While its American iteration continues to thrive in a primetime slot, the British original of improv TV show Whose Line is it Anyway? has maintained a rabid cult following in the UK. After 10 years on Channel 4 it went off-air in 1998, but endless Freeview repeats in recent years have kept its memory alive. At this year’s Edinburgh Fringe, a string of reunion shows has created a whirlwind of hype and frenzied ticket hunting – this is the event of Edinburgh 2014.
After hours of watching intimate performances in pub basements and small spaces, Fringe patrons walk into the grandeur of McEwan Hall. The atmosphere of pre-show excitement was palpable.
The show is titled What Does the Title Matter Anyway?; not out of irreverence, but because the production failed to secure the relevant rights. Any question of authenticity, however, is obliterated the moment Clive Anderson walks out on the stage. He gives a hilarious potted history of the show and outlines all of the various legal potholes the troupe must avoid so as not to infringe copyright.
Anderson is joined on stage by musician (and composer of the Whose Line theme tune) Philip Pope. While Anderson and Pope will carry out every performance, the four players of the show’s famed games will rotate throughout its 14-night run. The performance witnessed for this review featured some of the show’s most frequent and beloved guests: Josie Lawrence, Greg Proops, Stephen Frost and Captain Hair himself, Colin Mochrie – a current regular on the American Whose Line, the Canadian superstar received the biggest cheer of the night when he walked on stage.
With Whose Line having set the template for popular improv, the games which are played are the same as any number of troupes at the Fringe. But to witness the unique skills of the show’s personalities, assembled before such a huge and zealous audience, was truly remarkable.