I think it’s fair to say we had low expectations.
Walking down the steps of the ‘Top Secret Comedy Club’ – which incidentally is really not all that secret – it’s about as conspicuous as any building with a whopping ‘top secret’ sign can possibly be – we were filled with the same sense of trepidation you experience at uni when dutifully supporting that weird emo kid in their ‘interpretive’ rendition of Hamlet.
The decrepit bar had been crudely transformed into something very, very vaguely resembling a theatre. The ‘stage’ was a plank of MDF and the backdrop looked like a couple of bin liners fastened together with duct tape. Our hearts sank through the beer-stained floor, (presumably) into some dank rat-infested cellar below.
A few minutes later and a bunch of awkward-looking student-types stumbled through the swing doors and on to the stage. For a moment I was right back in GCSE drama, watching the class geeks about to cobble together something pillow-bitingly excruciating.
But that was a very brief moment.
Articulate, vivacious and quick-witted, these guys threw themselves into a pant-wettingly hilarious performance.
Completely unrehearsed and unscripted, the show is divided into several ‘games’ – think Whose Line is it Anyway – without the balding men, nerd glasses and 90s garb. The audience’s suggestions inspire the settings and characters in a series of surreal skits – which got all the more surreal as the audience got all the more pissed. (When asked for a film title suggestion, Charlie now half a bottle of wine down piped up with ‘The Biggest Thursday in Space’. Crap knows where he conjured that from).
The performers’ energy, eloquence and command of physical comedy were excellent, as was their ability to respond instantly to the smallest cue. The close relationship between the comedians added enormously to the overall performance – they definitely weren’t afraid to screw each other over in a way that only a group of good mates can. ‘Mournfully I knew the only place to go to now was a seedy titty bar’ – and lo his poor mate starts grinding against an imaginary pole.
Unfortunately the closing skit wasn’t as polished as the others, but that was largely thanks to the weird bloke in the front row who insisted on the theme of the game being ‘electrocution’. What a tit. Kudos to the boys for giving it their best shot, but it was only going to end on a sour note, wasn’t it? Either way, the last game didn’t mar what was an energetic and exceptional performance from a group of talented young actors.
As for the cost? Entry is free (obvs – we’re cheapskates after all), but they do ask for tips. In their own words, ‘If you have a tenner, a fiver or even a couple of pounds, drop them in the bucket. If you have 20p – keep it and flip it. If it lands on heads, go on an adventure.’
Cough up kids. It’s worth it.
Shoot From The Hip perform every Tuesday evening at 8pm in the Top Secret Comedy Club, The Africa Centre, 38 King Street, Covent Garden, WC2E 8JT.
p.s. Be warned – if you’re checking out their site, unfortunately their YouTube clips don’t do their improvisation justice.