Creators: The Noise Next Door
Despite the unseasonal downpour, a determined audience flows into Brighton Open Air Theatre kitted out in cagoules, ponchos, and waterproof trousers. Not every night of theatre can be glorious sunshine. The stalwart vibes spread to the stage as the members of The Noise Next Door refuse to be deterred from their planned, unplanned antics. When very early in proceedings Sam Pacelli throws himself spread-eagled on the sodden Astroturf of the stage, soaking his outfit all down his front, we are assured it’ll take more than a little precipitation to slow these improvisers down.
Winging It is short-form improv, which some may fondly remember from shows such as Whose Line Is It Anyway? We aren’t to expect the emotional depths of more theatrical, narrative, or long-form improvisation, but we are in for some laughs. Coming from similar backgrounds in stand-up and performance, and all being graduates of Master’s Degrees from the University of Kent, we might worry that Tom Livingstone, Matt Grant, Sam Pacelli, and Robin Hatcher, as a collective, could have a narrow view of the world. Thankfully, their show is not saturated in base or bawdy jokes. Instead, The Noise Next Door’s humour has a lad culture flavour, but it’s mixed with a pleasing ratio of pure nonsense. In the first game, a man gets himself superglued to a Teletubby, while another man travels the world trying to find something that might alleviate the situation. One of the most delightful scenes in this sequence is watching Grant, Hatcher and Pacelli playing an anatomically baffling whale as Livingstone tries to make head or tail of the ‘majestic’ creature.
Throughout their show, The Noise Next Door frequently draws on willing audience members for suggestions to lead them in their humorous endeavours. In one game, they even coax a man out of his seat. He is having a birthday, so is the seemingly obvious choice to assist the group in object work. As Pacelli leads a quest across Finland to find a tiki bar, hilarious moments are created, including an elk (played by the birthday ‘boy’) falling down beside a crevasse instead of into it as suggested.
Like a lot of improv comedy, you just have to be there. The beauty of experiencing these creative moments live on stage, to which no one absent will ever bear witness, is part of the magic of the form. For seasoned lovers of the wide world of improv, The Noise Next Door’s games might feel a bit basic, however, they do them expertly and to raucous laughter. It’s hard to argue Winging It is satisfying a space where those unfamiliar with improvisation can enjoy a very fun night of off-the-cuff comedy.Those that are familiar, can appreciate that classic games like New Choice (or Change) and Shift Left are executed by The Noise Next Door extremely well. Some improvisation can get dampened by pre-emptive apologies and performers trying to soften the blow when spontaneity goes wrong, but not The Noise Next Door, and this is to their credit. They commit to their time on the stage and promise their audience a wild, but highly enjoyable, ride. This they deliver with Winging It.
Undeniably, some parts of the show, do work better than others. A sports coach pep talk given by Livingstone, who elicits from the audience the details of the made-up sport Bum Pop, is outstanding. The only disappointment is not seeing a scene of the game in action. A segment where the group make-up spontaneous stand-up-style jokes is less successful.A two-headed expert played by Pacelli and Hatcher is very fun but goes on a little too long, as does the detective guessing game on which the show ends. Part of this is made much more obvious by the rain and the innate instinct we all feel to get out of it and get ourselves a boozy hot chocolate from the BOAT bar.
The Noise Next Door wisely makes the decision to play through the interval, so by the end of their show they are no doubt cold, soaked through, and tired, but they keep going with gusto regardless. We are left with the feeling that it has been decidedly worth the discomfort caused by the weather. We’ve had lots of fun, and we’ve laughed. The Noise Next Door does what they do very well, very professionally, and it’s a very enjoyable show as a result, whatever the weather.
Reviewed on the 22nd July 2023