5starsculture

Musicians, six actors, a stage, no script and one hour and 45 minutes of comedy theatre.

This sounds like a familiar nightmare for those who dreaded drama lessons at school, but for improvisational artists The Showstoppers, the adrenaline of winging it on the night and making it up on the spot is all part of the day job.

the showstoppers

The Elgar Room at the Royal Albert Hall have kicked-off their new season of comedy with the well-established musical group, The Showstoppers have already notched up a stream of critical acclaim over past years.

Dylan Emery bounds on to the stage like an excitable 90s children's TV presenter, asking the audience for creative advice before he pitches an idea for a new stage show to James Cameron, who is conveniently at the end of a phone line.

A musical set inside the prison cell of Chris Huhne is a popular choice, but the winning vote goes to a glitzy show based around the Barclays Bank boardroom. 'FTSE-Loose' is born - a whirlwind of topical theatre that strives to bear parallels with the epic Les Misérables: love, loss, bombs and bank accounts.

Opening with a musical number reminiscent of Singing In The Rain, featuring lines like "I'm top of the world, I'm filthy rich, the world economy is my bitch," we are introduced to our protagonist Clive Jenkins; a money-grabbing Investment Banker with pound signs in his eyes.

Finance worker Jethro tells Clive "Something tells me your heart is rancid and rank," to which Clive replies "But I've got money in my pants!"

The show gets increasingly bizarre as Emery, our narrator, interjects with plot twists, steering the story further down a winding path of silliness.

Highlights include an Anarchist group's secret meeting in a council car park, and a wonderful 'sexy' Cabaret routine that feels like it has been lifted out of a nightmarishly surreal Salvador Dali landscape.

the showstoppers

It is hard to believe that there is no set formula to the evening, such as a memorised equation of musical numbers, or prepared material that needs only a tweak here and there to suit the evening's chosen theme. My cynical-self wonders whether the shouted suggestions from the audience come from carefully planted stooges. Probably not.

Either way, all that matters are my aching sides - The Showstoppers will bring out your giggly side, the inner-child that used to laugh at the classroom show-off - the one who did spontaneous impressions of the teacher. You'll be tempted to go and see it more than just once.

The Showstoppers continue in the Elgar Room at the Royal Albert Hall, London, on Monday 11, 18 and 25 February. To book tickets visit www.royalalberthall.com or call 020 7589 8212.

Watch a sketch of The Showstoppers arriving at the Royal Albert Hall:

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