Talk to the HAND – an IMPROV puppet show

Circa Two, Circa Theatre, 1 Taranaki St, Waterfront, Wellington

19/05/2009 - 23/05/2009

NZ International Comedy Festival 2007-09, 2013

Production Details

Wellington’s favourite funny people – with puppets! 

For the first time in New Zealand The Improvisors combine their comedic talents with puppetry to create a magical sketch show hybrid between The Muppets and Whose Line is it Anyway

Using everything from state of the art puppets (borrowed from Capital E!), hand puppets (stolen from small children) – even socks, The Improvisors will create an original puppet show every night using audience suggestion, music and sparkling wit! 

The cast of six Improvisors have had to learn an entirely new skill working with these puppets – pushing them all out side their IMPROV comfort zones into scary new territory. "It’s the same feeling we had when first taking on a full length IMPROV Musical", says Improvisor Greg Ellis. "It’s new, dangerous and scary for us, which is exciting!"

Talk to the Hand – the only puppet show in the Comedy Festival where the audience pulls the strings!

Dates:  19-23 May, 7.30pm
Venue:  Circa Theatre, 1 Taranaki St
Cost:  $18/16
Bookings:  04 801 7992 or 

1hr 20 mins

Puppets impede exchange of vital energy

Review by Hannah Smith 20th May 2009

I like improv.  I like puppets.  Improv with puppets is a great idea.  In Talk to the Hand Wellington based troupe The Improvisors bring these two elements together in NZ’s first improvised puppet show.

The concept is novel.  A team of five experienced improvisors (on opening night: Pete Doile, Richard Falkner, Nic Gorman, Ian Harcourt and Kenny King, but this is improv so all is subject to change) play out a series of scenes based on traditional short form improv formats; only in this show the performers have a new challenge.  They must express their wit, and tell their stories, via a peculiar assortment of puppets.

It’s good to see performers pushing themselves and trying something new.  The Improvisors have been around for nineteen odd years and it is impressive to see them adopting a new skill and experimenting with a different and difficult medium.  Puppetry is hard.  They’re not that good at it.  But then that isn’t the point.  In a sense improvisors ‘try something new’ every time they get up on the stage – but in this show they are raising the stakes and ‘pushing the boundaries of improv theatre just a little’ (program notes). This is what improvised theatre is all about: walking the tightrope of hilarious gags with the ever-present potential for failure.

The most entertaining moments of the show spring from just this precarious balance. We are treated to a range of bizarre and unlikely scenarios featuring Jesus, dentists, astronauts and Nazis – pretty much a standard Tuesday night in Circa 2.  Yet it was seeing a performer attempt to act out charades with a puppet, or struggling to manipulate two characters simultaneously that roused the most laughs.

It is difficult to review this kind of performance as the players and content are different from night to night.  These elements aside, the show would benefit from more energy. At times the puppets seem to distance the players from the audience -and it is the exchange of energy and ideas in this relationship that improv feeds off. A more thorough warm up of the audience would have helped, perhaps an introduction by a human rather than puppet MC might achieve this. 

In general though, a good idea and a fun show.
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