Notflix, the completely improvised, kick-ass, feminist comedy musical, strutted its stuff at the Vaults Festival in London this week.
The concept of Notflix is simple and effective. Every night, audience members are asked to suggest the name of a film they have watched recently and provide a summary of what happens. Two suggestions are picked out of a bucket, and the audience votes on which they would prefer to be made into an original improvised comedy musical, using key locations, scenes and characters. The Notfilx performers are accompanied by a live band – also improvising. Every show is different, but every show is a celebration of film and feminism.
On the night of review, ‘Mean Girls’ won out over ‘Finding Dory’, allowing the Notflix team to create a narrative based on a fight to be Queen Bee, two feuding brothers, a teacher with an ambiguous accent and a maths geek seeking societal acceptance. After a hour of high school drama, the action all came to a very unexpected head at Prom – when a surprising, but uplifting, solution was found for everybody’s problems.
It’s hard to get improvisation shows perfect, and even when one does, success still depends on the night in question. The structure of Notflix offers equal stage time to all its performers, with equal opportunity to shine. It feels formulaic, but it works. Unfortunately, on the night of review, the show seemed todwell too long in its middle section, meaning the ending felt abrupt.
Nevertheless, these improvisers are very talented. They create characters, storylines and lyrics on the spot. And they’re funny, to boot. They bounce off each other with ease, respond quickly to new situations and at times have the audience eating out of their palms. At moments certain elements don’t fly, as is always the case with improvisation, but the majority of the time Notflix is a well-oiled machine.
One particular stand out on the night was Holly Mallet, who was remarkably quick-witted as popular, yet sympathetic jock Doyle. Some of the best one-liners and biggest laughs of the night were courtesy of her stellar work.
The musical numbers were catchy and surprisingly diverse. As we left the theatre, a good number of audience members were still singing the show’s closing number “We all have a story / We all have a narrative / And none of it is shit”. This song, along with one about being Queen Bee, were quick favourites. However, the show-stopping moment was a surprise rap number that felt like something out of Hamilton.
The live band, complete with drums, a keyboard and a flute, are also deserving of much praise. The band played a fantastic medley to audience goers as they entered the theatre, pumping up the crowd with hits including Disney, Titanic and Harry Potter. They were flawless throughout, providing a range of catchy musical styles and moulding the music to the performances on stage.
NOTFLIX has finished its run at The Vaults Festival, but will perform at the Greenwich Theatre on April 12 and Underbelly Festival on May 7.
Thanks also to Susy Brett who attended for us and guest posted. Find her normal twitter adventures at @susybumblebee