Two university improv groups from opposite ends of the earth 

The festival full of festivities in Grahamstown has come to an end, some are happy and some are sad (although those disgruntled by the ‘traffic’ in the tiny town may be disappointed that the School’s Festival is just kicking off). A Feast of Tales watched and wrote about several shows each day of the first five days (Day one, two, three, four and five). Then, A Feast of Tales watched NatCaf (Naturally Caffeinated), the Rhodes student improvisation group and the Oxford Imps, the (quite obviously) Oxford improvisation group.

Improv theatre is unpredictable, and each show is different from the previous one because new scenes are created with various theatre games, so A Feast of Tales may not have seen the best of either group.

A comparison

NatCaf had the upper hand when it came to creating local jokes that many in the room could identify with, even so, they still reverted to jokes about Donald Trump and references to the Brexit vote which was populating the media greatly around the time of the show. There were several different types of performers on stage, making it interesting to watch, with only one rude sexual reference. Audience involvement was excellent and lots of people volunteered settings and characters when asked by the MC. This group, however, was still lacking in slickness and some jokes really just didn’t work (this may be personal opinion!). And the 21-year-old MC very naively declared at the start of the show that the National Arts Festival is only for people under 30…despite the several over 30s travelling to Grahamstown from far and wide to enjoy the theatre and art.

The Oxford Imps, while not local, had to work hard at capturing their audience in a different way. And work hard they did! Each scene ended with music and a slick change into the next theatre game, without any need to explain at length to the audience how each game was to be played. The show began with choosing someone from the audience to sit on stage and answer questions about herself, after the questions ended, each Imp sang a line serenading the volunteer on stage. Various other games were played, with no specific political references. They had the upper hand on professionalism, variety and slickness. The musical aspect added an interesting and entertaining dimension. For their first visit to the festival, the Oxford Imps were successful!

All in all A Feast of Tales enjoyed the Imps more than NatCaf, but is it really fair to compare the two with Oxford Imps having been around much longer than NatCaf?

Did you see both groups perform? What did you think?

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