The Uncertainty Division

Improvised theatre

Unpredictable impro from non-Footlights Cambridge troupe.

James Aylett, James Lark and Phil Stott, founding members of The Uncertainty Division, can’t contain their excitement. Against all the odds it looks as if they might break even this year at the Fringe. With the help of some well-timed positive reviews, there’s a real buzz surrounding their C Venue impro oddity, An Extremely Memorable Emergency.

It hasn’t always been like this. They formed the group three years ago in Cambridge, forgoing the glamour of Footlights where James Aylett claims “there is very little chance to do improvisation as part of a main show”, and their early shows didn’t always go to plan. In an attempt to form a coherent narrative through improvisation, many performances ended up in a “similar vein to the novels of Jack Kerouac”. That would be unending and purposeless, then.

However, The Uncertainty Division remained staunchly committed “to seeing how far [they] could take improvisation in a particular way”. Consequently, a more binding structure has been formed for their second outing to the Edinburgh Fringe. With a viewer-suggested emergency occurring outside the theatre, members of the audience are asked for their suggestions to keep the show running until all external danger has been eliminated. Obviously, as is the nature of the impro beast, there’s room for hiccups. But for James Aylett, theatre is all about the possibility of mistakes, and some of the greatest laughs come from valiantly handled schoolboy errors.

Yet despite their current success, it’s not all champagne and after-show parties for The Uncertainty Project. The unenviable task of flyering still remains. Commenting on last year’s exploits, James recalls being “insulted by Paul Daniels on the Royal Mile and one of us, whilst standing on a step ladder, getting his leg pinched by an old lady”. Ouch.

Stewart Bingham 27 August 04

The Uncertainty Division – An Extremely Memorable Emergency is at C Cubed, until 30 August 04.

Originally published in BBCi’s The Collective on 27th August, 2004. We are not responsible for the contents of external links.