August 24, 2019

Aaaand Now For Something Completely Improvised #EdFringe @Racing_minds @ThePleasance

‘The front row’s perfectly safe,’ said a butler with a silver salver piled with sweets as the audience arrived. Many people associate the front row at comedy gigs with being hauled up on stage and forced to participate, but the butler was right, there was no danger at Aaaand Now For Something Completely Improvised. Audience participation was restricted to a few ideas to prime the comedy cannons, a name, a location, an injury…

If you’re not usually an improv fan Aaaand Now For Something Completely Improvised might well change your mind. If you are, then get your ticket asap. This show has got sellout written all over it – in the good way, not the do-anything-for-money way. I just mean all the tickets will soon be gone. On at the Pleasance at 11.30am the members of Racing Minds can weave hilarity from seemingly innocuous audience suggestions,

‘Would you like a sweetie?’

On arrival a butler offers everyone a sweet. This sets the tone for the show, the conceit of which is an elderly grandfather entertaining his grandchildren. They want to watch TV, but thankfully for the audience he hasn’t got one. Instead he spins a wild and inventive tale, so shaggy you could sell it as a yak.

On the morning I visited the audience provided the suggestions Pip, Iceland and a deformed leg that didn’t make the owner limp. Unpromising material you might think, but an hilarious flight of fancy ensued, taking in volcanoes, talking caves and Joanna Keith Rowling. How and why I can’t possibly tell, but the ride was great fun, and somehow also included Rennies, a hillock of Welsh popstars and one German grammar joke. Unfortunately my German is restricted to ordering zwei biers bitte so I didn’t get it.

Having met at Oxford University, Racing Minds is composed of Daniel Roberts, Tom Skelton, Chris Turner and Dougie Walker. They have been performing at Edinburgh for four years as a group, and that experience together is clear. They appear to be having great fun, and that enthusiasm is infectious. The audience laughed heartily and went out after an hour contented.

Choosing the name ANFSCI opens the group up to comparisons with an English comedy troupe you may have heard of called Monty Python. Racing Minds don’t have an animator, none of them are American and none are obviously alcoholic, however the comparison to Monty Python stands up. There’s a zany madcappery to the group that it takes little imagination to see on TV.

Each performance is genuinely different, so you can go every day after your morning jog if you are so inclined. Enjoy quick-witted stories peppered with amusing self-critiquing of the performance as it develops. Catch them now before fame and fortune divides the group.

Very funny.

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