Imogen Usherwood enjoys a light-hearted end to the term with Durham Improvised Musical’s Mothers’ Day special.
Durham Improvised Musical never fail to delight, and in these final days of term an hour of riotous improvised songs and tongue-in-cheek humour was exactly what everyone needed.
The six-strong troupe (plus Rhys Rodrigues at the piano) announced a seasonal theme for tonight’s show – Mother’s Day – and asked the audience for a setting, a title for the musical and the name of a song to feature somewhere in the show. Suggestions for a location ranged from ‘underwater, just off the coast of Ireland in the year 3000’ to our beloved Billy B (‘we’ve all spent the whole day in there today, come on this is meant to be enjoyable’), but eventually everyone agreed on a maternity ward. The musical was entitled Look What the Stork Brought In, and the song title agreed on was ‘Mothers, Brothers and Many Others’ – after ‘What are your plans after graduation?’ and ‘Actually, we were just leaving’ were rejected.
What started as a fairly lighthearted show about a keen medical intern, a rivalry between the doctors and the storks to deliver babies, and a grouchy expectant mother from the Bronx, took an unexpectedly dark turn until the main plotline of the show was the ‘prophecy of the red baby’ which would bring a curse onto humanity. Technical director Helena Trebichavska deserves credit here, as it soon became routine to flood the entire stage with red light every time someone said ‘red baby’. The coloured lights assisted the actors in constructing their musical; ‘imagine we’re in the sky’ was soon followed by bright blue lighting, and ‘I’ve been eating my greens’… you can imagine.
The troupe are clearly close-knit and bounce off each other with ease, often making it their personal mission to get the other person to say something ridiculous or to force someone else to improvise the song (‘Surely I don’t need to remind you what happened last time?’ ‘…Actually, I think you do.’). On one notable occasion, Rosie Dart seemed a little lost for words when she was describing her dream, paused and said loudly ‘you see, in my head there was music…’ – Rodrigues dutifully took his cue and struck up another tune. Occasionally, someone would get a bit stuck or corpse or need to try a song again, but it was all in the spirit of the show and part and parcel of what was generally an impressively off-the-cuff and smooth production.
The cast made use of other musical instruments to bolster the performance; Hal Lockwood whipped out his saxophone for the big musical number of the show, but what was funnier was when someone found a triangle or set of maracas and added their own percussion to the background.
Towards the end, the plot looked like it was never going to be resolved – it all came down to the impossible moral question of reuniting Doris from the Bronx with her red baby or saving millions of new babies from ‘disappearing’ (I don’t know how we got there either). At the last moment, someone suggested that ‘wait, maybe if we all close our eyes and wish really really hard, it will all be fine!’ …and, sure enough, a happy ending was had for all – except Ralph Skan, who forgot about miming holding his ‘baby’ and ‘dropped’ it, so put it in a corner and came back onstage.
DIM offered the perfect end-of-term evening for anyone looking for a good laugh after ten long weeks. It was absurd, more than a little dark but totally hilarious, and I don’t think there was anyone in the room who hadn’t thoroughly enjoyed themselves.
Finally, the main premise of the show was allegedly to remind us to buy a Mother’s Day card, so consider this your reminder to get yourself down to Clintons before next Sunday…