Innes McQuillin

Edinburgh Fringe 2014: our improv picks

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Part art and part craft, improv can be dazzling in its execution, hugely entertaining and great fun. With the audience providing suggestions for characters, locations and other variables, every improv performance is, in theory, unique. There’s over 70 improv shows to choose from at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe; here’s our selection of five shows for lovers of spontaneous fun.

Paul Merton’s Impro Chums

Mike McShane, Suki Webster, Richard Vranch and Lee Simpson, all highly skilled improvisers in their own right, join Paul Merton for a guaranteed five star show. Peerless improv genius Merton proves an astute guvnor and his well chosen chums have free reign to enjoy their share of the limelight.

The limited run is the only downside. One of the hottest tickets at the Fringe.

Pleasance Courtyard, 4.00pm, 7-16 August

Red Bastard

This is a show like no other. American Eric Davis, the eponymous lycra-clad Red Bastard, made his Fringe debut last year with his unique brand of in-your-face Improv, garnering a clutch of top reviews in the process.

It’s a highly interactive show and, be warned, the only way through is to go with the flow as the charismatic host displays his complete mastery in the art of audience participation. Along the way, magic happens and you’ll remember the experience forever.

Pleasance Courtyard, 7.00pm, 30 July-24 August (not 6,11,12 & 18 August)

Showstoppers! – The Improvised Musical

Fringe and West End regulars with a dedicated and growing following, this amazingly talented troupe delivers a new brand musical comedy at every performance.

A tight ensemble, members include established double act Lucy Trodd and Ruth Bratt, fresh from their success with Well Done You on Radio 4, and Pippa Evans who gigs on the circuit as wasted singer-songwriter Loretta Maine.

Producer-director Adam Meggido leads the way among the guys, while Philip Pellew and Andrew Pugsley provide stand out support.

Gilded Balloon, times vary, 30 July-24 August (not 21 August)

Jack Dee’s Help Desk

A different take on the Improv experience, as Jack Dee and panel provide advice on the everyday dilemmas faced by members of the audience. And who better to rely on for a concerned and sympathetic hearing than Dee, right?

A raft of top comedians appeared on the ever changing panel during try-outs; and while an established media commentator is also included to ostensibly provide some much needed gravitas, you can be sure that they too will end up playing it for laughs. It’s a format destined for wider TV or radio exposure.

Grab a ticket for the all too short run.

Assembly, George Square Studios, 6.30pm, 18-24 August

Outrageous Courageous Highly Contagious: Israeli Style Improv

The free show choice is Lamabati, a six strong troupe of guys from Tel Aviv. Expert in both short and long form Improv, they’ve been gigging to appreciative audiences around Europe for more years than they care to remember.

Expect plenty of references to their homeland, sit back and enjoy the fun as the Middle East meets the East of Scotland.

Laughing Horse @ The Pheonix: 7.30pm, 1-24 August (not 5,12 & 19 August)