NO one knows quite what to expect when they turn up to the weekly performance of Avocado Presents: Improv at the intimate Barons Court Theatre in London. Nor for that matter do performers Hamza Mohsin and Jake Migicovsky who have little idea as to where their 60-minute show is going to take them.
Welcome to the world of improvised comedy where story lines are thought of on the hoof. Words and movement then follow. There is not one tale to tell, but a series of tales with little connecting them other than Mohsin and Migicovsky. Smoking dope, the police, friendship and drink appear to be recurring themes, but every show is unique. Brave theatre. Very brave theatre. For the pair, it’s 60 minutes of adrenaline overload. For the audience, it’s a roller coaster of a journey – ups and downs.
To make their performances even more seat of the pants like, all they have on stage to define what they do is two rickety chairs – and a booming sound track (which is worth the £10 entry fee alone) with the music chosen on the spot, according to the story line they are creating (great work from Julia Miller-Bakewell).
The chairs are used to start and end specific improvised sketches – there are no other props which means gestures and movement (even eye movement) are all-important.
For the performers, who have been working together for ten years, it’s all about trust – and they obviously possess it in droves. Rarely are there pregnant pauses. Even when Mohsin is looking at the back of Migicovsky’s head, he seems to know what his next line will be. Telepathy rules.
For the audience, the result of the pair’s boldness and bravado is a mixed bag of short sketches. Some work well, some emit laughter, while others fizzle out like dying sparklers.
Highlights of the weekly show on November 10 were a road trip across the desert where one bemoans the other for not packing in their suitcase a ready supply of drugs to keep them amused (they finally find a spliff).
An encounter between a Jason Pollock like painter and his buyer was also amusing as the artist draws him a black mango. There were also sketches involving a police car being stolen – leading to a confrontation between the two rather drunk thieves – and a couple being pulled over by a rather eccentric policeman.
Mohsin (a lovable bear of a man) and Migicovsky (from Canada, sharp as a knife, and proud of his roman nose as the two acknowledge in their improvisations) are obviously talented individuals and have a close bond. Morecambe and Wise they may not be, but their show on November 10 was packed to the rafters.
Improvised comedy is a tough ask and they step up to the mark admirably. It’s bold theatre and although the resulting show may be uneven, it’s worth a peek. Their enthusiasm and energy for their work is obvious (they were selling tickets to the show in the pub upstairs before the show).
Given Avocado Presents: Improv is raw, spontaneous theatre, the temptation is to come back and see what they have to offer next time around. Clever.
Avocado Presents: Improv is performed most Thursday nights at 9pm.
Visit Barons Court Theatre – https://www.baronscourttheatre.com/avocado-presents-improv