Cut to the Chase – Special Director’s Edition
Cross Street Studios, Auckland
21/05/2009 - 23/05/2009
NZ International Comedy Festival 2007-09, 2013
Ready for quick fire journeys into the unknown?
After a successful debut at the 2008 New Zealand International Comedy Festival, Reverend Jellie returns with Cut to the Chase, an everchanging show which explores new styles of improvisation.
Reverend Jellie was formed in 2006 out of a collective desire to explore new styles of improvisation. The experienced troupe, comprising Steven Lyons, Michael Fletcher, Keith Mackenzie and Matt Armstrong had performed many different formats and were keen for a new challenge. After extensive workshopping a new format evolved and Cut to the Chase was born.
Dubbed as ‘quick fire journeys into the unknown’ the show involves the improvisers opening their imaginations wide. The troupe then improvise their way through events, from epic to everyday, under the guidance of ‘The Director’. As well as providing the initial ideas the audience get to randomly select the troupe member who will fulfil the role of ‘Director’ for each part of the show.
Michael Fletcher says that the troupe were keen to build on the success of the 2008 show and bring improvisation to a wider audience. "We noticed that many of the audience members at our 2008 show were watching improv for the first time so we are keen to attract even more first timers this year."
The dual challenge of performing and directing within one show requires a high level of energy and commitment but is one that the troupe relishes. That, coupled with the fact that each show will be completely different, means that the 2009 NZICF promises to be an exciting one for Reverend Jellie.
Dates: Thursday May 21st – Friday May 23rd
Venue: Cross Street Studios, 27 Cross St (upstairs)
Tickets: $14, $12 conc
Bookings: Ticketek (ticketek.co.nz; 0800 TICKETEK)
1hr, no interval
Review by Sian Robertson 22nd May 2009
I’ve always loved the idea of improvised theatre but have often been disappointed by its reality. Reverend Jellie revived my faith. Taking cues from The Director and the audience, the team takes a thoroughly enjoyable hike through unknown territory, and on the occasions when they do falter, it’s often funny and somehow gratifying because it proves they really are totally making this up as they go along.
We are served cupcakes as we wait for the studio to fill up, then the four chaps who are Reverend Jellie come in to welcome us warmly, and quickly and transparently fill us in on the rules of engagement.
It’s a good idea having it in such an intimate space; it feels like we are being invited to take part in a parlour game in their home. In fact they state that ‘this is your show, we’re just here to facilitate it’. And it did feel like our show – thanks lads.
At the start of each ‘scene’, an audience member gets to pick a name out of a hat to be The Director for that scene. They mix it up a bit, sometimes having two directors, sometimes letting the audience, as opposed to the hat, decide.
We are asked for one or two suggestions for each scene, such as a place, occupation, movie genre, animal, relationship, ‘thing close to your heart’, colour. The Director can throw in extra criteria at any point to up the ante and pre-empt the ridiculous, including fast-forward / rewind, trigger-happy genre changes, etc.
This kind of show also depends a lot on the audience, and we were fortunate to have some good ideas served up. At one point there was a resounding and decisive call for horror as a genre so horror it was, twice in a row.
These guys are imaginatively limber and a cohesive team. They have varied but complementary acting styles: each has his forte and makes the most of it. I’d like to comment on the individual actors but though they introduced themselves on a first name basis, I failed to note them down and there wasn’t a programme. [Steven Lyons, Michael Fletcher, Keith Mackenzie and Matt Armstrong – ED]
The Director’s Edition is a great idea, because not only can the director step in when a scene is floundering but he can also throw curly cues at the improvisers to put them on the spot. And we get a different director each time with a new approach. The downside is that the improvisers may come to rely on the director somewhat.
And yet, a scene that turned out to be one of the most gripping and funny was one that didn’t look like it was going too well at the start, with one guy on his own telling us about ‘the best thing that’s happened to you today’. But the director refused to come to the rescue, making him sweat it out, and indeed he pulled through, joined by the other two in a hilariously confused and intense romantic drama.
I unreservedly recommend this show. I can’t guarantee anything, but the odds are high!
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