Improv Theatre Sydney Comedy Festival
Giant Dwarf Theatre
Reviewed by Ron Lee, CSP
Having had a TheatreSports team in the late 1980s, I was keen to see the latest incarnations of Australian improv.
Improv Theatre Sydney is celebrating its fourth birthday and has departed from the four-player teams competing in the same sets of games. These versions are much less structured and allow for more individual and team creativity.
On the night on which I attended the variety of acts was impressive.
“This Show Has My Dog in It” was beautifully performed by Laura Hart and her dog, Juno, with an actor doing voices off for Juno. This was the first improv I’ve seen with a live animal, and the old animal/children adage again proved to be true. As good an actor and improvisor as Hart is, all eyes were on the dog. There was a degree of unpredictability and Juno could have made a couple of offers that would have added to the improv but the dog controlled itself.
“A Streetcar Named Hot Tin Menagerie” presented improv in the style of Tennessee Williams. Not only did the performers stick to the style, it showcased some superb acting talent that would excel in any form of acting.
“Unplanned Melodies” combined songs and dialogue on a theme offered by a member of the enthusiastic audience. This time the theme was “Toys ‘R’ Us”, although I didn’t hear anyone in the audience call it out. None-the-less it was entertaining.
“Les Blaguettes” was a four-hander performed partly in English and partly in French, and eventually two audience members would decide when the improv was to switch between the two languages. The words were largely irrelevant, with the juxtaposition of the styles of communication being the hero in this exercise.
“Plonk Family Band” started off being a bluegrass combo and, with the assistance of guest members of the family, extended to rock and blues. This group of talented musicians, led by Wyatt Nixon-Lloyd and Carlo Richie, was deservedly the headline act on the night. In the tradition of improv theatre, audience members threw song names at them and after a few seconds, the band came up with some catchy tunes.
The challenge of improv is not only to make stuff up on the spot but also to be entertaining and engaging, and Improv Theatre Sydney well and truly came up with the goods.
Additionally, ITS conducts workshops and has an emphasis on inclusion and diversity. There is even an improv and yoga retreat. From what I saw, I’d recommend anyone who would like to stretch themselves to have a look at the Improv Theatre Sydney website.