Reviewer: Nicole Evans
Foghorn Improv are a comedy improv group resident at The Old Joint Stock Theatre in Birmingham. They hold a regular improv night on the last Thursday of each month, performing audience led improvisational comedy. Foghorn’s nights usually consist of a themed evening of games and stories with six to eight performers from a pool of local talent but tonight’s show was a little different.
Improv Smackdown, while still hosted by Foghorn, features the cream of the crop of comedy improvisers from around the country. Travelling from as far as Scotland to compete, the nine performers all have the same aim, to be crowned the UK’s top improv comedian. Think extremely intimate Whose Line is it Anyway but with nine performers and no time for outtakes, and you’re about there.
After entering the tiny theatre we find a strip of paper and a pen on our seats and are instructed to write down a lie we have told. This provides the material for the “line from a pocket” game we will see later on and is only the beginning of the parts we all have to play in the evening’s antics. More than a dozen rounds of improvised comedy games and stories follow, each one’s theme dictated by the audiences’ called out answers to a computer generated question. The themes really can go in any direction as proven by the particularly memorable, close to the bone hilarious story round, resulting in talks of a beheading Margaret Thatcher board game and a Princess Diana themed Scalextric…
Randomly chosen, red fez wearing audience members are responsible for the scoring and the end total decides the finalists who will compete in the last round for the ultimate title. Although not a finalist, local boy Lee Dempsey deserves a mention just for his petting zoo sketch involving a possibly unintended impression of a drunk Freddie Mercury and finalists Lloydie and Peter were consistently providing belly laugh material from start to finish. Crowned champion, Heather Urquhart delivered a smooth performance throughout and after particularly excelling in the hoe down round is a very worthy winner.
The whole evening has the audience roaring with laughter (even if at times we do feel guilty about that) and the talent on display is simply superb. Improv Smackdown is a fantastically funny night that will hopefully be a regular yearly feature for some time yet, and if Foghorn’s regular nights are only half as funny then you won’t want to miss them. With the added bonus of all proceeds from this evening’s performance going to Birmingham’s Gateway Family Services charity this really is something special.
Reviewed on April 25th.