Slam poetry and improvised comedy both originate from rebellion, symbolising the neglect of structure for the sake of intuitive, artistic chaos. A collision of the two under the guise of ‘Slamprov’, then, is a delightful catastrophe. Cat Hepburn, Glasgow’s very own award-winning writer and spoken word poet, begins the performance, effortlessly executing the role of creative stimulus for the internationally celebrated comedy troupe Men with Coconuts. Her crass humour and electric charisma prove to be just the thing the foursome need for a successful set of sketches.
Hepburn uses her rhythm and rhyme to set the scenes – with themes of body positivity, sexuality, and work romances – and the troupe, leaping onstage as she departs, spontaneously create the characters to inhabit them: a talking Dumbledore poster (Charles Hindley), Bradford’s ‘Julian’ Aguilera (Steve Worsley), Keith the excruciatingly awkward accountant with dyscalculia (Will Naameh), and a fantastic pianist portraying himself (Colin Bramwell). It is a hopelessly tangential take on Hepburn’s initial impetus – but that’s the point, and the troupe nail it.
The group’s dynamic on stage is polished, professional; their fluidity rarely hindered by hesitation. In fact, the occasional stutters and the overlapping speech only add to the comedy. The performance is metatheatrical and self-conscious, but with irony and self-deprecation, which is always a hit. The singing is a wonderful added touch, despite being less for the ears, and more for the laughter.
A larger crowd would elevate the atmosphere – the giggling feels deviant amid the quietness. This does detract from the performance, though, a clear sign that the crowds will only expand with future shows.
Although the improv compliments the poetry, and vice-versa, the acts can be credited independently for their successes. Hepburn engages with some pervasive social issues and, interestingly – and perhaps unintentionally – some serious sentiments arise from the comics’ ridiculous scenarios too.
The belly aches, the cheeks feel stretched, and the mind ponders. In a world saturated with heavy food for thought, sometimes these things are best served lightly – Men With Coconuts serve just the right balance of radical and ridiculous.
Men With Coconuts: Slamprov was on at Assembly Roxy on 23 October 2019. The next performances are November 27th and December 18th.
Image: Todd Richter.