Bobby Anderson is co-artistic director of Stürike Comedy, the house team of Little Chicago. In this column he reviews the acts that perform at Little Chicago and lets you know where to find more of them.
Casino Improv are a troupe from Wigan using improv to create as many new types of entertainment as they can. Little Chicago had them down not too long after Halloween to perform their comedy horror piece “The Invocation”.
Now if, like me, you have heard of that particular montage opening and have very strong opinions about it, you needn’t worry. Casino Improv took inspiration from the original invocation and used it to create a shorter, but equally theatrical opening. This was one of the first stand out moments of the show: walking on stage with a candle balanced atop 4 horror books, the show began immediately. There was no downtime between asking for a suggestion and getting the show started; every part of their opening was designed to set the tone and get the audience in the mood for some old-school horror.
After an audience member selected a single word (in this case “atmosphere”) from one of the books, the cast stood, each with candle in hand, and performed a cut down version of the invocation. This lead into a long form narrative about the first girl to attend a magical academy/college/school/fishery and eventually goes on to prove herself and be promoted to teacher.
While a narrative piece in the main, the cast had the confidence to do some break out game scenes involving none of the main characters which helped break up the flow of the show beautifully. Wonderful character driven moments that got you invested in the story came between ridiculous games like the Philosophy pub, where all drinks are paid for with snippets of philosophical ideas. Thanks to the clear tone they set, and hammer-horror inspiration for the show, moves that in other shows may have felt unearned here felt entirely natural: a stand out example being the headmaster turns out to be Dracula and the OFSTED inspector is Van Helsing.
While a rushed ending to the story left me feeling a little out of place, when cast came back together to stand on stage holding the candles to bookend the show that feeling quickly faded and everything felt complete.
I recommend you see this show if you get the chance, and hope we don’t have to wait until next Halloween to do so. And thanks to the fact the cast play off each other and together with such joy and enthusiasm, I’m confident recommending any of their shows. They perform monthly in Wigan at the Bailaugh comedy night at The Old Courts.
Rating: **** – Four stars: a perfect evening of comedy horror.