LOVE ISTHMUS Dystopia Edition

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

26/10/2018 - 26/10/2018

NZ Improv Festival 2018

Production Details

Welcome… to Love Isthmus – a reality show where the stakes are love, life and death.  

The water is getting higher, the isthmus is getting narrower. Success means true love and salvation. Elimination means death. The power is in your hands.

Directed by Christine Brooks and performed by an ensemble cast of NZIF 2018 improvisors.

Christine Brooks (NZ) has been improvising for over 20 years. She has taught, directed and performed improvised theatre around the world. She is a founding member of the New Zealand Improvisation Trust and former Artistic Director of the New Zealand Improv Festival. She is a member of Playshop and No Nombre. The theatre she loves is relationship focused, grounded in honesty and with full commitment, playfulness, silliness and the embracing of happy failure.

The Heyday Dome at BATS Theatre, 1 Kent Terrace, Wellington
Friday, October 26, 2018
Tix $14-20 – Book Now! 

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Theatre , Improv ,

1 hr

The beauty of improv highlighted

Review by Bethany Miller 31st Oct 2018

I come into this improv show DIGGING the premise. Since reality TV shows already thrive on their ironic non-realness, any kind of parody feels like the perfect comedic response. And for me, the title Love Isthmus: Dystopia Edition epitomises the ridiculousness of shows such as Love Island actually being about love.

In Love Isthmus: Dystopia Edition, contestants pooled from “the ashes” must find their soul-mate and become the winning couple in order to find salvation in “the cloisters”. Those eliminated are killed immediately.

The audience are ushered ominously into their studio audience block before the show is introduced by Christine Brooks, the glitzy but brutal game host and director/ creator of the show format. We learn that this is one of many seasons and hear from the nervous previous year’s winners. The stakes are thus heightened from the get go, with a Love Island meets Hunger Games feel.

The dystopian terror overshadows some of the reality show romance which I expected would be more prominent. Fear bleeds out of the wide-eyed contestants’ poor “everything’s fine” act. And it is instilled further by both the authoritarian game host and supreme ruler of the Cloisters, two female powerhouses played by Brooks and Clare Kerrison.

I want to get invested in juicy relationships, romance, dates and scandal. But there is only so much that can be fitted into a fifty-odd minute improv show with two strong premises, compared to a TV show which draws out every moment and backstory (often painfully) over several episodes.

The audience’s voting job is tricky with little time to invest, but the cast compensate with strong character choices in their introductions and in raising the stakes throughout. For example, at the ‘confession chair’, we learn that one contestant (Isaac Thomas) was responsible for his partner being blind and that another contestant (Luke Rimmelzwaan) needs to survive in order to raise 28 orphans. The fast-paced nature certainly has its own thrill-factor. Nevertheless, I am intrigued by the format’s possibilities as a durational show (like Kickin’ Rad Productions’ improvised soap operas with one episode per hour).

Although the dating side isn’t as prominent as reality TV shows, the constant threats, death and brutal twists have me gasping and screaming increasingly (or cracking up from the comic relief of the silly gun sound effect). This is where the juice comes from. Even my wish for scandal is eventually granted with the opportunity for couples to switch and ditch. And the audience erupts and certain points with hate or adoration, or the ‘exultation’ and ‘heat’ sometimes discussed with theories of wrestling and improv.

The climax is presumably an unexpected break from the format, where the offstage gun sound effect is missed (accidentally?), and the favourite character (Rimmelzwaan) who was meant to have died rushes onstage in a murderous rampage, to the audience chanting “LEO! LEO! LEO! LEO!” – Yet another treasured moment highlighting the beauty of improv, in a festival dubbed ‘The Festival of Moments’.  


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