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October 12, 2009 | by  | in Theatre |
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Sando goes to the Improv Festival

theatre

Impro Melbourne Presents Mr. Fish And His Spooky Library Of The Improv Macabre

This hour-long show’s central conceit of Mr. Fish (Derek Flores), inviting you into his house for spooky tales was a great way to lead us through four scary improvised stories. Infused with the spookyness of a live cello, each story was told in a different manner, ranging from hand puppetry to a very naturalistic story about a man who journeys from Russia to meet his mother.

It was also genuienly fun to just watch such a coherant show being created in front of us. Flores’ companions Patti Stiles and Rama Nicholas, both from the venerable Impro Melbourne, were not perfectly in synch with each other and very competent at creating both laughter and chills. There were occasional hiccups, like a muddling of relationships in what became the Russian Mother story, but for the most part the show’s flow was quick, precise and didn’t have any splashback.

I am not an improvisational newbie, yet I only rarely encounter improv that isn’t being used to create something that is just middle-of-the-road family fun, which of course is exactly how I became interested in improvisation in the first place. So in no way am I saying that family chuckle time is a bad thing, but I was ecstatic to encounter such a fresh show. I watched my partner, who completely turned her nose up at Binge Culture’s Animal Hour, have her eyes opened to the possibility of “artsy theatre that can actually be good.” All in all, I felt both beauty and terror while watching this show, and that’s the definition of the sublime.

The Con Artists Present Bite Me: Fangprov

The Con Artists are one of New Zealand’s most respected and oldest troupes, and their Jane Austen-themed improvisational musical was a highlight for many people last year. So when they came down to present Fangprov, an improvised vampire themed musical, I was completely ready to be sucked in. Yes, it was very funny, but I wasn’t blown away by the show.

The problem wasn’t their improvisation, because the troupe worked together well and Penny Ashton’s characters especially were quite watchable. I just don’t understand why they decided to stage the production as a musical. None of the cast really had the singing chops to front a musical piece, and Robbie Ellis, who is quite a musical genius, had to sit there grinding out hook after musical hook that the cast rarely latched onto, so the actual numbers were thinly spread out.

I enjoyed the actual narrative of a small American town overrun by a family of vampires, and Stayci Taylor did a grand job of anchoring the tale with her hairdresser character. Though, the usually fabulous Clare Kelso was left out of the action for most of the show. However, as this was just how the show was improvised, that was just a minor disappointment, not a major problem for a piece of theatre.

So Fangprov was pretty good, just not amazing. The problem with improv is that while the story will change the format can largely stay the same, and they need to rethink the musical genre for that cast, as when they played to their strengths it was a bunch of family fun.

Thursday 8 October. Bats (The Scary Night).

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About the Author ()

Nic Sando is a god amongst men, fifteen fathoms high he be, with strange and wyrd powers at his disposal. Only a fool won't harken his ears to the east when he hears The Sando man stumping his way. http://thesando.com

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