Showstoppers' Family Hour (4 stars)

This article is from 2013

Showstoppers' Family Hour

credit: Steve Ullathorne

Funny, silly, uplifting and ridiculous improvised children's show

As the audience entered, the Showstoppers cast was already on stage, crooning little ditties about the audience's clothing. This audient was immediately on his guard, although perspective was at hand in the form of the Daughter (six years old) who seemed unfazed.

I needn't have worried. Nearly 500 improvised musicals have honed the Showstoppers' craft to something that's a pleasure to watch. For this family-friendly version, they quietly ignored adult attempts at wise-assery (including my own) and only took suggestions from the kids, which perhaps explains why we ended up being treated to a tale about two unicorn neurons who find themselves running a pizzeria for dinosaurs in a forest.

You couldn't make it up? Well, they did. Watching a show as entertainingly unhinged as this one, you wonder why people go to the bother of actually writing plays. A bad conventional play induces a higher and more punishing quality of boredom than the dreamy inattention you feel at a bad movie. But improv, even when it's not brilliant, feels bespoke, like a love letter as opposed to a newspaper column. It'd be ridiculous to single out any one performance seeing as they'll never be repeated, but Ruth Bratt was a treat as both an apparently stoned neuron and a smirking Tyrannosaurus Rex with a contextually inexplicable but weirdly appropriate West Country accent. MC/Narrator Andrew Pugsley kept the whole thing on dramatic track.

Sure, there are things that written pieces do better. The songs are fun, but in order to be improvisable they have to be predictable, so they rely on formulas and repetition which a written show wouldn't let itself get away with; still, watching them reach for a rhyme with only seconds to find one is fun in itself. A bit in which kids were invited onstage to help make a pizza seemed to me superfluous given that the show is participatory by nature, but it looked like it was fun to do, even if the story ground to a halt. Nevertheless the Daughter got seriously caught up in it all, and parental pride swelled when her suggested song title led directly to a heart-rending minor key number about the insatiability of desire, called 'The Pizza's Missing'. Funny, silly, uplifting and ridiculous, it's a great kid's show.

Gilded Balloon Teviot, 6–13 Aug, £10. 0131 226 0000 6 Aug 2013

Showstoppers' Family Hour

  • 4 stars

Showstopper Productions - Festival Highlights. Brilliant, family friendly, musical comedy improvisation based on audience ideas! Spirit of the Fringe Award winner. 'Not only is each performance achingly funny, it's a genuinely new musical every time. Top class creativity in action' ★★★★★ (Time Out). 'A blast. Makes your…