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Feed us a line. Go on, any line

Since its first performance at the Unity in 2004, Hoof! has galloped to the forefront of improvised live comedy. Jonny Sanger catches up with it and prepares you for two unmissable Liverpool shows

Published on November 24th 2006.

Feed us a line. Go on, any line
Right. There are sheep, an organ grinder and his disheartened monkey. There are treasure hunters with spider troubles. There’s a geriatric Zimmer-frame dancing line, a few more sheep for good measure, an account of the first human birdman tests, oh, and an epic plan “to make chocolate the ultimate social cleanser”.

So far, soo Alan Ayckbourn, I hear you cry. Well fret not: tonight’s show at the Rose Theatre, Ormskirk, will never be repeated again. Never, I tell you, never. You see Hoof! is an entirely improvised, seamless journey through the wonderfully off-kilter minds of Spike Theatre and Rejects Revenge. No show is the same. Take Who’s Line is it Anyway? (give Clive Anderson a hefty slap for looking so smug) and then throw it in the bin because Hoof! simply is the undisputed king of improv comedy.

Tonight’s plot summary may suggest a disjointed structure, likely to crumble at any time, but this is not the case. By dipping into different ideas, and periodically returning to the ones that really captivate their audience, Hoof!’s performers succeed in establishing hilarious, ingenious links between many of the skits. There’s a real sense of excitement when a story you enjoyed is returned to and fleshed out even more. The first flight of the reluctant birdman was painfully funny, made all the richer when we returned to his story to hear of the undercover missions he’d been sent on since we saw him last.

You are, in fact, treated to two shows in one evening: after the interval they begin from scratch again. The second time around this gives you the opportunity to see how they layer their initial ideas, building the foundations for the show proper (as a man who often breaks perfectly operational things in my quest to understand how they work, I particularly enjoyed this).

"We will say this only once"

The performers look like they are loving it, and it’s a very infectious sentiment. So much so that we had incidents of performer-audience kissing (very tastefully done, mind). Special mention must also go to Matthew Wood, who provides an inspired soundtrack on the fly.

Hoof! is an evening you will not forget for a while, mind-bogglingly clever, devastatingly funny, entirely original comedy and what of the plan to mend the world’s wrongs with chocolate? Sadly it failed as, rather predictably, “everyone had just got fat”. But that meant less war, as no one could be bothered to get off their sofas to fight the blasted things. Now that‘s comic genius.

Jonny Sanger

Hoof! is showing on Saturday November 25 at The Cornerstone Theatre, Hope University, Childwall, with a Christmas special at The Unity Theatre, Hope Place on December 22.

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