October 27, 2018

Austen Found

It wasn't till Penny (Ashton) introduced the show that I realised Austen Found sounds like "lost and found." An appropriate title for a newly discovered (secretly improvised) musical by Jane Austen - all the actors are lost as they perform this "found" piece.

The theatre was packed and there was even a waitlist to get in. It was one of the most popular items at the 2018 Improv Festival with good reason. The actors were seasoned professionals with excellent voices. There were a couple of hiccups when they forgot character names but they built it into the "script."

We were treated for a performance of Greed and Gullibility.  A couples greed for pineapples, a mans greed for women and woman's greed for admiration were posed against the gullibility of two young women. One women's brother constantly reminded her how stupid she was while the other only realised her gullibility when the guilt of her intended was revealed.

It was very impressive that the cast were able to pull a mostly comprehensible storyline out of thin air and have the audience cheering for the happy ending.

October 25, 2018

(The Return of) The Unicorn's Story Cabaret

This show was unexpected. The opening banter with the audience was perhaps the funniest and went on so long I thought it would be the entire show. Good use was made of the improvisors in the audience for parts that required participation. It might be cheating but it makes for a much better show.

It was a little mystical with the fates, ghosts, a mermaid and a spell caster. I'd never thought I'd see an improvised live action game of Dungeons and Dragons but as soon as they said Dungeon Master I knew it was coming. It was a weird mix.

The act with the most amount of prepared material fell the most flat - they were a little slapstick but kept missing the mark and the lack of audience participation was felt.

All in all a bit of a mixed bag which could have benefited from tighter control.

October 23, 2018

Space Patrol 5: The Next Generation

With warm memories of the epic (10 hour long) SciFi Improv show DeepSpace Naenae (directed by Jennifer O'Sullivan with Matt Powell and Brendon Bennetts) from the NZ Fringe 2017, I had high hopes for Space Patrol 5: The Next Generation at the New Zealand Improv Festival 2018 (directed by Matt Powell and Brendon Bennetts).

And to be frank, they had me with the set, the lighting, the smoke machine and the music. Everything else was a bonus. And there was a lot of bonus.

It had everything you would want in a SciFi soap opera - the stock dramatic one-liners, "Captain, its a trap!", the corny hand-made props (made by members of the audience - you don't get any more audience participation than that!), it had the running around and the fight sequence and the moment of slick evasion of the plot problem at the last moment "Ah, we did it!" It didn't do the "red shirts" joke, but that's probably a good thing.

And it had everything you would want in a Improv comedy show - it had the running gags that very quickly drew the audience in, the juxtaposition of contradictory memes (the planet of the Kardashians), the moments of self reference "I just did that for dramatic tension", the big man rolling out of the scene and hiding behind the prop because he wasn't supposed to be visible, and the cast forgetting the name of the weird and dangerous plant - teasing the audience with the possibility of falling out of character.. but catching us before we fell.

And because we gave of ourselves to be amused, the audience gave it a warm and enthusiastic reception. A joyful and quirky experience indeed.

October 16, 2018

Under Milk Wood

Projections play on sheets hung across the stage, depicting a seascape, a small town, as a voice drones...and continues to drone. The pictures are still beautiful but it drags, as do the dreams of the town people. The images become different bedspreads. Then, a sunrise through projector and light coming from behind, lovely.

Set in the small town of Llareggub (Bugger-All) there are quirky characters and nothing ever really happens. Narrators become townspeople and townspeople swap personalities. It's all small town life. The acting is wonderful, each person manages to distinguish between characters as they continue the rolling verse.

Is it a poem? Is it a play? No, it's just boring.

Unfortunately this show failed to capture my interest. It's supposed to be a comedy but there were mostly titters throughout the audience instead of the expected raucous laughter. A shame as it was a very good performance showcasing some of the best actors at Circa.

Performances: 13 October - 10 November, times vary
Tickets: $52

October 13, 2018

Toilet (Show Me Shorts Film Festival 2018)

The short film winners this year were primarily dark, with the exception of the very strange music video Laugh it Off. Which is worth watching for a laugh.

My favourite of the pick, which I would recommend to anyone (without fear of them being traumatised), has a bit of a dark underbelly but on the surface is amusing. Toilet won the Special Jury Prize for Production Design.

Set in an alley and a public toilet this is a complete story in itself with a message or PSA rounding it to be something greater. It stays in your mind once you leave but keeps a smile on your face rather than a shiver in your body.