Review by Carly Fisher
Improvising musical theatre cannot be easy - to coordinate harmonies, basic choreography and a storyline spontaneously within a group sounds unquestionably challenging. And so, straight off the bat, I have to commend anyone who attempts this crazy feat - it requires a skill set few possess that intricately balances improvisation and theatresports expertise with musical talent.
The troupe behind Notfilx:Binge certainly possess these skills which makes their concept - an improvised musical based on a film suggested by the audience - so much fun.
It’s not easy to review an improvised musical like this because the quality of the show is so dependent on the quality of the suggestion offered. Whilst good in theory, the film suggested when I was there, Mrs Doubtfire, is already a Broadway musical. And so, it was both difficult not to compare but also difficult to see this as totally original. All the same, at least it is a movie that leaves room for plenty of comedy which definitely allowed for easier flow within this improvised musical.
It is impressive to watch this group in action - there is a need to think quick and to be very open and responsive to where your fellow cast members take the story, irrespective of where you may have seen it going. Emma Reed was a particular stand out - she kept the story moving and offered support to every member of the team throughout with the addition of new characters, harmonies and general acceptance of any plot line presented.
As a group, there seemed to be something off in the unity of the ensemble - with very different performance styles in the group, it was a little jarring to see such disparity from the small ensemble. I think too that there is a lot to say about the inclusion of some occasional stillness - the group moved constantly and making choreography up on the spot like that saw them having to rely on some very basic, slightly old school moves that felt a bit too ‘dance school’ to match the quality of performance.
Holly Mallett too was very enjoyable to watch - she has a clear idea of where she wants to drive a scene and of the need for pace and consistency throughout the show. She kept the ball rolling for the group often but performs with a very laid back attitude that made her relatable and enjoyable to watch.
As far as improvised musicals, this one certainly has an advantage - the story is laid out for the show as it is designed to replicate a pre-existing film. Whilst there is unquestionably a lot that must still be made up on the spot, particularly in the way of songs, the show has clever bones in that there is always a plot to follow that the cast is not responsible for creating ad hoc. I imagine that when the suggestion from the audience is a film they are less familiar with, this still offers plenty of complication, but by and large, the show is supported in this way by the presence of an exisiting narrative to guide the show.
If I am being totally honest, I had higher expectations for this show than what was achieved and left underwhelmed. That said, I can see why the group has had the success it has had thus far and I hope that only continues to grow for them.