Category: Impro

Melbourne Fringe 2017: COMPLETELY IMPROVISED HARRY POTTER

Just as much fun as it sounds!

By Narelle Wood

From the same company – Sooth Players – that brought us Completely Improvised Shakespeare, comes Completely Improvised Harry Potter for this year’s Melbourne Fringe. It’s the show that creates the Harry Potter book you’ve always wanted but was never written.

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In typical improvised show style, the book title is decided on by audience suggestion. But in Harry Potter-style, suggestions are placed in the Goblet of Fire and after a brief introduction from the Sorting Hat (which from the angle I was sitting on looked more dragon-like thanks to some creepy back lighting) the suggestion is pulled from the cup. The night I attended, we were treated to Harry Potter and the Deadly Paper Cut. With Patrick Rehil taking on the role of Harry Potter and Elizabeth Donald as He Who Must Not Be Named, another year at Hogwarts – with all the dangers that ensue – unfolded before our eyes.

Apart from being genuinely funny, what really makes this show is how much Potterverse knowledge the players have and their impressive ability to use it, misuse it, and point out the plot weaknesses of the original stories (respectfully of course) and then use these to their advantage.

Thus there was an awkward Quidditch training session where Ron (Taylor Griffiths) finally admitted he was a terrible keeper, and Malfoy (Jasper Foley), in typical Malfoy fashion, spent his time lurking about, threatening to tell his dad on everyone and generally just being Malfoy. Some of the best bits though were the plots, or lack there of, devised by a surprisingly self-reflective Voldemort and Wormtail (Pedro Cooray), who were later joined by Malfoy. This year Harry Potter was going to be destroyed by a book: to be specific a metal book, that they could potentially throw at him or slam his head into. While the improvised plan to kill Harry Potter didn’t seem very well thought-out, it did nicely highlight just how ridiculous some of Voldemort’s plots in the books actually are.

There were times where it felt though the scenes were fillers, but to be fair – and as a huge Harry Potter fan – the same can be said of the books. Admittedly I would have liked a faster pace, mostly to maximise the Potter experience. Once the ending was nigh though, things came together quite quickly and resolved themselves in true Rowlings-esque style.

There was a wide variety of audience members from a few little kids to some more mature adults, all of whom seemed to thoroughly enjoy the show. The potential assumption that this is just a show for kids would be a complete misapprehension: it is a show for muggles and magical folk alike. And the best thing – given that it’s a new show every night – lots of new Harry Potter books and adventures to enjoy. Much like Voldemort, I’ll be coming back for more.

Venue: Lithuanian Club, 44 Errol St, North Melbourne

Season: 6.45pm (5.45pm Sun & no shows Mon) – until 30th September

Tickets: Full $25| Conc $20

Bookings: www.melbournefringe.com.au/event/completely-improvised-potter/

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Impro Melbourne Presents GRAND THEFT IMPRO

It would be a crime to miss it

By Joana Simmons

After a sold-out season at this year’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival, Impro Melbourne’s encore season of Grand Theft Impro is speeding full throttle to deliver fast paced improvisational goodness. Procuring ten titles from the audience, the five players deliver scenes, songs, and storytelling over the 50-minute show, resulting in hundreds of laughs.

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The cast write the ten audience suggestions on ten cards and hang them at the back of the stage. Titles for the evening I attended included “I love my chicken” “Where’s my kale” “Sauerkraut and chips” “Such is life when you are a stuffed racoon” and “Chaffing.” At the end of each scene, it is put to the audience to vote whether the scene is complete, or a fail. If the result is the latter, the players must redo the scene, until the audience gives it the thumbs up. The quick witted cast – comprised of Rik Brown, Jenny Lovell, Patrick Duffy, Mike Bryant and special guest from Sydney Steve Kimmens and accompanied by Ian White on the keyboard- worked together to present an array of scenes, contexts and characters. The innovation and skill level is very high, with the cast using multiple improvisational tools and snappy callbacks to create captivating and cackle-worthy entertainment.

I was very impressed with how quickly the players were able to flesh out scenes by giving elaborate detail to their scene partner, setting the story early, and raising the stakes to dramatic proportions. It’s these things that give us the audience something substantial to chew on and split our sides over. Some of the scene endings and transitions were naturally a little clunky, as the tech and music are also improvised; that being said, the cast did recover well and redeemed any false starts or endings with a smart one-liner. For a show with such strong structure impro-scene-wise, it is noticeable when the song structure is not as strong. I would have loved to hear a verse-chorus-verse-chorus song with a consistent rhyme scheme; which is notoriously difficult to do – but if anyone can, it’s this dynamic crew.

Warm up your winter with a hot whisky, a pub meal and all the hilarity being dished up at the Court House Hotel every Saturday till August 27th. Tonight’s show finished with a dazzling musical journey titled “Misery and Mermaid Tails”: t’was a fantastic finale that left me feeling warm inside. Every night is different, so catch one or catch them all; you won’t be disappointed.

Show Dates

Saturday nights, 8–9pm May 28th,- August 27th

Venue

The Court House Hotel
86-90 Errol Street
North Melbourne, VIC 3051

Tickets

$15 online, $20 at the door. Show only.
Book online via Ticketmaster

MICF 2016: The Big Hoo-Haa’s CLIFFHANGER

Perfect com fest fun

By Narelle Wood

For 10pm on a Thursday night the downstairs theatre of The Butterfly Club was fairly busy having gathered to see The Big Hoo-Haa’s Melbourne Comedy Festival show Cliffhanger. I quickly discovered that I was a Big Hoo-Haa novice amongst a sea of regular attendees. The audience was super-enthusiastic and so were the selection of the night’s players.

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The premise for the 60-minute show is 5 improvised stories, each stopped at a cliffhanger moment. Each round a story is eliminated until there is only one story left and the audience are treated to the story’s finale. There is one problem though: there are 6 players on stage, so the elimination begins with a rap battle between the two teams, Hearts and Bones, to see which team will begin with the improvisation advantage.

Silliness and laughter prevail as we were treated to stories of murder with The Tuna Fish Killer, the epic battle between cat and helicopter, a romance found and lost on a scooter, a famous five quest to find a sock and a high-seas adventure with scurvy. While each of the stories was highly entertaining, it was the tale of cat versus helicopter that took out the prize of ultimate cliffhanger. And there was a moral to the story too; cats were never supposed to be friends with anything that flies.

With different stories every performance and the possibility of a number of comedic combinations from the Big Hoo-Haa cast the only guarantee is that the show will be funny. The wit and timing of cast members such as Mark Gambino, Candice D’Arcy, Sarah Reuben and Sophie Kneebone were perfectly complimented by the remarkable musical skill of JJ on the keyboard.

The 60 minutes flew by with clever harmless comedy resulting in lots of guffaws and chuckles of delight. But be warned, exposure to this sort of humour may cause repeat attendance.

Venue: The Butterfly Club, Carson Place, Melbourne

Season: 10pm Tues, Thurs, Sat until April 16th

Tickets: Full $29

Bookings: www.thebutterflyclub.com

The Butterfly Club Presents UNDERSTUDIED: Tales from the Hollywood Back Lot

GOSSIP FROM HOLLYWOOD’S GOLDEN ERA

By Narelle Wood

With the Oscars just around the corner it seems a very appropriate time for some gleeful gossip from the back lot of MGM studios.

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Understudied is an improvised show, so no nightly gossip will be the same. Our cast of characters – the carpenter and also patient in bed no. 3, Frank (Karl McConnell); the professional stand-in, Muriel Longford (Jenny Lovell); and Mr O’Malley’s unacknowledged daughter Marzipan (Anna Razenbrick) – are hiding out in an unused room escaping the fakery and abnormality of the MGM studio lot. While they pass the time away there is chatter of Clark Gable’s bad breath, Frank Sinatra’s ability to communicate with just one look, and the trouble brewing between Bogie and Bacall.

The show’s creator, Renzenbrick, is gorgeous as Marzipan O’Malley. There’s a wide-eyed naivety in her character that makes her dreams of a Gone with the Wind sequel, Even More Wind, seem almost plausible; that is until Tara is turned into a goat farm. There was a lot of chemistry on stage with the combination of McConnell, Razenbrick and Lovell; so much so that the improvisation seemed more like natural conversation than story telling on the fly.

As with any impro, at least ones I’ve seen, the sets and props are scarce, but it is amazing what you can do with three chairs, continuously hungry chickens, and a little bit of imagination. The one additional element that tied the whole show together was the use of the Gone with the Wind soundtrack; it provided the perfect daydreaming music for our cast of characters to think about what their futures in the movie industry holds.

Understudied: Tales from the Hollywood Back Lot is a unique glimpse into the behind the scenes of Hollywood’s Golden Era. It’s fun, frivolous and possibly even touches on some truths.

Venue: The Butterfly Club, Carson Place, Melbourne

Season: 8.30pm until Sunday 28th

Tickets: Full $32| Conc $28

Bookings: thebutterflyclub.com/show/understudied

 

 

REVIEW: Impromptunes Presents PUPPETS! THE MUSICAL

This puppet show for grown-ups will have you in stitches!

By Claire de Freitas

The idea of being entertained by cheeky singing puppets is not an entirely new concept (who can forget the Tony Award-winning puppet musical Avenue Q?) but the Impromptunes have taken the puppet musicals to a whole new level. There’s no script, there’s no score, there’s not even set characters. In this year’s Melbourne Fringe Festival, the Impromptunes are presenting Puppets! The Musical – a completely improvised musical with puppets!

Puppets! The Musical

Although the audience was small the night I attended, the troupe of five talented performers had energy in bucketloads. From the moment they came bouncing onto the stage, puppets in tow, I knew they were committed to their craft and we were in for a good night.

To prove that the musical is completely improvised each night, the audience was asked to provide its name. We were given three beats to think of a title and then asked to shout out our ideas in unison. The winning title this evening was ‘The Dangerous Egg.’

Without even taking a moment to brainstorm, the cast began to construct a song and talented pianist David Peake began to accompany them. As the song continued, the cast selected puppet friends from the back of the stage and began to create characters.

For many people (myself included) the idea of improvising a musical is pretty terrifying. I have so much respect for how swiftly and wittily the cast created the characters, scenes and songs, all the while operating puppets and syncing the words with the puppets’ mouths PERFECTLY!

As is often the case with improvisational shows, the story got pretty crazy very quickly. In short, ‘The Dangerous Egg’ ended-up being about a young man named Jeremy who joins the Navy to escape his dull farm life and is put on a mission to rescue the last remaining dinosaur egg from the Nazis. Yep, told you it got pretty crazy.

It’s a well-known rule of improvisational theatre that performers need to always say “yes” to each others’ offers and the Impromptunes in Puppets! The Musical are experts in this. It was amazing to watch how the performers communicated ideas with each other without speaking about them and followed each others’ leads.

If you want to see something funny and fresh for Melbourne Fringe Festival 2015, you don’t want to miss Puppets! The Musical.

Venue: The Butterfly Club, Carson Place, Melbourne.
Season: Until 4th October | Wednesday – Sunday 7:00pm
Tickets: $28 Full | $25 Concession
Bookings: The Butterfly Club or Melbourne Fringe