Etcetera Theatre, Camden, London, 11/08/2019.
Over recent years I’ve seen improv groups who create episodes of shows like Quantum Leap, Game Of Thrones, Doctor Who and Nordic crime dramas like The Bridge and The Killing, and others have taken me way in to the future and back to the Victorian era. But The Parentheticals jump much much further in to the past then that, creating a piece of long-form improvisation set in the thirteen century as the hero of the piece goes on a rather strange quest.
Anyone who might have concerns that this means you’ll need the ability to understand pre-Shakespeare language like that of Chaucer’s shouldn’t worry though, this motley gang speak in today’s English (well, bar one use of “Rad” which I don’t think has been said since the 90’s!) and just use the setting to make a rather unique piece of comedy. The set up is that the hero of the piece is going to go on a quest, and the audience is asked for the title of it (The Ring Of Doom was shouted out at this particular show) and to write down some quotes from their favourite films which would then be used in certain scenes. Also on the audience participation front at one point two people were asked to control the movements of two of the cast, and then later on another two had to provide the final word in a line of dialogue.
Once everything had been explained and the audience’s quotes collected the play started off a little slowly, and after a scene set in a church which mostly revolved around how painful it was to kneel and pray I have to admit I did have minor concerns that it might be a bit of a dull night. Fortunately this was the only part of the production which didn’t really work however and as soon as it got going and the main plot kicked off it became an extremely likeable romp which made me laugh frequently.
The fun plot revolved around a priest searching for the Ring Of Doom which would allow him to know when he was going to die, but there was also an even more enjoyable subplot involving the murderous hijinks of two men who worked in a tattoo parlour, interactions with the owner of the Ring Of Doom, Charlie The Wizard, and some rather mean Jesuits along for the ride, the majority of which the talented cast (who tonight were Brendan Way, Sean Toole, Guillaume Desqueyroux and Joe Colgan) all generated a lot of laughs from, and the audience participation parts served to make it even funnier.
At some points audience members shouted out things even despite not being asked to, but rather than ignore or be annoyed the cast included them in the show and got a lot of laughs from, which they also deserve a lot of credit for. Long-form improv can be quite the slog if the story isn’t that interesting, or the spur of the moment jokes fail to make you laugh, but both impressed tonight and The Parentheticals are an improv group who I definitely plan to see again on the strength of this very amusing hour of comedy.
The Parentheticals Official Site.