BATS Theatre, The Heyday Dome, 1 Kent Tce, Wellington

11/10/2019 - 18/10/2019

NZ Improv Festival 2019

Production Details

The highs and lows of international improv come to NZIF, as we host the first ever All-In All-Out Improv Bout. Local heroes, national champs and international superstars all face off in this brutal hilarious battle! Witness every victory, loss and underdog narrative or just tune in for the Grand Final on the 18th. However you want to experience it, it’s an extravaganza that can’t be missed.

NZIF is thrilled to present the All-In All-Out Improv Bout with performances of Keith Johnstone’s Maestro, a format familiar to Wellington audiences thanks to Wellington Improv Troupe’s many years of performance. Maestro is licensed by the International Theatresports Institute.

BATS Theatre: The Heyday Dome
11 – 18 October 2019
at 9pm
Full Price $20
Concession Price $15
Group 6+ $15
Full Price Season Pass – 3 shows for $45
Concession Price Season Pass – 3 shows for $36

NZ Improv Festival

*Access to The Heyday Dome is via stairs, so please contact the BATS Box Office at least 24 hours in advance if you have accessibility requirements so that appropriate arrangements can be made. Read more about accessibility at BATS.

Theatre , Improv ,

1 hr 10 min

Be surprised. Be amazed. Be delighted.

Review by Brenton Hodgson 14th Oct 2019

I am going to start this review with a disclaimer. I performed in the Friday night All-In All-Out Improv Bout, but am going to say nothing about that, other than it was a hell of a lot of fun, I was delighted to have the opportunity to be involved and the audience seemed to enjoy it! 

Right, now that’s out of the way, let’s delve in to the review of the Saturday evening show.

The All-In All-Out Improv Bout series is running throughout the NZ Improv Festival. With its roots planted firmly in the Keith Johnstone-created Maestro™ format, the show brings together a large number of improvisers from several countries and all experience levels; all on one stage. The performers wear numbered netball-style bibs, and are selected for their scenes by random chance. Numbers are drawn from a soup bowl.

There is an overlay of competition, with each scene being voted upon and periodic eliminations of improvisers until there is a single winner for the evening. I say overlay, as the show isn’t really a competition. But it’s performed like one. The goal is to give everyone a fair go, and to give the audience a good time. In theory, the show gets better as it goes on.

At this evening’s show, there are 15 performers from New Zealand, Australia and the USA. Each show, however, will have different performers.

Tonight’s show also includes Wellington’s Lyndon Hood as MC, Campbell Wright from Wellington as lighting improviser, Anna Renzenbrink (Sydney) and Matias Avaca (Auckland) as directors and Scott Sumby (Nelson) as scorekeeper.

The show starts off fairly gently with classic theatre sport style games, including an alphabet scene based at a funeral and a number of people miming cycling… There is conflict a-plenty, toe tapping corpses, venomous looks, a barista we’d all like to be and dog that steals Scott’s pen. 

As the evening evolves, we are treated to a debate on moving the capital of New Zealand from Wellington to Auckland, Christchurch or Nelson. I think we decide on Christchurch…? Perhaps someone can remind me in the comments section.

However, one of the highlights of the evening for me is a Shortland Street-esque telenovela. It involves the ghost of a dead spouse, a most excellent (and respectful) Argentinean accent, hotdogs that cure all forms of disease and a hospital porter defending the hospital from the entire catholic church with only his powers of atheism (“The world is round!”) while the ghost provides totally unheeded advice! 

Some of the offerings do fall flat, but this is true theatre without a net.  

Performers have seconds to develop a character, interact with people they may have met only a couple of hours earlier and interpret and incorporate an audience suggestion they may not fully understand or be completely on board with. There are scenes where it is impossible to engage with, or even like the characters or what they were doing. More than one scene starts with blank, confused looks.

But honestly, that is part of the fun of this form of improv.

At the end of the night, Daniel Allan from Nelson is the ultimate winner and is immediately hoisted onto the shoulders of the vanquished. All conflicts are now resolved and all animosities forgotten. Nelson, it seems, will be the new capital of New Zealand and Dan will be appearing in the grand finale of the season on Friday night with the winners from each of the other heats.

One of the true stars of the evening, as far as the audience is concerned, is Scott the scorekeeper. Every time Scott’s name is mentioned, the audience breaks into spontaneous chanting of “Scott! Scott! Scott!” This only adds to the feel of the evening, as it is very clear this audience is loaded with improvisers, all along for the ride.

As an aside, I understand Scott is scorekeeping for most of the performances, so your chance to see him isn’t yet lost.

I hope I’ve described accurately the completely random nature of this show. If you go to the All-In All-Out Improv Bout, you won’t see THIS show. You won’t see these scenes. You won’t see these games. You won’t see this cast. You won’t see the same MC or directors.

You’ll see Scott.

While it is chaotic and sometimes difficult to engage with fully, I do love this format, and I love to be surprised by what the improvisers bring to the game and do with audience suggestions. Go to one of these shows while you still can.

Be surprised. Be amazed. Be delighted.

Say hi to Scott for me.


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