Any Suggestions, Doctor? An Improvised Adventure In Time & Space, The Museum Of Comedy, London, 09/12/2018.
I’ve been a Doctor Who fan since I was two weeks old apparently, of course I have no memory of the series until I was about five but my Mum was a fan and so sat me down in front of it the first chance she got and I allegedly gurgled happily during that episode and every one after that (well, I stopped gurgling around the age of 14, but carried on enjoying the series). I even made it through the dodgier 80’s seasons and was upset when it was first cancelled, but I’ve loved the new series since it’s return even more than the classic one. So when I first heard about Any Suggestions, Doctor? back in February this year I bought tickets immediately, and was greatly impressed by the improvised show that they put on. Now they’ve returned to the Museum of Comedy for a second brief run, and because it was so good last time I didn’t hesitate to return.
Improv is a difficult game at the best of times, if one of those involved is having a bad day it can throw the others off, and long form improv is even harder given that they have to sustain a narrative over the course of an hour, but fortunately all involved turned in great performances and came out with beautifully funny lines. Before it began the audience were asked to write down potential episode titles (alas my partner’s suggestion of Doctor Who And The Dog Who Went Miaow wasn’t used) and they start off by asking who out of the cast we want to appear as the Doctor. Last time around I got to see Louise Jones as the Doctor (who was almost as good as Jodie currently is) but in today’s show Matthew Stallworthy took command of the Tardis and though he might not have been quite as good as Matt Smith, he was certainly no Colin Baker. After that a title is picked out of the hat at random and the audience asked to provide a location, and we then got to witness an adventure set in ancient Egypt and meet Tutankhamun whose life it turns out was in danger, and it was up to the Doctor and his companion to once again save the day.
There’s no need to be a hardcore Doctor Who fan to enjoy this fantastic show, knowledge of who the Doctor is, what the Tardis can do and that the sonic screwdriver isn’t some kind of sex aid is about it, they keep it simple so that all can enjoy it. They’re impressively fast thinkers, devising a plot which involves a high priestess who bathes in human milk and feasts on the youth of Egypt, Tutankhamun holding a cape party, the Doctor pretending to be Ra, ancient Egyptian deity of the sun, oh and Sara Dallin of pop band Bananarama turns up almost three thousand years before she was born in an inspired moment which made me laugh an awful lot. It’s for all ages too, there was a slight bit of innuendo at one point but it was quickly mentioned that this was a family friendly Egypt.
A lot of the joy of watching it comes from the cast gently teasing each other, be it due to their lack of knowledge of ancient Egypt (It took a young member of the audience for them to learn that the the Sun God Ra was part Falcon and not consisting of a mix of a human and a lion) or that they make one of the cast repeatedly get down on his knees despite the pain it causes him. But also fun is the witty dialogue and daft ideas they come up with, and seeing them piece all of the disparate elements together to create a story which makes sense is hugely entertaining. Stallworthy made for a fun and extremely likeable Doctor who helped keep everything together, Jones was a great history hating companion, while Lewis Dunn was superb as both the villainess and the Egyptian pharaoh, pulling off a scene in which both were present with aplomb. The rest of the cast deserve acclaim too, their roles might not have been as showy but Charles Deane, Harry Whittaker and James Gamblin made me laugh hard throughout, with great running gags about a cake and cape salesman, a french man who could foretell the future, and a servant being a beverage holder. Also remarkable is the improvised soundtrack, which makes it feel like a real episode of the show, and helps build tension during certain scenes as well.
As mentioned you don’t have to be a Doctor Who fan to enjoy this show at all, as long as you enjoy laughing, and laughing a lot, you’ll have a ball time travelling with this crew. Jodie Whittaker’s made for a superb thirteenth Doctor this year but some of the scripts have let her down and disappointed, and in an ideal world the team behind Any Suggestions, Doctor? would be writing for the show and it would have been far far better than it currently is.