Tony Cross improvises his review of Whose Line Is It Anyway in the style of a hoedown (OK, maybe not)...
Those of you with hair as grey as mine will remember that ‘Whose Line Is It Anyway’ started off as a Radio 4 series, then moved on to Channel 4 and finally jumped across the Atlantic before fading away from British screens. You could hear or watch Stephen Fry and John Sessions trying to out smart-arse each other. It was the first time I ever saw or heard host Clive Anderson or contestants Sandy Toksvig, Josie Lawrence, Greg Proops, Mike McShane and others. I had several C-90s (Google it young people) worth of Radio episodes saved up for those days when I needed cheering up.
So I was looking forward to seeing this live version at the London Palladium. The line-up consisted of familiar faces – Clive Anderson, Josie Lawrence, Greg Proops and Colin Mochrie – and two American comedians I’d never seen before: Brad Sherwood and Jeff Davis.
Clive Anderson came out first and told a few nice jokes to get us in the mood. Anderson’s delivery is always that of a man that knows what he’s saying should be funny but is incredibly worried that the audience won’t believe him. Each cast member was introduced and then we were off.
Most of the games will be familiar to anyone who’s seen the television series and whether they vary the games from night to night I don’t know. Anderson certainly did a good job of trying to keep the various suggestions shouted from the audience from being too repetitive of the previous night.
There’s a surprisingly large amount of audience participation. Not just the usual requests for suggestions but actually getting volunteers out of the audience to help out with the games, which certainly added to the fun. I don’t know whether they got lucky this night or people are better at not being muppets than I thought but the volunteers from the audience were generally rather fun. One of them, a drama therapist on her first night out in a year after having a baby, was to provide a number of call-backs throughout the night.
To cut a long ramble short I haven’t laughed so much in ages. Yes, not everything works perfectly but that’s the nature of improv but the hits far, far out-numbered the misses. I always find improv something of a miraculous art, particularly improvised songs. Josie Lawrence is the Queen of the Improvised Song, partly because she’s clever and funny and partly because she genuinely has a fantastic singing voice but both Brad Sherwood and Jeff Davis were darn good too. Both making a number of excellent digs at Presidential candidate Donald Trump through the evening.
The whole cast were excellent though. I’ve not mention either Greg Proops or Colin Mochrie specifically so far but Proops was clever and acerbic and Colin Mochrie is the master of the almost unplayable killer line thrown at his colleagues. Sherwood and Davis more than held their own and made me want to see them live doing their own thing. And Josie Lawrence is a superstar. It’s all held together (almost) seamlessly by Clive Anderson.
They’re only doing a limited number of nights but I’d recommend catching them next time round if you can. I’d also suggest there’s legs in ‘Whose Line Is It Anyway?’ running for a longer period in the West End, although I’m not sure the Comedy Store would be happy. There certainly seemed to be an enthusiastic audience for it, including me. If you can’t get to see it here, then perhaps seek out the cast in their own shows. I don’t think you’d be disappointed.
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