Andrew Hunter Murray review – a fun-filled, pub quiz comedy

Andrew Hunter Murray at the Soho theatre, London.
Much silliness … Andrew Hunter Murray at the Soho theatre, London. Photograph: Venla Shalin/Getty Images

The improv group Austentatious has become quite the production line of talent, with Cariad Lloyd, Joseph Morpurgo and Rachel Parris all spinning off into eminent solo careers. Now here’s Andrew Hunter Murray, debuting with a set structured around a pub quiz. The host is nerdy Tony Rebozo, a lifelong quiz fanatic, perky on the surface and desperate behind the eyes. The audience is divided into teams (the local book group; an estate agents; a samba class, etc), representatives of which Hunter Murray plays in broad sketches that punctuate each round.

It’s character comedy, in which characterisation plays a minor role. Hunter Murray seldom pretends to be anyone other than himself, whether in the wafer-thin, transparently ridiculous guise of a harassed property manager with a bee infestation, or a snake-hipped Brazilian whose dance instruction draws on amusingly convoluted similes. Most of the roles, such as the reading-group martinet smoking out book dodgers, involve playful audience involvement, but we feel safe and happy in Hunter Murray’s hands. He’s like a gentler Adam Riches, generating much silliness and only a little nervous laughter.

It’s very likable and totally frivolous. The only flicker of subtlety or emotional significance arrives via the conventional subplot about Rebozo’s fraught relationship with icy score-keeper Angie, whose thawing is beautifully played. Hunter Murray is more of a kid with a dressing-up box than a fine character portraitist, but he bundles us all along with wit, goodwill and the odd surrealist touch. As so often with pub quizzes, you learn little of consequence but have plenty of fun.

•At Soho theatre, London, until 8 March. Box office: 020-7478 0100.