The Museum Of Comedy, Holborn, London, 31/01/2020.
There’s no such thing as a surefire bet in comedy and I’ve even witnessed highly acclaimed acts like Stewart Lee have an off night, where he was trying out new material and it wasn’t quite hitting home in the way that it normally does. That definitely applies with improv too where even the very best might flail a little, when I caught Paul Merton taking part in the short lived improv tv show Thank God You’re Here he was only okay which was quite the disappointment given that he’s a master of the art.
But improv group Hivemind are currently about as close as you can get to a comedy show devised on the spur of the moment which is reliably packed with gleeful moments. I caught their superhero based show Improvengers: Pretendgame earlier on in the month and was impressed with how it didn’t rely on parodying superhero tropes and came up with an original storyline involving Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla (and this was prior to the Doctor Who episode which used the same characters) that also involved alternate timelines and all manner of unpredictable elements, and which was a lot more fun than the antics seen in the BBC’s Sci-fi show.
Hivemind’s other improv show, Lord Of The Game Of The Rings Of The Throne, which sees them take on a more fantasy based tale, is just as good as well, being inventive, intelligent and very, very funny. As with most improv at the beginning they asked for some suggestions from the audience, pleasingly ignoring a Brexit based storyline (though given the amount of boos after it was suggested by an audience member they really didn’t have any choice in the matter), and instead we got a nicely complicated but never convoluted plot involving hedgehogs ruling over the land, Cassandra, Alexos and Davos’ quest to reform the King’s Watch and support the humans still alive, while the evil hedgehog Lord Hodge considered possibly treating his human subjects in a slightly better way – but just as it looks like he might do so he was poisoned, and his two children began a fight to see who will rule over the land.
They also had to incorporate the quite frankly bizarre title “The Waves And The Stones” which was suggested by an audience member, and that they managed to do so with aplomb is quite the feat. What was also remarkable was that it not only remained funny throughout (albeit with a tiny sag in the middle when it briefly got a bit plot heavy), but that they were also able to create a storyline on the fly that lasted for an hour and never failed to entertain, and for that they deserve a great deal of kudos, as it’s an aspect of longform improv that is perhaps not celebrated enough. Considering that they were given a title which didn’t exactly help them out much, and otherwise just the idea of evil Hedgehogs, that they created such an intriguing tale is enormously impressive.
If I was to have a gun put to my head and forced to say which Hivemind show I liked the most I’d lean towards Improvengers: Pretendgame, but only because my fondness for superheroes is a little stronger than it is for fantasy fare. But I still definitely plan to see both shows again in the future as they’ve created a cliche free, smart and hilarious improvised piece of comedy which is pleasingly unique. Given that they sold out the Museum Of Comedy I imagine it won’t be long before they’re playing much much larger venues as well, which they definitely deserve to do, so I’d recommend checking them out now while they’re still at this beautifully intimate venue.