Review: An Improbable Musical celebrates the magic of live theatre in style on Northampton stage

Steve Mills reviews An Improbable Musical at the Royal & Derngate, Northampton

By Peter Ormerod
Wednesday, 2nd March 2022, 9:07 am
Updated Wednesday, 2nd March 2022, 9:10 am
Y'ou won’t get to see the show I saw. But I have absolutely no doubt that the show they will serve up any night will be spectacular' (photo: Marc Brenner)
Y'ou won’t get to see the show I saw. But I have absolutely no doubt that the show they will serve up any night will be spectacular' (photo: Marc Brenner)

I with I could give you an idea of what I was watching tonight with the expectation that it will be the same when you see it later in the week. But the genius of this show is that it is different every single night.

Featuring song, story and puppetry, the talented cast of six actors alongside a handful of musicians improvised a new show based around the audience suggestions. Featuring the location of the Lakes, the item of chocolate and featuring the beautifully poetic line “the house is burning down but this time it’s not my fault,” our cast took us on a journey of relationships, strange friendships and ducks made of cups and teapots.

Like I said, you won’t get to see the show I saw. But I have absolutely no doubt that the show they will serve up any night will be spectacular, even as they adapted to the absence of members of the cast and crew due to self isolation.

The best known name in amongst the cast is Josie Lawrence, renowned for improvisation on Whose Line Is It Anyway and for strait-laced acting in a number of television roles. She portrayed all of the characters beautifully, wringing every single bit of joy and laughter out of the rather crazy situations they had been given to perform.

The cast are all wonderful. Ruth Brett’s wonderful range of accents was a delight and one particular character felt like she had just walked off the set of a Victoria Wood sketch (in all the best possible ways). Niall Ashdown’s habit of pointing out the obvious was brilliantly timed and wonderfully funny. And the improvisation from Adam Courting and Janet Etuk was fantastic.

But a final word for the team at the Royal & Derngate. After a scary two years and counting for the region’s theatre, many might have chosen to play it safe by picking big name dramas and musicals guaranteed to put the bums on seats. And while there is absolutely nothing wrong with that approach, it is commendable to stage an improvised musical and a risk which has definitely worked. With entertainment like this, it has reminded me of the absolute magic that live theatre can offer.

* An Improbable Musical can be seen at the Royal and Dernagte, Northampton until Saturday March 5. Visit royalandderngate.co.uk or call 01604 624811 to book.