THE SECRET TO WORLD PEACE?
NZ Improv Festival 2013|
STUCK IN THE MIDDLE
NZIF Ensemble, led by Rik Brown, Melbourne
at BATS Theatre (Out Of Site), Cnr Cuba & Dixon, Wellington
21 Sep 2013
Reviewed by Maryanne Cathro, 22 Sep 2013
The final show of the NZ Improv Festival finds Rik Brown stuck in the middle of the stage with comedians to the left of him, jokers to the right. Festival participants not on stage for this final show pack out the Bats auditorium; the atmosphere crackles with energy and good will.
Stuck in the Middle involves one performer being ‘stuck' on stage for the entirety of the performance, with no option but to go along with every offer, character, scene or genre thrown at him by in this case, eight other performers (I recognised Christine Brooks, Jennifer O'Sullivan, Jeff Clark, Linda Calgaro and Matt Powell among those gathered). With, of course, musical contributions from Robbie Ellis and (I think) Tane Upjohn-Beatson.
This is the only show I've caught in the Festival, and it's pretty clear from the audience reaction that the final show bristles with recurring jokes reaching their final culmination. Not being in on these jokes doesn't exclude any of the audience however as they are funny in their own right.
Dance fighting is a recurring offer, segueing into a delicious ongoing scene where Matt Powell's gritty film producer has Brown play an increasing number of characters himself, for reasons that make sense at the time. Another delightful recurring moment comes from Christine Brooks' offering of a classic mime-move defining the wall. This evolves into a couple unable to be in the same room in spite of their increasingly sillier mime attempts to do so.
Clark's fingers are a child sent as a sacrifice to the local giant; Calgaro leads a delegation of social misfits banning Brown from the King Arthur's Extendable Round Table Re-enactment Society for breaches of OSH and costume inaccuracies; he is a marionette, a gentleman caller fascinated by botany, an insane Perkins wreaking havoc on the boss who didn't give him the job …
Some of these scenes are only seconds long, others a couple of minutes at most. Offers are sometimes clearly defined, sometimes evolve. Brown takes it all in his stride, or dance fight kick, as the case may be.
It is quite a privilege to be witness to this final Festival event, where the audience contains as much improv talent as the stage. Offerings on stage reference other shows, some of which even I pick up on just from reading the reviews. But again I feels this only adds to the show, rather than excluding the minority not involved in the festival.
This is what I think makes improvisation such a wonderful thing. The implicit accepting of all offers makes it naturally warm and inclusive, and while I guess there may be the odd faction or tension in the Improv world, the form prevails every time.
Perhaps improv dance fighting is the true access to world peace? Stranger things have happened, and being in a theatre full of improvisers high on five days of fun can make one think that anything is possible!
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|Robbie Ellis||posted 23 Sep 2013, 07:38 PM|
Cast in this final NZIF show were:
Stuck in the Middle: Rik Brown (Melbourne)
And we mustn't forget Darryn Woods, who designed and operated lights for every show in the festival.