Giggle Beats – Edinburgh, 2012

At one point during surreal sketch show Bring The Noise, one of the five-strong Noise Next Door troupe buys himself some time to prepare an improvised routine, saying, “This is going to be mental.” He isn’t wrong; however one thing’s for sure: The Noise Next Door are insanely talented.

If you’re not familiar with the sketch format, it often relies heavily on audience participation, mainly recommendations from the crowd. There’s a loose framework to it all, of course, but largely the troupe are expected to think on their feet – and this is where The Noise Next Door shine.

New shows are developed in what feels like an instant. The recurring improvised sketch about the Cholmondeley Village Amateur Dramatic Group, for example, begins as a rehearsed routine. But, thanks to audience input, it quickly spirals out of control into a wonderfully funny mess about the Trojan War and dog poo that surely deserves its own spin off show.

They’re also clearly skilled performers. In that sketch, the troupe members take on multiple roles, and it’s a credit to their acting ability that they immediately become convincing doppelgangers. Matt’s very ‘methodic’ portrayal of an elderly woman who’s convinced she’s an arrow deserves a special mention…

Speaking of the Trojan War, though, it seems from the shouted suggestions that a lot of the audience watching tonight are resolutely middle class. When asked to recommend a form of drama, one punter shouts  “kabuki” – something that might have faze a less confident group, but not these guys. (Though to be fair, it’s hard to tell if they got the Japanese theatrical style spot on as I’ve no idea what it looks like…)

However the clear highlight of the show is The Totally Smashing Capers of Archie Fox section. In an interactive segment filmed, edited then published daily on YouTube, Archie is a dimwitted public schoolboy who has a different daily challenge in the show. Tonight’s involves him travelling to Amsterdam to become a dragon slayer – of course. But what that particular sketch really illuminates, though, is just how innovative, slick and ultimately unique The Noise Next Door are to the often stagnant sketch genre.

If you only go to see one sketch show during the Fringe, make sure it’s Bring The Noise. In fact, go and see it several times: after all, it changes every night.

Hilary Wardle