Shropshire Star

Paul Merton’s Impro Chums, Theatre Severn, Shrewsbury - review

Here’s a question. What links javelin-throwing pandas, Mussolini’s teapot, and the act of inflating breakfast cereals using a fish?

Paul Merton – beautifully crafted show

Give up? Well it’s quite simple really – Paul Merton does.

In fact, he and his Impro Chums will connect more or less anything you care to chuck at them.

The comedy troupe’s show – also including Merton’s wife Suki Webster, Lee Simpson, Mike McShane and Richard Vranch – met a packed house at Theatre Severn in Shrewsbury.

And while Merton provided the recognisable face, he is surrounded by a group of quick-thinking improvisation experts who match him stride for stride in a rip-roaring two hours of entertainment. Not much is off-limits – although this is a no-Brexit zone – and the broad spread of topics tackled suggests that the people of Shrewsbury are either very broad minded or, well, slightly deranged.

So it is that the opening act is a story that is tossed between the players on the subject of Mussolini’s teapot. Then the audience concocts a job description that Merton has to guess – he is, it turns out, the person that inflates Sugar Puffs using a puffer fish, which he then measures using a leather belt, for an Oxfam event in Mexico.

There is a beautifully constructed two-man play in which the theme of jealousy is transformed into the story of a man’s envy at the affection his wife gives the family cat.

And the show ends with a one-time-only showing of the little-known Shakespeare play, The Taming Of The Shrewsbury.

It’s all delivered with wit, snap, intelligence and zest, and glows with the surreal quality which Merton has brought to Friday night television on Have I Got News For You for the last three decades.

All in, the audience leave with smiles on their faces and the feeling that they have witnessed something anarchic, beautifully-crafted from thin air – and completely unique.