The nature and beauty of improvisation is that each audience's experience, each night, will be different – for better or for worse. Blind Mirth are St Andrews University's gutsy improv troupe, a mixture of hard working guys and girls, who us a series of long and short form improv, games and on-the-spot sketches, with oodles of audience participation.
Those words – 'audience participation' – always make me nervous, but here it is gentle and entirely optional. We are encouraged to shout out ideas as contributions to the set-ups of various scenarios and, in doing so, become collaborators in the creative process of each show's formation. Whilst the onus is on the performers to work imaginatively with whatever random offering they receive, it will inevitably be easier to find the comedy in some suggestions rather than others, a major factor in the variance of each night's level of success. The young, enthusiastic audience seemed to enjoy getting involved in this way – several were happy when requested to offer their belongings as props and material.
The group work together as a slick, tight team – essential in this particularly challenging genre. On occasion, some of the performers were inclined to become a little shrieky or to mutter, and I sometimes struggled to understand what was being said (with the notable exception of the group's able leader, Ed Fry). In an improv situation where scenes can quickly become abstract, garbled dialogue combined with unfamiliar games sometimes left me wondering what on earth was going on. At points too, it felt the performance took on a slightly self-indulgent quality with some players' reactions and enjoyment focussed a little too much on one another – rather than the audience in front of them.
But as Fringe improv shows go – and there are so many from which to choose – this is fairly standard stuff. Although not exactly breaking new ground, the solid performances combine to make this a strong offering from the student group. A special mention must go to the particularly talented Matt Knapp (shrewdly wearing a T-shirt printed 'Matt. The funny one', ensuring his name would be committed to memory). His sharp-witted interjections, inventive characters and ability to think on his feet stood out, providing a consistently high standard of comedy.
I was part of one audience, on one night, during one never-to-be-repeated show – and both subsequent and previous audience's experiences will be quite different. But I think Blind Mirth offer some hearty laughs, bags of energy, good value and a great deal of potential among the group.