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

20/09/2013 - 20/09/2013

NZ Improv Festival 2013

Production Details

People who meet people who meet other people, who in turn, meet other people.  Improvised short stories exploring the moments we forget, but to which others cling.

Combining his interest in short stories and the magic of a moment, and using Craig Brown’s book, “One on One: 101 true encounters” as a launching point, Derek Flores and NZIF guests explore the stories of lives, loves, and relationships.

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) – 20/09/2013
9:30 pm – 10:30 pm

55 mins

Profound, poetic, perceptive

Review by John Smythe 21st Sep 2013

There is special value to be gained in a festival when participating groups stick around to enjoy each other’s shows in the evening and ‘cross-pollinate’ their skills and creativity in daytime workshops.

This is exemplified in the six NZIF Ensemble shows that occur throughout the NZ Improv Festival’s 17-show programme: Opening Crumpet, Thriftshop, Time Lord, The 121 Connection, and, still to come, Choral Grief and Stuck In The Middle. The late night shows Pundemonium and The Vance Fontaine Big Band Happy Hour also bring diverse participants together to generate outcomes that only dedicated improvisers could achieve.

Canadian Derek Flores – late of Wellington, now of Christchurch – describes The 121 Connection is an experiment, exploring territory he wasn’t seeing and would like to see in improv. “Combining his interest in short stories and the magic of a moment, and using Craig Brown’s book, One on One: 101 true encounters as a launching point,” the media release tells us, “Derek Flores and NZIF guests explore the stories of lives, loves, and relationships.”

The line up following the day’s workshop, then, is Matt Powell (Christchurch), Katherine Weaver (Melb), Jenny Lovell (Melb), Marc Sautelet (Belgium), Robert Mignault (Auck), Woody Wiremu Tuhiwai (Wgtn), Madeleine Lynch (Auck) and Linda Calgaro (Sydney). The indefatigable Robbie Ellis creates the music and Flores directs from the front row.

There’s a lot going on in this format. The one and only audience ‘ask-for’ is what does summer mean to us? Swimming, says someone. Which means? Freezing, I’m sure they said but Derek hears it as Freedom and someone adds Fear to the mix.

So the opening duo – Matt and Marc – find themselves being ice fishermen contemplating a swim in icy waters. A lyrical underwater sequence ensues where the vision of a dead mother is experienced …

Meanwhile two others are capturing some essence of the scenario in image or words on a backcloth – while two others sit writing at small tables to either side. When the scene has finished they read aloud: one has written of a place; the other of a person.

Marc remains in the central acting space and is joined by Katherine. They are stranded in an igloo in moods and states suggested by the writings. The identical-twin-whose-sibling-didn’t-live offer, from one of the writings, turns out to involve penguins …

And so the octet ‘daisy-chains’ through the performing, drawing, writing, stand-by or stand-down positions …

There is an unusually lyrical, poetic and often poignant quality to the scenarios that evolve, various involving a picnic, seeking someone special, coping with finding a breast lump; spiked punch at an Italian-themed high school prom where an intellectual woman is taught to flirt by another; a factory with an angry young foreman who goes on to be seen as a failed boxer who has lost touch with his family …  

It all loops back to the Antarctic, another icy dive, another comforting hallucination … After the ensemble takes their bow the decorated backcloth is brought to the front of the stage so we can study the images and phrases more closely, as we file out.  

Despite the information overload and ‘wastage’ this format generates, given how much of what is offered by the writers especially is discarded (in contrast to shows like Spark, for example, where every speck is incorporated and reincorporated), The 121 Connection does explore the human condition quite profoundly in poetically abstract rather than absurdist modes, leaving lots of perceptive moments lingering in our hearts and minds.

I would certainly be drawn to another 121 Connection show. And here it has offered a potent contrast to the Festival’s richly varied fare.


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