One of the disadvantages as an improv group being reviewed on a single show is that the reviewer might not get you on your best performance. That's true of any theatre, but more so in improv because of the infinite range of possibilities that could happen on stage. Even the best improvisers in the world still have the constant threat of a terrible show just around the next corner.
However, one of the joys of reviewing improv has just revealed itself to me. You can go back and see the same performers do a completely different show, and give it a whole new review. Well, that's probably not really best practice, but screw it, I make my own rules.
I went back to see the wonderful Parallelogramophonograph again, as I loved their show the first time. Look see, I gave them a 4-star review for their superb Grimm Fairy Tales show a short while back. I went back because they've been doing a series of different shows this Fringe and I wanted to see their "Villainy" format.
Right, firstly, these guys really are immensely likable on stage. It's hard not to be charmed by their demeanour when just chatting to the audience. The 'front-man', Roy, is warm and cuddly and looks like a big friendly puppet, and the rest of the group have friendly eyes and an infectious playfulness. This is in stark contrast to their Villainy show, where they "play for scares instead of laughs". The show I saw was based on an audience member offering a childhood memory of Santa creeping into the darkness of her bedroom on Christmas eve... great for a scarefest.
I must say, what followed was some of the most enjoyable long-form improv I've seen, ever. It was dark, hilarious and all set at the perfect pace. I love slow-burning stories that take their time to unravel, and this did exactly that. It also had a really sexy ending that left you with unanswered questions and a sense of edginess. It was exactly what I wanted. Rather than hastily resolving all the elements of the story in the the last few minutes, as many groups will mistakenly do, Pgraph perfectly judged it to leave you wanting more, exiting the room with your own ideas of where the story had went and would go. It sounds like bad storytelling not to tidy up all the threads, but I must reaffirm, they did this perfectly.
Because I've re-reviewed this, I'm giving myself permission to give them more stars. I'm not sorry. It was gorgeous. I live by no-one's rules but my own. Not even my own.
Parallelogramophonograph perform Improvised Plays from Austin, Texas at 'The Space On The Mile' (Venue 39) in Edinburgh, at 7.40pm, 5-27th August.