Impropriety’s improvised soap opera The Happening is coming to the end of its run at 81 Renshaw Street. Sean Broadhurst returns to take in the penultimate episode and reflects on the performances of the last five weeks.
This week’s episode started with a three-minute recap of the story so far; Musty and Tempest’s bickering; the drug deals, the murders, Roger F’cough’s conversations with the patron saint of poetry, the short-lived success of Albert Hoffman’s vegetarian café, Jo Caine’s blackmail, and every other important plotline the cast could remember at command.
Some of us had been absent in recent weeks and despite the absolute chaos that ensued everybody had caught up by the end of the scene. It was the perfect way to set the tone of the night, the actors were energetic, the jokes were on point, and they managed to dart around the stage — Trev Fleming and Angie Waller even took on multiple roles — without getting in each other’s way and this abundance of energy was consistent with how the night would continue.
Throughout the run Impropriety have set the bar high. The piece has evolved as the weeks have passed and the group have met obstacles (like the small cast last week) head on and overcome them with ease, and, most importantly, every scene has made us laugh.
In Episode five we were introduced to two new characters. Biggles, an ‘old-school misogynist’ played by Ed Croft, and Detective Semaphore who is the third character to be portrayed by Trev Fleming. Biggles pronounces theatre with three syllables, he’s a veteran of the acting scene and can say anything in a ‘wanky’ way, and he’s got Rita Armstrong (Becky Illsley) in his sights; he’s proposed to her, and although Rita is a strong independent woman, has her own paperclips, her own pencil-pot, and can staple with the best of them, she’s accepted his proposal. Detective Semaphore has travelled all the way from Mount Geneva to investigate the disappearance of fellow Mount Genevian, Albert Hoffman, who was murdered in the last scene of episode four.
Over the last five weeks the story has twisted and turned, the actors have thrown curve balls to one another, characters have left, disappeared mysteriously, and two have been murdered (along with some other people and a few dogs) but somehow the gang have found themselves in pretty much the same situation as they were in episode two; with one body in the basement that they need to dispose of before they’re all found out and the venue is closed. But with Detective Semaphore on the case this won’t be easy.
In his mission to find out what happened to his handsome 6″2 doppleginger, the detective has placed a rat in the club, or rather, he has literally put a rat inside Brigadier Ulysses Major’s (Cellan Scott) head, (it’s a new technology in police surveillance called ‘catch the vermin’ or ‘CTV’) — watching the usually posh Brigadier reluctantly switch between rodent mode and Brigadier mode was one of the evening’s highlights. But that wasn’t not the only ace that Det. Semaphore had up his sleeve, in what was the most enjoyable musical number of the run, due to its sheer length and the gusto put into it by both actors, the detective revealed to Musty Minefield (Angie Waller) that her daughter is currently stuck at Interpol, and that with a word he could see them both reunited; all Musty needs to do is confess what happened to Hoffman.
The fourth wall was well and truly destroyed on Monday as the audience were called upon to participate in several scenes. Alan Furlenghetti (Alastiar Clark) practised his salesmanship with the crowd who were more than happy to procure cocaine, marijuana, and ecstasy from the reluctant drug dealer. And In the last scene before the interval, the characters played an invisible board game with the help of the audience. The board was huge and needed to be held up by the first three rows and Trev Fleming pulled a woman up on stage to be used as a playing piece. She stood nervously in the middle of the stage as the die was rolled; a four.
‘You need to hop forward four spaces.’ said Det. Semaphore.
‘No not like that. Do it in French.’ he said.
Their ‘playing piece’ landed on a pick up a card square and it was revealed that the scene had been set up to wish the audience member a happy birthday. Paradoxically, this didn’t break our immersion in the performance because, although the cast broke character to sing happy birthday, the intimacy of these performances has consistently extended beyond that of patron and performer. If you go to one on Impropriety’s events, you don’t just feel like you’re paying to watch a show, you feel as though you and everyone in the room is an important part of it and this moment was just an extension of that.
Among our favourite scenes of the night was an improv workshop, set up by Roger F’cough (Paul Robinson), and, innkeeping with the spirit of a real improv workshop, Roger, having gotten everyone together, fucked off and left Biggles to run the show. However, the workshop didn’t seem very strong on the ‘workshop’ aspect; it mostly consisted of weird games and everyone shouting, ‘You fucked it up!’ whenever someone made a mistake, and Biggles only seemed interested in trying to force two of the women to fight.
Perhaps improvised improv workshops don’t reflect real life ones. Or maybe there’s something deeper going on, like in Inception which this reviewer is going to pretend to know the first thing about despite not having not seen the film. We’ve all seen the memes though, right? Perhaps that’s why The Happening often makes no sense, could it be that it’s an improv within an improv within an…nah probably not.
The LAST episode of the Happening will be performed this Monday 23rd October at 81 Renshaw Street at the usual time of 20:00. Doors open at 19:30 tickets £5 OTD.