If you are one of my more astute and faithful readers, you may remember that we saw the Oxford Imps at the Edinburgh Fringe this summer and that that was our first foray into the potentially dangerous world of improvised comedy. I’m not sure why improv had never really appealed much to us; I think it’s to do with the fact that whilst everyone was raving about Channel 4’s Whose Line Is It Anyway, Mrs Chrisparkle and I watched it once and found it a rather irritating and self-indulgent programme. I know – imagine our cheek. However, age must be softening our sharp edges, and, having thought that those little Imps were a lot of fun, for the second time this year we found ourselves in front of a team of comedy improvisers and with not a clue as to what to expect.
The Same Faces are based in Leicester but once a month venture down south to God’s Own County, where their regular stage is at the back of the Black Prince on Kettering Road in Northampton. It’s a very good venue – a friendly pub with a good range of drinks at reasonable prices – and the back room is absolutely perfect for the task. There was a good turn out last Saturday, with the number of people arriving exceeding the number of chairs. So that’s either a good thing, or a bad thing, depending on your point of view (particularly if you hoped to sit down!) It’s also only a fiver to get in if you book in advance (£7 if you don’t) so that’s incredible value for over 2 hours of entertainment.
The group’s line-up changes from show to show, but for last Saturday’s extravaganza we had Boss Man Tom Young, regular Dave Gotheridge, and semi-regulars Jen Kenny, Ryan Vernal and Jaz Cox. They each bring their different gifts to the performance; some are a bit more quick-thinking on their feet than others, some have a more natural authority than others, some are more eccentric than others – stir all that into one melting pot of talent and you’re going to get a totally different show every time. Especially as it is, of course, the audience who give the performers the subjects that they are going to be dealing with.
As I’ve only seen the one show, I don’t know to what extent the “games” that the group play change from month to month; I sense they don’t change that much, what changes is the line-up and the subjects. I’ll not be able to remember all the games from Saturday night – and me just spouting a list won’t be that interesting to you, gentle reader – but some of them leap to mind, for what will become obvious reasons as we go on…
Two of my favourite games in the first half were “Party Quirks”, where one member of the team was holding a party and the four guests all had some kind of quirk about them, which had been suggested by the audience whilst the party host was out of the room. When he returned and they enacted out the party, he had to guess which particular problem each of his guests had. Jen was given “God Complex”, which gave rise to some nicely patronising behaviour, and Dave had to channel his inner Russian because his quirk was that he was unable to say the word “the”. The other excellent game was where Jen was a barmaid and each of her customers had a particular problem that they had to sing to her about, and then she had to sing each of them in turn a solution for their problem. Who knew mice in the skirting board could be so melodious?
But it was in the second half where things got considerably more hysterical. I really enjoyed the game where Jen and Dave had to advertise a new album on a subject given by a member of the audience: this week, Firefighters. So they had to create some excellent ideas for the other team members to sing; perhaps most memorably, the ever charming and deeply emotional smash hit, Shiny Helmet. And there was a mannequin game where Tom chose two members of the audience to come on stage; each had to prompt one member of the group into movement by tapping them on whichever part of the body they wanted them to move. One of these two hapless members of the public was Mrs C. I could see in her eyes that she wasn’t following the instructions at all, and so once the game began she instantly started making a mess of it. Eventually she got the hang of it, but instructing others on which limbs to use doesn’t really count as one of her personal strengths. Absolutely hilarious.
The Same Faces perform at the Black Prince on the final Saturday of every month, so if you fancy supporting a new local comedy venture, I’d really recommend it! Unfortunately, I don’t think we can make any more this year, but we will certainly be back for more in a few months’ time!