NEWSical, Wednesday 19 July, The Dome at Station Hill
Review by Jo Thomas
Star Rating: | Five Stars
A blow up dome looking a bit like a sea urchin held down by 14 tonnes of sand survived the recent Reading storm to be the perfect surreal venue for NEWSical. This group of improvisers performed at The Dome at Station Hill on Wednesday night as part of Reading Fringe Festival.
On arrival the audience were invited to tear headlines from a suitably large pile of newspapers. The headlines were put in a hat by the stage. Performers then dipped into the hat for inspiration. This guided the main content of the evening.
The first half consisted of short comedy acts and songs based on familiar improvisation formats. They avoided many of the current worn political issues apart from a brief appearance from Boris Johnson early on as we settled into the evening. We were treated to a debate about wet wipes, plumbing expertise and ended with a song about scary ‘outsiders’.
There was some low key audience participation: clapping, laughing, a few audience contributions on stage, shouting, more laughing and then laughing a whole lot more. It was warmly managed.
NEWSical’s versatility and skill really shone in the longer improvisation in the second half. Based on a headline about pensioners and hearing aids we were taken on a delightfully surreal journey from Reading to Henley in which the performers weaved themselves in and out of theatrical tangles bringing Tarentino-style action to Henley Regatta followed by subsequent lessons in compassion. One of my favourite moments was a scene where Alan Bennett was commenting on pensioner Margaret and her husband who were camping at Reading Station due to extended train delays.
The songs, whilst funny, often created pauses in the fast flowing action to appreciate how very funny and ingenious their improvisations are.
NEWSical is for lovers of daft humour, fantastic stories and songs.
NEWSical was James Witt and Steve Roe with Amy Cooke Hodgson, Tai Campbell, Greg Birks, Jennifer Jordan, James Irving
They are soon to be at the Miller Comedy Festival and then at Edinburgh Fringe.