Late-night improv show Voices In Your Head appears to pin down performers rather than let them fly
I always used to have my favourite Whose Line Is It Anyway? games (Props, Song Titles and Sports Commentators, thanks for asking), and I hadn’t given them a second thought until after seeing Voices in the Dark, simply because VitD doesn’t appear to work according to the show I saw.
Four panellists are brought to the stage one at a time, and have to improvise around a character they are granted by the Voice, complete with costume and props. Throughout their stint, they are questioned and egged on by “the Voice”, which comes from Deborah Frances-White off-stage. She has prepped the audience before the show to respond in unusual ways to certain triggers that appear throughout the show, to potentially throw the performer and give them something else to work with.
It’s a strong line-up of improvisers – Phill Jupitus and Suki Webster (both Comedy Store Players of varying regularity), Sara Pascoe and Dan Starkey. However, the show barely gets out of second gear, and I don’t think the quartet are particularly to blame. Improvisers need to feel liberated, but this format seems to be a pair of comedy handcuffs instead.
I don’t think it helps that they’re given quite strange and fantastical characters to start with, and spend their time joining the dots, rather than being given a simple premise from which they can spin out. Pascoe was by far the funniest on the night, taking to her Incey Wincey Spider persona immediately (she was given a human-size spider outfit and a bubbles blower), but the others, such as Jupitus’s fairy-catcher from France, seem pretty difficult starting points for finding the funny, despite Jupitus making a reasonable fist of it.
Comics also want to dominate – that’s they’re de facto position on stage – so having them answerable to the disembodied voice seems to put them off their stride, and it sometimes leads to conflicting ideas of where the skit is going. At one point, Webster attempted to initiate a Bohemian Rhapsody sing-a-long (by this point the room was in desperate need of an injection of fun, and Webster clocked that), but the Voice briefly said “no”, before Webster did it anyway. They also spend a lot of time facing the front as they’re listening intently to the Voice, so anyone sitting at the sides starts to feel a bit forgotten.
It might have been funnier to have the comics completely under the yoke of the Voice and obeying its commands, instead the Voice was actually quite human and chatty, which only led to a power struggle and stilted conversations between performer and Voice.
Pascoe aside this was an hour that never looked like it was going to take off, and a format that probably would have been left on the Whose Line cutting room floor.
Review written by Paul Fleckney
• Voices In Your Head is at 11.10pm at Pleasance Courtyard