Upstairs at the Soho Theatre, the neutral studio space is a perfect canvas for the excitement and vibrancy of Made Up. Cartoon de Salvo and The Adventurists collaborate to improvise a different show every night by working flawlessly together using suggestions from the audience as their stimulus. Their ability to create entertaining and relevant material on the spot is quite astounding – one of the best displays of long form improvisation I’ve seen in a very long time.
The success of the performance was predominantly due to the wonderful back and forth between Cartoon de Salvo (improvisers Alex Murdoch, Brian Logan and Neil Haigh) and The Adventurists (musical improvisers Danial Marcus Clark, Buster Cottan, Michael Simmonds and Sam Walker). Entering the space to The Adventurists’ beautiful instrumental back drop was electrifying. Being able to see and hear how the melody built up and the joy they took in performing together was the perfect way to enthuse the audience. The anticipation of seeing something being made up before our eyes was then enhanced by knowing that the improvisation was going to be of a very high standard, if the band were anything to go by - which was exactly the case.
Murdoch, Logan and Haigh wasted no time in getting down to business. In a friendly five minute introduction, they combined efforts to introduce themselves, explain the concept of the show and ascertain the title of that night’s performance: Hunting the Shark - an enthusiastic suggestion from one eager audience member. If I have any criticism of the format of the show, it’s that this section was possibly too brief. It might have been beneficial to warm the audience up before asking for their suggestions of titles due to the reluctance of some people to participate. This is always a concern with improvisation due to how integral the audience’s suggestions are to the triumph of the performance – slightly awkward when there seems to be a creative vacuum! However, though few, the suggestions of this particular night certainly provided the performers with enough inspiration to create a chilling tale of revenge.
The performance was rich in comedy and drama – a difficult balance to strike with impro! As the tendency is to focus on comedy, it was really refreshing to see the performers exploring the tragedy of a story, using humour as an occasional device rather than the focus. A stand out moment was Logan’s performance of A Moment of Madness – a haunting song detailing the murder of our hero’s wife and children. The song was complex, gripping and terrifying thus receiving a well-deserved and passionate round of applause, mid-scene.
Credit should also go to Murdoch for her fantastic characterisations (particularly of an energetic desert island monkey) and Haigh for his stoic portrayal of ‘The Captain’ and the creation of a very emotive storyline. The trio produced a gripping plot and every performance was incredibly valuable to the storytelling process. I cannot stress enough how impressively the two groups worked together to deliver such an entertaining night of theatre and I shall be returning to the Soho Theatre later this month to see them in action again. After all, you’re guaranteed to get a totally different performance every time - I’m looking forward to seeing what they do next!
Catch Made Up at the Soho Theatre until 21st April. You’d be mad to miss it.