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Paul Merton's Impro Chums/ Royal Court; COMEDY.

Byline: Jamie Bowman

IF, LIKE me, some of your formative comedy experiences were based around John Sessions and Tony Slattery improvising their way through hit Channel 4 series, Whose Line Is It Anyway, then the opportunity to see the king of impro himself, Paul Merton, was one to relish.

Merton has perfected his quick-witted, surreal style in the 20 years since the show, on radio programmes like Just a Minute, and, of course, his now perennial slot on Have I Got News For You.

Fair play to Merton, then, for still wanting to prove himself on stage - but sadly too often this show, also featuring Mike McShane and Richard Vranch from the original team, fails to hit the mark.

The main problem seems to be a lack of discipline on the part of the performers themselves.

Without the headmasterly presence of Clive Anderson to call a halt to the proceedings, some of the sketches and situations go on far too long, when the audience has long since lost interest.

One section which features Merton''s wife, Suki Webster, pretending to be an expert on North Korean fishing, was especially poor.

There were intermittent laughs, though, and credit to the everreliable Liverpool audience for consistently suggesting amusing situations. Stand-out performer, Lee Simpson, as Gordon Brown lying in the foetal position, is an image that will stick in the mind, and the night ended on a real high note with a brilliant sketch featuring melancholy old punk fans reminiscing in the style of Shakespeare (I shall dial 999 and get The Police, even though they were not a punk band).

Sadly, these were rare highlights in a performance which pervaded a disappointing air of smugness and nostalgia.

Jamie Bowman
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:May 11, 2010
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