the audience for zany suggestions for location, song styles and plot. The best ones are put to a cheer-for-the-one-you-like vote system and a fledging musical is born. Lights down and the rest is up to the actors of which penetrate the stage with more confidence in their abilities than the whole audience collectively.

This is not a show for a hungover actor, nor one who is tired, distracted or even suffering with a sniffle. The expectation placed on their shoulders would keep most people up at night – finding instantaneous rhymes, harmonies and in-sync choreography. But this hand-picked pool of performers command the audience with steely confidence and often create moments which are genuinely hilarious.

This particular night, with the musical entitled ‘Allota Dancin’’ about a love story set within a Cornish allotment saw Pippa Evans shine as she donned multiple accents and bold comedic characters. The whole company delivered a surprisingly well-rounded plot with high energy songs and a generous sprinkling of diverse romances.

Improvising a musical is certainly not a concept dreamt up by Showstoppers!. The Edinburgh Fringe is cluttered in improvisation shows of varying levels which promise the same quality as this one. However, this company strike a sublime balance between freedom and the strictness of old-school drama techniques.

During the show, the exclusivity of what you’re watching floats around the audience as a palpable buzz of energy. Showstoppers! can be used as an argument that buying a show that ‘doesn’t exist’ is often more risk-free than most ready-made.

Reviewed by Nicole Darvill-Batten
Photo: Alex Harvey Brown


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