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Work in Progress, 20 September, The Local Theatre

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In Sheffield's newest theatre, the Work In Progress improv troupe put on a show of the same name, a long-form office-based comedy. The audience suggest a workplace - MI6 in this case - and the cast of six throw themselves into improvising a 50-minute, mainly character-driven show.

The performance space at The Local Theatre is 6m by 3m and the audience squeeze into a similar sized space. This works really well for improv, creating the sense that we're all in it together. The show moves at speed, being genuinely funny immediately. It gathers energy and pace as the cast warm to the topic, characters form and jokes develop.

Being new to improv, it took a while for me to work out the structure, for example how scene changes are initiated. Appreciating the skill involved, as well as the comedy unfolding in front of you, is a significant part of the delight of watching improv.

It's astonishing how a group of individuals can build a character, pay attention to the others on stage, create a story and remember it, produce a plausible (or at least comedic) ending and still be funny, all at the same time. They allow the audience just the right amount of 'are they going to pull this off?' nerves, and each member perfects the comic timing necessary to make the silences or the potential cock-ups entertaining.

Director and producer Edd Crawley had an idea for an office-based sitcom, but was 'too lazy' to write, so instead he pulled this troupe together in May 2019. There is a thriving improv scene in Sheffield and the ten members of Work in Progress have all cut their teeth in other Sheffield groups, including The Shrimps and Struike Comedy.

Next article in issue 139

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