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Reviews / Improvised comedy panto brings the laughs

The Imposters, from left to right: Ashlea Tulloch, Marjolein Robertson, Jill Charleson, Matthew Simpson, Thomas Jones, Alex Garrick-Wright, Les Sinclair.

IT’S not very often you get to watch a pantomime which playfully juggles topics like cannibalism and veganism, but then again, local improvised comedy collective The Imposters don’t always do things the usual way.

Sure, the panto at the Lerwick Legion on Friday night had all the classic characters – the hero, the dame, the villain and more – but its story and narrative was effectively made up on the spot following a one-word suggestion thrown over from the audience.

The venue was packed out as the improv comedy group got the audience chuckling heartily – as well as boo’ing and bellowing ‘he’s behind you!’, of course.

The villain and the henchman with the princess.

The night opened with the group’s usual short form Whose Line Is It Anyway style improv sketches, with a party-themed set-piece involving Les Sinclair, Ashlea Tulloch, Thomas Jones and newcomer Jill Charleson drawing out the laughs, while a toilet-themed run through the alphabet with Marjolein Robertson and Alex Garrick-Wright also had the hundred-plus crowd guffawing with gusto.

The wit through the games was often as sharp as a knife, and it was perhaps homage to tutor Robertson, who has held training sessions with locals over the last couple of years.

But the main event was the improvised panto, and it proved to be a surreal juxtaposition of acted-up theatrics and lashings of welcome adult humour which ended up creating something outlandishly fun.

Tulloch – ably playing the part of the happy-go-lucky Buttons with a grin so wide you could probably see it from the Market Cross – asked the audience for a word for the group to riff off, and the somewhat morbid ‘cannibalism’ was the winner.

You might have been worried that the Imposters had bitten off more than they could chew, but the seven-strong group took it in their stride, developing a storyline which saw the princess – played in opulent style by Matthew Simpson – threatened with being cut up and made into a pie by the baddies.

The Imposters had time for a quick selfie. Photo: Shetland Comedy/The Imposters

A loved-up Buttons was desperate for the attention of the princess – but his vegan meal for the blonde-wigged lady didn’t quite excite the meat fan.

Garrick-Wright, meanwhile, was impressive as the villain, using dramatic force to play up to the role with comic exuberance, and he was backed up by the somewhat more deadpan Jones as the henchman.

So much so that the crowd regularly booed the villain as he confidently strode onto stage. “It must be the radiators,” he quipped as he questioned where the noise was coming from.

The story continued with magic lentil soup and alluring avocados, but at the end of the night it was the valiant hero who got to marry the princess.

It was an impressive 45 minutes, and another proud achievement for the Imposters troupe. It seems the group’s regular improv shows are quickly becoming one of the most bang for your buck nights out Shetland has to offer.

Chris Cope

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