Victoria Fringe Festival 2017 – WAR: Improv Is Hell

Review by Niko Mumford – Staff Writer

August 28, 2017

In its second sold out show of the Fringe, Paper Street Theatre’s WAR: Improv is Hell delivered yet another unique, never-to-be-repeated war story, titled by the audience as “Knee Deep”. As two-time Pick of the Fringe winners, Paper Street Theatre has been known in Victoria for years as a company dedicated to fully adopting the facets of a genre in their long form improv, often with hilarious results. Paper Street has set a challenge for themselves by adopting the genre of war films, a theme that does not produce as many laughs as they are often known for. Despite this risk, the company produced a solid, if at times confused attempt to explore the horrors of war.

In a disclaimer preceding, it is stated that the company is attempting something new in exploring the genre of war films, adopting more of a dramatic edge to their show. It is evident throughout the piece that some members of the company embrace this challenge, while others continue to adopt a goofier stance. While this lends comic relief amongst the heavier subject matter, rifts in listening and communication onstage resulted in a slightly muddled tone throughout the show. Each member of the company stood out with fantastic performances, with memorable characters created out of thin air. Unfortunately, the slight rifts in communication as a whole resulted in cast members occasionally speaking over each other and awkward silences.

The successes of the piece absolutely lie in the performances delivered by each of its members, all clearly practiced improv veterans. Their characters were believable, and varied in a way that fully represented the grit and drama found within a squadron of soldiers in the midst of battle. Sound and lighting effects, also improvised, were completely on point, setting the tone of trauma and confusion.  

Bottom Line:  

It is evident that Paper Street took a risk in its choice of genre for this year’s fringe festival. Despite it’s occasional hiccups, WAR: Improv is Hell provides a fascinating, and often explosively funny exploration of the war film genre. Much like battle, this show is absolutely unpredictable, resulting in a risky but entertaining production, placing its cast members at the front lines, armed with nothing but their impeccable improvisational skills. Their ability to tackle such a complex genre is bound to blow you away.  


WAR: Improv Is Hell

Paper Street Theatre

Victoria Fringe Festival

Venue 1 (Victoria Event Centre)

  • Aug 26 @ 9:45pm
  • Aug 28 @ 8:30pm
  • Aug 30 @ 7:15pm
  • Aug 31 @ 7:15pm
  • Sept 2 @ 3:45pm

 Tickets: All Seats $11

Explosively funny
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