Review: Whose Line is it Anyway? (rating 4/5)
When you look through the Fringe programme or work your way through the flyers you get handed, it’s impossible not to realise the debt of gratitude so many shows owe to the television series Whose Line is it Anyway?
The programme debuted in 1988, introducing comedy improv to mainstream television and opening the doors for the likes of Murder She Didn’t Write, Austentatious, Crime Scene Improvisation and other shows selling out daily at the Festival.
It also gave the first big TV break to household names such as Paul Merton, Mike McShane, John Sessions, Tony Slattery and host Clive Anderson. Now back at the Fringe, the show is reclaiming its legacy with a changing line-up drawn from its original run and everything that has gone since.
The format is the same as it ever was. Anderson remains the nervous host, and his four guests still perform a variety of routines in a variety of styles based on suggestions from the audience. They are backed up by a pianist who effortlessly changes styles from country and western to classical and opera, and everything in between, as required.
The newcomers to the show – Pippa Evans and Ian Coppinger – help to keep the show fresh and prevent it simply being an exercise in nostalgia, but it’s also great to see Slattery back in action after long battles with health and addictions, and Stephen Frost performing as if it’s Groundhog Day and the last 30 years hasn’t happened.
While improv shows have got slicker and more sophisticated, the fast pace and constant changes demanded by Whose Line make it an entertaining hour for people who grew up watching the original and for those who have only heard it mentioned as something that inspired operformers in other Fringe shows.
Underbelly Bristo Square –until 26 August, (not 12)