Review: Paul Merton’s Impro Chums, Ipswich Regent, October 28

Paul Merton and his Impro Chums: Mike McShane, Lee Simpson, Richard Vranch and Suki Webster

Paul Merton and his Impro Chums: Mike McShane, Lee Simpson, Richard Vranch and Suki Webster - Credit: Archant

The finely-honed skills of five comedians were there for all to see in a thrilling evening full of laughter at the Ipswich Regent.

Paul Merton’s Impro Chums delivered all the fun possible as they acted out scenes often based on little more than a suggestion by a member of the Monday night audience.

The Have I Got News For You star was on equal footing with his four “chums” - Mike McShane, Lee Simpson, Richard Vranch and Suki Webster throughout - balancing his quick wit and ability at one-liners with his dim-witted stage persona.

Merton had to leave the theatre at one point as the remaining performers asked the crowd for a quirky made-up job title they would give his character.

On returning he spent several exasperated minutes guessing from a series of tricky clues that he did in fact paint hundreds-and-thousands using elephant milk.

In the second half the spotlight shone on McShane and Webster’s talent for singing and acting. Both were superb in a trio of scenes where their characters moved across movie and theatre genres which came from audience participation.

The 90 minute-plus show only sagged in the final scene which was a shame because the preceding minutes had created several stand-out moments.

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It was a testament to the difficult skill of improvisational comedy, which is often the highlight of the few TV and radio programmes it forms a part of.