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REVIEW: The Dragprov Revue @ Brighton Fringe, 22-23/05/2019

The Verse’s Jake Francis review the Dragprov Revue event that happened at Brighton Fringe on 22nd-23rd May 2019. 

The virility of improv has been brought into question through a variety of different forms over the years. Whether it’s through the reviews received by the likes of Judd Apatow’s movies, the characterisation of Michael Scott in the US Office, or the blatant disregard spun in 22 Jump Street, it’s evident that improv certainly has its critics. And some. More recent examples of this distaste for the genre can be found in the Netflix Original Series: BoJack Horseman – a show that depicts improv and its superficial patrons to be the comedic equivalent of Scientology; insular, hierarchal, and contextually hollow. The scale, however, is not entirely overloaded to that of negativity.

Like all comedy styles and formulas, Improv is not immune from the rigidity of its structures and overexposures. As shows like Monty Python, Brasseye, and Peep Show have previously proven, a simple reimagining of how comedy is ‘formed’ can revitalise a genre for a whole new generation of fans. The Dragprov Revue is one of those acts who are currently fighting that corner.

An unsurprising concoction of its namesake, the show splices the theatrics of both drag and improv to form a new style of entertainment. Featuring the fabulous Eton-Mess and the vivaciously lyrical Christian Adore, Dragprov Revue has become one of the most notorious double-acts on the comedy festival circuit. Their meeting is a story that feels familiar – a likely kinship found in their passions for adaptive and experimental performance:

We started Dragprov a couple of years ago now. We came up in improv through the same troupe (The Oxford Imps), so had already been performing together for a while, but we both became intrigued to try drag. Being particularly keen on musical improvisation, we were curious to see how we could integrate our comedy skills into drag, and drag into improv, in a way that hadn’t really been done before. We ended up doing a spot at a friend’s cabaret night in a basement venue somewhere in Shoreditch, just to see how it went really, and it took off from there!

Since this first outing, the Dragprov Revue has found itself performing to a myriad of audiences across the UK and overseas. Subsequently receiving both their critic’s and punter’s acclaim – the duo has proudly cemented themselves a spot on one of the most notorious platforms of any performer’s career – The Edinburgh Fringe:

Edinburgh was incredible, we’ve each performed there before but were thrilled to bring our own show to the festival. Sharing Dragprov with that audience, and seeing how much people not only enjoyed it but seemed to take it to their hearts – it was really special.

But of course, this is not Edinburgh – with Dragprov now finding themselves in our native Brighton for the 2019 Fringe. Hosted at the fittingly-kitsch Komedia, the double-act has recently finished a two-night only stint at the venue’s Laugh Shack. Sat poised at a distance from the stage reserved only for the most British and fearful of spectators, I sipped my drink nervously, not fully knowing what to expect. Luckily, my fellow audience members did not share the same sensibilities – with many emitting the shrieks and jeers most commonly found in a bank holiday hen-party. it is within this hindsight that I realise their energies were well-placed.

Beginning the set with a situation that will bring dread to any survivor of the public school system, Eton and Christian break the hesitations of us bystanders and invade our ranks to warm up their intuitive creativity. Pulling one particularly dry American on stage, our host’s quick-fire dialogue and well-tailored probes soon tap into the emotionally stunted guest with great empathy and engagement; a hatred of love and current status of nothingness have never felt less concerning.

Sadly (and luckily) for us, this toing and froing of audience involvement were then relegated to a more verbal affair – a reasonable compromise to our amateurism in lieu of the quick-wits on stage. The event continued with the rapid retorts between Eton and Christian, structuring the next hour with a cadre of appropriative songs and absurd narratives. One of the most notable segments in the show is Christian’s adaption of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s ‘Cats’ – the lyrics spliced effortlessly with our intellectual suggestion of the phrase ‘Shit son.’ This is pushed further with the whale-esque monotones of Enya – Kudos to Dragprov for lending coherence to such a tangent. It is with these potentially stress-inducing transactions that one tends to wonder how a performer maintains their energy. Dragprov, however, seems to have this covered:

Before we go on stage, no matter what the gig or the stakes, we always take a moment to check in with each other and allow ourselves to be goofy. Because if we’re having a good time, then the audience is, and we want you to go away feeling that all of us have had fun together. It’s also that fun that’ll carry you through the tougher moments, like when you’re exhausted from a run of shows or are driving hard at promoting. If your core reason for doing what you’re doing is that it’s just a bloody great laugh, you’ll be OK.

The show concludes with a miniature version of the three-act play, our persistent and reliable suggestions landing its setting within a sewer. Holding the spur-of-the-moment title of ‘Slosh it Up’ , the play follows the adventures of a shy, yet insatiably curious, mutant boy looking to escape his restrictive and oppressive community (think Foot Loose but with more rivers of urine) As the performance concludes with a Pterodactyl fuelled ride into the skies of the surface world, we are treated to a sanitary-based take on the Aladdin classic, ‘A Whole New World’. It is with songs like these that one comes to appreciate the mirroring of speed and resourcefulness found in the duo’s resident keyboard-player – acuity knows no bounds here.

To put it bluntly, Dragprov Revue is one of those experiences that encapsulates the very core of a fringe festival. Equal parts striking and eccentric, these sorts of events are a much-needed oasis in the evenings of outdated and formulaic ‘entertainment’. Although improv comedy is subject to the deviating opinions that all cultural activities receive, it is hard to argue with the enigmatic and diverse skills that Dragprov brings to the imaginary table. When watching the pair on stage with their wry smiles and spurred shock, it appears that the idiom of infectious laughter holds true.

For those aspiring improvisers and performers, I’ll let Eton and Christian make their own suggestions for once:

Find something that brings you joy to do, something you’d do just for the fun of it, but ideally, something isn’t being done in quite the same way by anything else. Your joy at doing it can hook into that of an audience member who’s seeing something new and different, and it takes on a momentum all of its own. Beyond that, blend your contour, practice blocking your eyebrows because it WILL take you ages to learn, and never accept ‘Trump’ as a suggestion.

Dragprov Revue is a touring act and has a number of events both nationally and internationally. To find out more please visit dragprov.com or follow them on Instagram at @dragprov.

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