The Improv Divas 2010 (NZ)

BATS Theatre, Wellington

11/05/2010 - 15/05/2010

NZ International Comedy Festival 2010

Production Details

Wellington welcomes back The Improv Divas
The Improv Divas are back! NZ’s leading ladies of improv are ready to rock the capital with an all new, all improvised show in 2010’s International Comedy Festival.
Produced and performed by an all-female ensemble cast from Wellington Improvisation Troupe (WIT), The Improv Divas will lead you through an hour of humour, honesty and hilarity, telling stories made up on the spot based on audience suggestion and whatever the ever-present wind blows in.
"Every time the Divas get together, it’s really magical," says Jen Mason, returning for her third Improv Divas season. "Everyday suggestions, together with these witty ladies, make for all sorts of stories – sassy, bizarre, touching… sometimes a little more of the bizarre. But above all, we love to bring the funny!"
This year’s cast are a travelled and acclaimed bunch. Returning to the Divas stage are: Christine Brooks, creative director of WIT, recently seen in WIT’s ever-popular soap, The Young and the Witless and NZ Fringe show Gods and Heroes; Merrilee McCoy, last seen presenting and performing in NZ’s international Improv Festival and WIT’s acclaimed season of The Wishing Tree, and Jen Mason who last year trained and performed with the Spontaneity Shop, a London-based improv company and joined Merrilee in The Wishing Tree. As for the new additions to Improv Divas, improvisor/stand up Chelsea Hughes hails from Texas, USA, and while Karen Anslow might be their most local talent, what a talent she is, co-creating the "especially excellent homegrown work" Becoming the Courtesan in 2009. 
Join The Improv Divas, New Zealand’s only all-female all-improvised comedy act, for an entertaining evening of on-the-spot storytelling.
"a welcome balance where the female energy is on a slow burn that really delivers" – Patrick Davies, Theatreview.

The Improv Divas
Dates: Tues 11 – Sat 15 May, 6.30pm
Venue: BATS Theatre, 1 Kent Terrace, City
Tickets: Adults $16, Conc & Groups 8+ $13
Booking: BATS 04 802 4175 or / / 
Show Duration: 1 hour 


Fierce and funny ladies fall back on macho stereotypes

Review by Hannah Smith 12th May 2010

Sometimes I love improv, sometimes I hate it, but I always like the ladies. The Improv Divas, regulars of the Wellington improv scene, return to Bats with their latest all-female-all-made-up-on-the-spot-extravaganza.

The show is an experiment with a version of Gorilla Theatre – each diva takes a turn being the ‘director’ and directing a scene. The audience then vote whether the scene was worthy of a stiletto or an Ugg boot (the first one: WIN, the second: FAIL) and over the course of the show discover who is the ultimate Director Diva.

Chelsea Hughes, Merrilee McCoy, Jen O’Sullivan and Karin Anslow are all seasoned improvisers and compete with a good-natured gusto. MC Christine Brooks begins the evening by saying she’s going to enfold us in a golden glow of goodness, and she does. Brooks plays in scenes in addition to her role as MC, and last night she was in excellent form. The highlight of the show was her impression of a raptor opening a door with its claws.

There is something odd about this format– it seems that we are really judging the success of the scenes, and the players in them, more than we are judging the directors. The role of the ‘director’ is fluid and beyond selecting the game and players, it is up to the individual diva to decide their degree of their participation. Without a clear understanding of their responsibility it can feel as if they are just butting in from offstage. Certainly the best scenes were the most open form with the least input from a ‘director’.

But my main beef is that, even with this crew of fierce and funny babes onstage all evening, we are still treated to the usual string of stereotype macho characters. The hero-who-saves-the-day is a dude with a gun, and his girlfriend stands by and screams helplessly.

It is easy to see why people fall back on simplistic stereotyping in improv, where everything has to be immediately recognisable. If a character pulls out a gun and starts shooting, everyone – players and audience – assumes it is a man. But isn’t that a little bit boring? 

Isn’t having an all-female-improv troupe an opportunity to say ‘to hell with the paradigm, we are going to have some lady heroes’? I know that is what these women are capable of, and that is what I want to see. 
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News. 


Jennifer O'Sullivan May 14th, 2010

Hey Hannah! Just wanted to say thanks for the review, and thanks for highlighting the macho trap. It prompted a really good conversation among the Divas about how to go about telling honest stories without getting stuck being obvious, i.e. stereotypes, and being macho men instead of strong women.

We've made an effort to be conscious of it over our subsequent shows and I think we've managed to play some kick ass chicks. Two more nights, two more chances to bring out the awesome :)

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