Reviewer: Tom Ralphs
After missing the Fringe for the first time since he made his Edinburgh debut, Paul Merton is back this year with his improv show. He’s joined by comedians including Mike McShane and Richard Vranch who, along with Merton, were mainstays of Whose Line is it Anyway?
Because of this, it’s fair to say that, whoever Merton’s four chums are, you’re guaranteed a show where everyone is at ease and can let their imaginations fly without worrying about the lack of a safety net.
This also means that at times you feel like they’re taking the easy option and re-treading tried and trusted formula’s rather than coming up with something truly original. The Shakespeare closure was the prime example of this. The Taming of the Shrimp had its moments, but it never really felt as if they were pushing themselves or doing anything that was spur of the moment thinking.
Where they do push each other into awkward situations, such as when Merton played translator to Lee Simpson’s Estonian spokesman, they deliver great results, showing where improvisational comedy can go to and what they offer that no recently established improv group can match.
A routine involving Merton, Vranch and Simpson where they played the part of a man training zebras to jump off swimming boards, was another great example of something developing spontaneously, their shared understanding meaning that each of them knew when to build on what someone else had said and when to throw a complete curveball to head into new territory.
The stage management of the show and the limited variations on what audiences offer as options, work against the strength of the talent on stage at times, but in a world where improv comedy is increasingly commonplace, and where there is a vast variation in quality, Merton and his chums continue to set the standards that other’s follow.
Runs until 19 August 2018 | Image: Contributed