The Uncertainty Division

Improvised theatre

Certain Laughs

According to the Uncertainty Division, a Cambridge-based improvisation group, the end of the world is nigh.

It all begins with the apocalypse for An Extremely Memorable Emergency, which previewed on Tuesday night as the ADC lateshow. It was billed as an extended ad-lib about five actors trapped in a theatre with an audience, Judgement Day being just hours away.

Except, for one night only, no End of Days was to be had, just an altercation with Thor, the Norse God of Thunder… If you’re feeling lost, believe me, it’s much less confusing when you actually see it. Such is their charm, this group carry you through as many twisted loops of logic as you could dream of without leaving any kind of unpleasant feeling in your stomach.

The piece started with a few suggestions from the audience: vodka, a haddock, History of Art and a sieve. Along the way, the group dumped the sieve as the piece turned into an espionage thriller cum domestic tragedy, with Muffins of Mass Destruction somehow thrown in.

While it was clear to see James Aylett, James Lark and their team were very experienced artists, an extremely successful Edinburgh run this summer must have contributed to their dexterity together on stage, making it a consistently funny piece. After all, if an improvised show is ever going to fall flat on its face, it is going to be because ideas and comic wit are lacking. Yet ideas, plots, sub-plots, puppetry and songs merged into one with a refreshing disdain of pretension. The cast were not afraid to discard anything that didn’t work - a courageous decision when you’ve only got three boxes, three moveable screens and a blanket for inspiration.

In fact, so fearless was their approach that they were not even knocked off of their stride when a drunken Trinity fresher invaded the stage. He stumbled around a bit, headed for the curtain on the perfomers’ right and promptly collapsed into the wings. An incredulous look, a moment’s silence and the Uncertainty Division were off again, back immediately into their own, deeply odd, world.

Indeed, the main criticism that will be levelled at the group is that they are far too removed from the boring consistencies of the real world especially at a time when politics is suddenly popular again in theatre.

But frankly, that’s the point. It’s a joyous hour or so of funny and silly theatrical acrobats that lets you forget about the unjust world. Instead, it gives you a chance to really enjoy stupid jokes about stupid things and not feel guilty.

If the end really is nigh, the Uncertainty Division will make it an extremely memorable apocalypse.

Alex Dawson

Originally published in Varsity.