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The Free Association: Jacuzzi review

| Comedy, Festivals, Theatre | 23/08/2016


Ian Cater, Chief Features Writer

The Free Association deliver an impressive and entertaining show, which occasionally varies in comedic output but never in speed of thought.

For those who grew up watching Whose Line Is It Anyway, quick-fire improvised comedy will always have a place in our hearts.  And The Free Association – some of London’s best teachers and performers of the art – are excellently-placed to deliver it.

Jacuzzi begins with an audience member suggesting a word to prompt the special guest (on this night, Emma Sidi) into telling some stories from his or her past.  Although not especially amusing in themselves, they become the basis for the sketches that follow.  Then the real action starts at breakneck speed, with performers tapping their colleagues in or out to keep momentum – self-policing, rather than relying on Clive Anderson.  Given the high turnover of sketches and varied abilities (and, to be fair, audience tastes), some work and some don’t.  On the night, the most well-received included skits about whether a couple’s baby would be as pretty as Blue Ivy, a murder-prone bridegroom and a sex-addicted automated voice on Virgin Media’s customer hotline.

The Free Association comprises of over 30 players, so the quality of each show depends partly on the luck of the draw, although the base standard seems high.  The stars of this night were Graham Dixon (who also impressed in Austentatious), Michael Orton-Toliver (the brains behind Channel 5 sitcom, Borderline), Briony Redman and David Elms, who showed the capacity and composure to entertain in a broad range of roles and accents.  There were also solid showings from Simon Lukacs, Liz Smith, Freddie Sandilands and Mariam Haque.

Overall, Jacuzzi makes for a good night out and contains plenty to cater to most tastes.  But what’s most impressive is the performers’ ability to call back to earlier references: in other words, furiously thinking up future lines on their feet while having a firm eye on the immediate past.  Even if you don’t laugh at every single sketch, you can’t help but be impressed by this dexterity of thought.

The Free Association perform Jacuzzi most weeks in London.  For more details of this and other shows, see their official website or follow them on Twitter @FAImprov.  The Free Association’s Fringe run has now ended, but many of its performers are appearing elsewhere in Edinburgh this week.  Click on the links above for details.

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