The Oxford Imps are a vivacious, energetic and boisterous sketch comedy troupe, whose colourful characters ensured that their entire show is spectacularly silly. True to their names, this mischievous band of entertainers guaranteed that there was never a dull moment, continuously managing to manufacture magic on the small studio stage. The Imps bound into the playhouse with a fresh dynamism and vitality as they chaotically perform their improvised choreography. Audience clapping, lights flashing, energy in the room is electric.
The talented band of Imps ensure that no joke is un-milked and no punchline un-exploited. I remain incredibly impressed by the professionalism and wit displayed by every single member of the band. Every accent under the sun is incorporated into their fast-paced and well-rehearsed routine, from the Bristolian bog man, to the Chicagoan balaclava-stealing crime boss, and the posh buffoonery of a money-hungry couple. The show concludes with a 15-minute-long improvised musical, ‘Seashells in a Bog’. This incredibly relevant and important piece of theatre tackles vital issues such as gentrification and over-priced bog boat tours. The musical concludes (as all good musicals should) with the song “it’s created too much of schism, let’s topple capitalism!”. (It’s clear why this group are so popular at the Edinburgh fringe festival!).
The relationship and trust between each member is palpable, as each Imp works seamlessly with the other. In a particularly remarkable game, the imps are required to improvise a series of ‘punny’ jokes and are able to think of hilarious punchlines in a matter of seconds. When asked what happens when “185 lamps walk into a bar” quick witted responses included “the bar was lit” and the “barman was like watt?”. The audience was keeling over with laughter. However, whilst all of the Imps are incredibly talented, some of the games don’t allow for as much creativity and didn’t enable (in my opinion) enough room for laughter. A scene of two ex-partners trapped on a sailing boat together, I felt, didn’t win as many smiles as some of the other faster-paced sketches. However when everything is performed off the cuff, it’s impossible to ensure all sketches performed are golden.
The unsung hero of the show is undoubtedly the talented pianist whose improvised medleys helped set the mood for each scene. As well as contributing to the ambiance, the pianist also allows the imps to perform emotional ballads at particularly tense moments of the show. Despite the enthusiasm shown by all members, some of the singing falls flat (by a few keys). However, the imps more than make up for this with their enthusiasm and barrels of energy.
One final commendation must of course go out to the audience, who, in an improvised show are just as vital to the overall production, as the performers. The theatre was nearly completely full, and the crowd were incredibly enthusiastic. Heckles launched from the audience are hilarious and suggestions are creative and innovative.
Overall, this is a great show. Despite the suffocating heat, the imps had an abundance of enthusiasm and it seemed as though they genuinely enjoyed entertaining people. All quick-witted, and hilarious in their own right, the Oxford Imps are definitely a family-friendly improv troupe worth checking out!