I have seen the Oxford Imps previously at the Simpkins Lee, and particularly enjoyed their unique combination of audience interaction and use of technology. Since each performance is conceptually different I knew I wouldn’t see the same show twice.
This time around I was informed the order of service was like a funeral; there were flowers and ushers dressed in black outfits, the mood sombre. I had never encountered a mock religious service before and was surprised to hear of the original theme. When I entered the auditorium the audience were treated as funeral guests and were told ‘sorry for your loss’, lending a real sense of audience involvement. There was a grave prop on the stage (which was later rebelliously written on) and a coffin. A figure playing the keyboard with a wig on evoked a religious atmosphere, and the development of this character proved fun. The performance contained some songs in the style of church hymns with a comic twist. The audience gave suggestions on notelets at the beginning of the show, which were collected by a member of the Imps for inspiration – I wrote about Apollo, the statue from the Ashmolean. After using the notelets they were screwed up and thrown on the floor, as if to symbolise that the idea was used. My idea was used in the improvisation in a sketch where characters say one word each. Other audience ideas were used, even the most bizarre being worked seamlessly into the improvisation. The audience also threw flowers onto the stage at random, another instance of humorous participation.
I had never been to a comedy night quite like this before, where they took an event which would normally have a sombre mood and created laughs out of it. The performances were all excellent quality, with different styles of singing and dancing incorporated into the show. After the event I admittedly felt like I had been to a religious service because of the way the performers involved the audience; I was sitting at the front so was on the same level as the performers. I would definitely recommend this refreshingly interactive show – not least because through audience suggestions you can tailor it to your own interests.
The Oxford Imps are performing later this week at Keble Arts Festival Comedy Night and regularly perform at the Wheatsheaf pub.