Saturday, November 26

An Improbable Musical – Hackney Empire

An Improbable musical is a fun mixture of drama, music and theatre. The Hackney Empire is a fitting venue with its splendour of old-world charm and stunning productions. In the 120 years since its inception, it has played host to important and admired comedy legends.

An Improbable Musical unfolds in front of you with improv magic, live music and puppetry. The team created a full-length play of varied characters with suggestions from the audience, all on the spot! Superb stagecraft, some stereotypical theatrical choices talented actors and musicians made this an enjoyable watch.

Improvised theatre brings such joy due to the element of surprise for the audience and the performers on stage, tearing apart the fourth wall. With seasoned players like Lee Simpson and Josie Lawrence, joined by musical impro legends Ruth Bratt and Niall Ashdown, one is surprised about some stage and character choices. The musical intersects with several simultaneous storylines being enacted by the improv cast. Supported by Director Lee Simpson, Aya Nakamura and Clarke Joseph Edwards brought to life a dancer through their fascinating puppetry.

Photo: Marc Brenner

The story used the improv set and various props imaginatively. One movement of a cupboard under the stairs to the next moment, a swimming pool.  The play leaned toward some sexist troupes. With children in the audience, the character choices of being ‘wife beater’ or ‘apologising wife turned villain’ felt unnecessary. Each of the songs was witty and full of rhyme and choreography.

Musical director Christopher Ash leads on the keys, with versatile musicians Max Gittings on flute, Joley Cragg on percussion and Juliet Colyer on cello. The musicians matched beats and created the move and groove atmosphere, racing the story forward from the drummer, who moved to the set and used the steps to make music, to the cellist, who began the perfect atmospheric music for an afternoon party. If double-meaning old British humour is what you enjoy, An Improbable Musical, with its seasoned performers, twists, rhymes and drama, would make for an entertaining evening out.

Playing until 26th October,

Reviewer: Anisha Pucadyil

Reviewed: 23rd October 2022

North West End UK Rating: ★★★