Improv shows are the marmite of the Fringe festival – some audiences will come flocking and others will give any performance without a script or score a wide berth. This, however, seems more likely to be due to the varying quality, energy, and topics of the art form on display (and a bad experience with a subpar one) than any innate breakfast preference.
Fortunately, CSI: Crime Scene Improvisation is a fun, engaging, and well-crafted (to the extent possible with improv) example of the form, with the perfect amounts of audience suggestion and performer creativity crafting each unique mystery, keeping audiences invested in the killer’s identity. The piece’s form and focus – each piece sees a highly unusual murder case that needs to be cracked – supplies a foolproof, easily adaptable template, and while not quite as physical and high-energy as some improv comedy it is a solid hour of laughs, interaction, and gumptious performances.
True to the nature of the form, the show seen on 10th August 2018 will not be the same as any of CSI’s other performances during this run (or indeed during the company’s life); each is a new exceedingly odd murder to solve, a new eccentric suspect whose shady motives need to be determined, and new audiences throwing out the strangest suggestions they can conjure. It is fair to say, however, that the cast would turn even the most mundane suggestions from the audience into hilarity (though with Fringe festival audiences, mundane suggestions seem highly unlikely). Without spoiling anything, audience interaction is largely limited to these murderous suggestions and interrogating the characters at certain points in the show – this keeps the audience feeling safe while also involved, a well-judged combination. Additionally, the cast either have rich and fast-acting imaginations which they employ to create comically over-the-top characters names and traits for themselves or an arsenal to draw upon; either way, the results are satisfying.
A certain sedateness in the scenes’ presentation might be the only factor which slightly drags the show down; while coming up with dialogue and scenes on the spot is difficult to choreograph, let alone imagine, an overabundance of static conversations hampers the pacing. That said, the alacrity with which the cast can conjure new scenes to provide murder motivations (or red herrings) to the audience keeps scene transitions smooth – it is easy to forget that the scenarios are unrehearsed and largely context-free!
CSI is a lot of fun, with audience interaction well-judged and well-measured and performers who gamely take on the maddest suggestions thrown at them and spin some madcap antic out of it. While more physically sedate that some improv comedy shows, even audiences not so keen on the unscripted form will have a grand afternoon.
CSI: Crime Scene Improvisation plays at 15:35 daily until 26th August at Underbelly Bristo Square (Ermintrude). Tickets cost £10 (£9 concessions) and are available through the EdFringe website.