Bongo Club, Edinburgh
August, 2000

My problem with much of the Chicago school of improv comedy/theatre is that it often doesn't seem to me to involve a great deal of improvisation; information gleaned from the audience is slotted in, or determines which of a set of options is chosen, but little actual invention appears to take place on the hoof. In this show, the Neo-Futurists don't claim to improvise, except in the running order of their thirty playlets (with new pieces added daily): the audience calls out which number from the menu they want to see next, and the company set off on that particular number, getting through all thirty within an hour. Except that, when I saw them, there wasn't too much evidence of actually listening to the audience.

Most of the "plays" are comedy sketches one or two musical numbers, one or two wordless or near-wordless routines with only the occasional, usually self-consciously "right-on", foray into serious territory. Their Jane Austen and David Mamet pastiches are delicious, and the company certainly perform with verve and aplomb, but ultimately the whole show rests on a gimmick, and one which (as I say) seemed to be only partially observed. Their receipt of a Fringe First award smacks a little of the syndrome known among reviewers as "the Edinburgh bends".

Written for the Financial Times Web site,

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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