BATS Theatre (Out-Of-Site) Cnr Cuba & Dixon, Wellington

21/09/2013 - 21/09/2013

NZ Improv Festival 2013

Production Details

Community Choirs are always interesting collections of folk, brought together by their love of, rather than skill with, music. Hear their stories and hear choral music improvised for the first time!

Greg Ellis is the man behind Vance Fontaine and together with an intrepid team of improvisers – who’ve only been together for 3 hours beforehand – they’ll create the songs and stories behind an eclectic and eccentric group.

Performers from around the country come together to create the choir and its music. You’ll hear the stories of this group of misfits and then the songs inspired by those tales.

This sort of improvised musical has never been attempted before in New Zealand and this is your chance to catch it for the very first time.

With 17 shows in 5 days, the New Zealand Improv Festival is bound to tickle your tastebuds.
Book your tickets now at BATS Theatre (Out of Site) ($18 / $14)
or email to see all three shows in one night for $36!

Date(s) – 21/09/2013
8:00 pm – 9:00 pm

55 mins

Helping to end the festival on a high note

Review by Hannah Smith 22nd Sep 2013

As the improv festival draws to a close BATS is filled with buzzing improvisers chatting away at the tops of their voices – proving, if anyone was in any doubt, that they can make plenty of noise. This is further displayed in Choral Grief, bringing together a twenty plus cast from around the festival into a motley community choir.

Led by Greg Ellis as MC-cum-conductor and supported by Tane Upjohn-Beatson on piano, the group join together in improvised song. Ellis calls for some ask-fors from the audience, which are the inspiration for the stories behind what has brought these lost souls to the Te Aro Choir, and how the love of group singing has offered a kind of salvation. 

We see a young plumber taking over the reins of the business and deciding to sing against the wishes of his large Scottish family.  We see a recent divorcée finding a new chance for happiness.  We meet an Afghani refugee family learning to make connections in their newfound homeland. Finally we hear a song about monkeys – no explanations are deemed necessary.

While the scene work is not great – taking too long to get going and struggling to find a shape – the improvised singing is satisfying, and the conducting and accompaniment work well. When the music gets into its stride it is very impressive.

The format is interesting, and has a wide scope.  You could tighten it down with a smaller crew and really push the story and character in the scenes; at this large scale it has a lot of appeal as part of a festival atmosphere, especially playing to an audience chiefly made up of improvisers and improv festival regulars. 

I look forward to seeing the format developed. I will be intrigued to see how Ellis can work in more complex choral techniques; I’d like to see greater distinction between the different vocal sections, for instance, and for the group to experiment with additional ways of building a song. 

A fun show, helping to end the festival on a high note.


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