The Uncertainty Division

Improvised theatre

Uncertain Days

No-one can deny that, at the Uncertainty Division’s shows, “uncertainty” is – certainly – the operative word. Frankly, I had no idea what was going on in this production, Out of Your Mind. But it was the first thing I’ve laughed hard at for weeks.

Initially, it all looked dubious: four men in white coats demanding audience participation: something I normally loathe. In fact, that participation proved to be the stimulus for some really top improvisation, Out of Your Mind meaning exactly that: indiscriminate thoughts from a member of the audience forming the basis of an extemporised narrative.

The stimuli taken from a stereotypical New Hall girl in the audience included, obviously, road-kill, snakes and sermons.

Improvising an hour’s worth of narrative out of such unedifying stimuli would seem dangerous – some might say crazy – but, actually, it was very good. It was certainly strange: a collection of stills using the girl’s thoughts, with the onus falling heavily on the conflict between boredom and interest. Boredom, it seems, gives life meaning: it forces you to find something interesting amidst the sheer boredom of life; something we can no doubt relate to, spending half our year in a town the size of an American shopping mall. These interesting things include, among others, violence, poetry and recreational drugs.

This was great improvisation – justifiably acclaimed during its stint at the Fringe this year – the kind where you try and convince yourself that it must have been scripted. And it changes every evening, according to the random thoughts of the participating member of the audience.

James Lark, as the news-reader, and Andrew Ormerod as the biscuit tycoon – McVitty – stole the show with lucid vocabulary and lightning reflexes. The cheesy yet eerie keyboard music, such as might feature in an Aaron Spelling serial, worked as a hilarious but atmospheric backdrop to the bizarre narrative unfolding.

As I said, I didn’t have a clue about what was going on, but I nearly wet myself laughing at Lark’s impression of the singing mice from Bagpuss. Definitely worth catching.

Laura Allsop

Originally published by Varsity.