LE FRANGLAIS Improv Comedy Show

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

29/10/2014 - 29/10/2014

NZ Improv Festival 2014

Production Details

Le Franglais Improv Comedy Show is the only bilingual spectacle 100% improvisé: vous ne savez pas ce que vous allez voir. We don’t know what we’ll play. 

The show is performed in two different languages, French and English, but there is no need to be completely bilingual to enjoy it. The languages are sometimes mixed, sometimes they’re used as handles to the stories. The specificities of the other tongue/culture are the main ingredients to a show that is made to play with the clichés and the differences that bring the languages. 

Performed by Robbie Ellis, Marc Sautelet, Anton Van Helden, and guests. 

Part of the New Zealand Improv Festival
28 October – 1 November at BATS (Out of Site)
3 show passes available! Contact the Box Office for more information – book@bats.co.nz 

Follow the festival online…

BATS (Out of Site) 
Wed 29 Oct 9:30pm
Ticket Prices
Full $18.00 
Concession $14.00 
Group 6+ $13.00 


A different kind of thinking

Review by Shannon Friday 30th Oct 2014

A disclaimer: I speak what I call an ‘Eddie Izzard’ level of French.  I can understand chunks of what he’s talking about when he describes his old French lessons, and I can recognize the key plot points of Speed when he transliterates his routine from five minutes ago, but more than that, and I’m sunk. 

So, perhaps unsurprisingly, the parts of Le Franglais Improv Comedy Show that hit it most for me are watching the performers struggle with trying to improv in two languages.  Bonus points of awesomeness for doing both languages at the same time.  Because that’s one of improv’s key drivers: the people working so hard in front of you might just fail spectacularly.  Sometimes you’re here to watch a train wreck; conversely you might hope for a miracle. 

Franglais features five performers – Stevie Hancock-Monk, Robbie Ellis, Marc Sautelet, Anton van Helsen and Jerome Cousin – of various levels of French fluency trying to entertain in both English and French.  The format is mostly short-form improv games that feature linguistic elements, like the opening ‘bilingual room’ game, in which actors must speak one language or the other based on which side of the stage they stand on.  A later game puts the control in the hands of the lighting operator, forcing the actors to switch languages – sometimes mid-word!  Watching these moments of brain-break is wonderful. 

As a non-French speaker, there are times I wish the actors would push the physicality – a big chunk of the show feels very physically static.  For example, a game in which Sautelet must read his lines from a French play while Jerome Cousins reacts on the fly is mostly lost on me as the Sautelet is stuck nose-down in the book, reading his lines out.  The few words I do catch let me notice some fun reactions from his stage partner, but I’d like a little more to hang my hat on here. 

Forming a great contrast is a late scene played at three different levels of French fluency: beginner, conversational, and Molière.  The changes in body language from hesitant to classy to absurdly ornate carry the impression of the distinctions. 

Another scene that catches has the same repetitive structure: playing a scene in four locations, noting not only the difference in language, but how the differences in place affect the language and interaction.  From Palmerston North to Quebec to francophone Akaroa and South Africa, the inventiveness of the changes carries the scene, such as van Helsen’s changing animals or Ellis and Hancock-Monk’s varying levels of physical casualness. 

So, all in all, it is a pretty enjoyable show.  The sketches themselves don’t catch me with their inherent conflict but, after all, that’s not the point.  And I like that the performers are willing to risk losing it to push their abilities, and their audience, to practice a different kind of thinking during theatre.


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