You couldn’t make it up…except they do! ShakeItUp: The Improvised Shakespeare Show makes for an entertaining hour at the Turbine Theatre
“She is wasabi, swallowed in too much haste”
It’s been a moment since I’ve seen any improv, much as I love the form. So the arrival of ShakeItUp: The Improvised Shakespeare Show at the Turbine Theatre, in the shadow of the mighty Battersea Power Station, after a lengthy UK tour offered the perfect opportunity to yes, and… once again. It’s also fortuitously timed as the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s first folio approaches in November.
One of the works that doesn’t appear in there is The Tragedy of Janet of Japan, now forever lost in the mists of time (and the vagaries of my sketchy memory) and what a romp it proved to be, as amusing as it was anguished. It takes a little moment for the show to actually get started but it is clear that the ShakeItUp team (this performance featured James Dart, James Alston, Joe Prestwich, Becky Gibbs and MVP for me Edward Kaye) knows what they are doing and the pre-show admin all pays off handsomely in the end.
Get to the theatre early and you get to write lines to be used in the show. Get to your seat in time and you get to vote on tragedy, comedy or history. Be bold when asked and you can choose protagonists, setting and plot details. And as cod-Shakespearean dialogue is made up on the spot to wind through a whole array of the Bard’s archetypes, there’s a fantastic connection with the audience through all of these reference points – the work nemesis who forever shifts her workload onto others was an inspired choice for this one.
I could talk about the terrible skiing accident, the doddery old retainers Nissan and Toyota, the puffer fish, the pronunciation of bur-i-ed, the endless sushi puns and all the beards but the beauty of an improv show is that it lives in the moment, never to be repeated. Safe to say though, that moment shines extremely brightly here – the five performers clearly having a ball, making each other giggle as much as us as they keep the action fast-paced and funny and a fitting tribute to Shakespeare’s enduring legacy.