LONG FORM MASH-UP V SHORT FORM GAMES
NZ Improv Festival 2013|
SHAKESPEARE: AS YOU WRITE IT
NZ Playhouse, Christchurch
at BATS Theatre (Out Of Site), Cnr Cuba & Dixon, Wellington
21 Sep 2013
Reviewed by Shannon Friday, 23 Sep 2013
I'm excited. Shakespeare plus improv has to equal awesome. And Shakespeare: As You Write It, from Christchurch team NZ Playhouse, winds up being... pretty good.
The show starts with the performers – Brendon Bennetts, Jeff Clark, Ralph McCubbin-Howell and Dan Allan – introducing themselves at breath-taking speed.
The audience requests are front-loaded here; once we select the main character's major quality /flaw (generosity), the setting (Renaissance Italy), and the Hollywood movie that will get re-made as a Shakespearean play (Mean Girls, with a nod to Terminator 2), our role is pretty much done for the night. I can't help but wish we had more chance to give back later in the show.
The show switches back-and-forth between a long-form Shakespearean Mean Girls /Terminator 2 mashup, and a series of Shakespeare-based improv games, including ‘poetic metaphor on demand' and an iambic pentameter elimination game. The short-form games are enjoyable for watching the performers struggle, almost regardless of whether they succeed or fail.
The longer storyline is ambitious – in fact it feels like sometimes the improvisers are struggling to know what to work with. Should they try to wrap up all the Shakespearean dramas, or pay homage to the Hollywood movies that are being Bard-tastically rewritten? Should they make sure the main character is working with the predetermined flaw, or should Lohanio (good name) be more like the character from Mean Girls?
I think the show could have benefited from a decision here: is this about a Shakespeare /Hollywood mashup, or are we playing with the conventions of Shakespeare and improv?
I know where my preference sits: I liked the short Shakespeare-based improv games so much that I'd be happy with an evening of just those. But those are the words of a huge Shakespeare nerd.
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