Fringe Review: The Noise Next Door's Really, Really Good Afternoon Show (At Sea!) @ Gilded Balloon
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The Noise Next Door’s Really, Really Good Afternoon Show (At Sea!) is a part-improvised ‘choose your own adventure’ style of show. The audience follows the story of a mis-matched group of pirates as they journey on a quest, with various details of the tale left up to audience suggestions.
It’s billed as a family show, and the actors make a concerted effort to include and entertain children in the audience throughout. They focussed on speaking to children in their wanderings through the audience before the show began, and often took suggestions from children when audience prompts were required – until, that is, the children’s suggestions got a bit too repetitive and the improvisor in question had to begin seeking out ideas from adults as well. The show was littered with adult jokes and sexual references, but the actors seemed confident that these would go over the head of younger members of the audience.
The children were also blissfully unaware of the show’s unfortunate insistence on making fun of women, Indians, and disabled people. It’s not unusual to see a comedy troupe made up of four white men, but most others seem to have grasped that there are more ways of signalling a female character than to remove clothing.
The show is part-improvised, comprised of improv games within a set running order in which the actors complete stages of their pirate quest with the help of audience suggestions. As a performance aimed at children the emphasis is on each particular stage, rather than on plot or character development. There are a huge amount of audience suggestions, which seemed to get a bit tiresome even for the actors, who eventually began to reject certain suggestions and implore the audience for new ideas.
One game in particular stood out, in which two improvisors speak in a made-up language, while another two ‘interpret’ their speech for the audience. This is a widely-known game which usually produces good results, as the humour comes from the disconnect between what the gibberish-speaking improvisors communicate with their body language and what the interpreters say this is supposed to mean. Unusually, The Noise Next Door chose to take the humour from calling the made-up language ‘Indian’, based on an audience suggestion, and launching into an impersonation of Indian people by making nonsensical sounds in an Indian accent, waving their arms in ‘Indian dance’ and repeating the words 'Mahatma Gandhi'. It’s not something you often see anymore, as most comedians are wary of seeming quite so racist on stage.
The actors are full of enthusiasm and energy, and there are some great moments. However, a lot of the work in generating laughs is done by audience suggestions rather than the improvisors themselves, and older audience members might find themselves a little tired of the cheap jokes and endless sexual innuendos typical of amateur comedians. The lazy stereotypes leave a sour taste behind, and aren't excused by the incomprehension of the young audience. The show might be better off in the ‘children’s shows’ section of the programme, as while it does very well on including children it leaves its older audience behind a bit too much for a show billed as general comedy.