Group Shot Best
Group Shot Best

Impropriety Presents The Happening – Episode Three: 81 Renshaw Street, Liverpool

By Sean Broadhurst
Mon 09 October, 2017

The laughs turn to genuine emotion for episode three of Impropriety’s improvised soap opera, and Sean Broadhurst finally avoided becoming part of the show.

Episode three of The Happening marks the halfway point in Impropriety’s improvised soap opera, and things aren’t looking great for our favourite fictional 60s artists. As they bicker among themselves, the council are planning to pull the rug from under their feet, of course, first they want to gentrify that rug and sell it on to people who have lots of money.

Last week, Bob Crabbe killed his singing partner, Terry Pittman, and the artists, thinking it was all part of the show, unwittingly became accomplices to the murder. This week we found them dealing with the immediate aftermath of Terry’s death. Crabbe had disappeared, and the body had been hidden. Now all they need to do is keep quiet about it. But they’re artists, aren’t they? Keeping quiet simply isn’t their style.

Episode three began with owner of the venue, Clayton Square, being filled in on last week’s happenings — that’s right, we really are going to continue milking this joke for the next three weeks.

Clayton knows that if the news gets out, it’s the end of the venue, and the local art scene will be the only casualty. There’s a dead guy hidden somewhere in the basement too of course, but Clayton doesn’t seem too bothered he mustn’t have been a fan. Eventually the group agreed to never speak of it again. The murder that is. What murder? There was no murder. Roger F’cough did write a poem about it, but he tore it up, burnt it, then collected the ashes and burnt them too and Jo Caine is prepared to do the same to Roger if necessary, so their secret should be safe.

This week we learned more about the significance of the venue to the artists of Liverpool, courtesy of a new character, Swiss chemist, Albert Hoffman (played Trev Fleming who also played Dezzi Bell in the first two episodes.) There’s some hard-scientific evidence to suggest why art happens here; the venue is built on a confluence of ley lines — google it, Hoffman encouraged the audience — all the artists’ creative juices flow through the city deep underground, he explained, and these juices converge beneath the venue, which coincidentally, is also where Hoffman’s not so secret LSD laboratory is located.

Clearly then, it’s important that this venue remains in the hands of the artists. However, councillors Rita Armstrong and her father, Brigadier Ulysses Major, threaten to ruin it for everyone. They plan to help the artists transform The Happening into a cultural hub, so they can sell it on to someone for ‘lots of money,’ that sounds strangely familiar.

Jo Caine, a ‘colour’ dealer and Liverpool’s only supplier of Ghreen, which everyone knows is the most potent green narcotic on the market, has also been shaking things up by threatening to make the body of Pitman reappear unless Clayton Square and Allen Furlenghetti help her expand her drug empire.

These conflicting interests spell trouble the group, and don’t forget Mumbo Jumbo, though suspiciously absent this week, he’s still in town, and he’s made it his mission to snuff out Liverpool’s creative fire. He has already worked his bear-giraffe-Serengeti-avalanche magic on Roger F’cough, rendering him unable to make his poetry rhyme, and you can bet he’s not finished yet.

A second new character was introduced Dorian D’Vere. Since leaving Liverpool he has had ‘diction, and dancing and…other things beginning with D,’ and doesn’t seem to fit in anymore. Applause is outdated, replaced with finger-clicking, and he can’t stand the sound of it. He misses his applause and feels like his old venue has moved on without him; his toothy smiles, jazz hands, and his ‘ta-ta’s’ are all relics of a Vaudeville scene that has been forgotten.

Still, the group have welcomed him with open arms, and although he didn’t get the applause he craves, with the encouragement of the others he has returned to the stage. It was a great moment as Allen Furlenghetti and the others convinced somebody who felt like an outsider that they had more in common with the group than they thought — the connections that people form through art, and the sense of solidarity among creative people seems to be a naturally developing theme as the story continues.

The most evocative scenes of the night belonged once again to Musty and Tempest Minefield, for three weeks we’ve observed their fragmented relationship, hoping that they can find some common ground and finally co-exist. They’re the anchors in this wacky improvised world; no matter how weird the story gets they keep it grounded in something real, because although they’re just as odd as the others, they don’t feel like spoofs. They’re real, because we’re shown what they feel and can empathise with it.

For a fleeting moment this week it looked as though they might manage to resolve some of their issues. They opened up to each other and finally said what they honestly thought, without Musty inadvertently insulting her daughter or Tempest going off on an angsty teenage rant, but of course, this is a soap opera and moments like these don’t last.

Last week ended with a murder but this week ended with something that hit much closer to the bone — Musty finally pushed Tempest into leaving home and when Tempest stormed off  (can I get away with two puns in a short review? Well I’ve just done it, so there) — the crowd was completely silent in a moment of genuine empathy for the characters.

Thankfully the night didn’t end on a complete low as we were given one last laugh when Tempest, packing her bags, began snatching empty glasses from nearby tables. One audience member offered his pint glass to her and she stopped dead and glared at him. Her expression was fierce and for a moment and we think he might have regretted getting involved.

We especially enjoyed the opportunity to laugh at someone else’s expense this week having finally avoided becoming part of the show. Third time lucky.

The next episode of The Happening will be performed tonight (Monday 9th October) at 81 Renshaw. Doors open at 7.30pm and the performance will being at 8pm. Tickets: £5 OTD.