Theatresports - the 2007 Season

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

06/05/2007 - 27/05/2007

NZ International Comedy Festival 2007-09, 2013

Production Details

The Improvisors

For the last 17 years The Improvisors have been bringing Theatresports to the people of Wellington and the show just keeps getting better. Theatresports is the classic improvisation format, brought to TV as “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” and to stages the world over since the 70s. Teams of Wellington’s finest improvised comedians go head to head in the grandfather of all comedy battles.  Audience suggestions (and sometimes participation) fuel comedy scenes made up on the spot for the audience’s pleasure. Each show is a memorable one-off, created on the spot, that will never be seen again. Add in a couple of judges and the audiences’ vote and there is a competitive element too. Each night the teams battle to see who is best and who will go through to the grand final on July 1st.

This year’s season continues some of the fine traditions of Theatresports – old hands compete with new young talent and fresh faces combine with veterans in brand new combinations. In 2007 The Improvisors comedy veterans such as Tim Gordon (seen recently on Shortland Street), Ian Harcourt (appearing in cameos in almost every movie made in NZ last year) and Greg Ellis (appearing in nothing in particular) are joined by new faces such as Andrew Kaye, Abby Marment and Kenny King.

An intriguing aspect of this year’s contest may be the renewal or rivalries between 2 men who clashed at last years World Theatresports Championship in Germany. Greg Ellis, representing NZ, was bundled out in the Quarter-finals of the tournament by the Canadian team containing Derek Flores. The Canadians went on to win the champs and following the win Derek moved out to NZ. Now Greg and Derek’s battle within a battle will be one of the highlights of Theatresports 2007.

Make sure you get in and catch the action early and don’t miss the most popular improv comedy show of the last two decades!

“The Improvisors are good. No question” – THE LUMIERE READER

THEATRESPORTS – the granddaddy of them all.

Dates:  Sun 6, 13, 20, 27 May, 7.30pm
Venue:  Circa 2, 1 Taranaki St, Wellington City
Tickets:  Adults $18 Conc. $14
Bookings:  Circa 04 801 7992
Show Duration:  2 hours

Veterans such as Tim Gordon (seen recently on Shortland Street), Ian Harcourt (appearing in cameos in almost every movie made in NZ last year) and Greg Ellis (appearing in nothing in particular) are joined by new faces such as Andrew Kaye, Abby Marment and Kenny King.

Theatre , Improv ,

Sundays only: 2 hrs

A failsafe good night out

Review by John Smythe 07th May 2007

Improvisation as a public entertainment – as opposed to a rehearsal or devisors’ development tool – began with Theatresports. So as my warm-up for covering most of the improv content of the New Zealand International Comedy Festival (NZICF) in Wellington, I betake myself to The Improvisors’ first full competition match in Theatresports: the 2007 Season, to be played out at Circa over two months of Sundays plus one. Originally scheduled for Circa Two, the demand is already so great it has transferred to the larger Circa One auditorium.

This is improv in the raw: the theatrical equivalent of high risk adventure tourism combined with the competitive thrills other team sports offer. We are back to the basics evolved in the late 1970s by Keith Johnstone as Artistic Director of the Loose Moose Theatre Company in Calgary, Canada (as a follow-on from the ‘Yes Games’ he invented in Britain in the 1960s).

Facilitated by an MC – Tim Holloway-Jones this night – competing teams of actors select or are given a game to play, key elements are tossed in by the audience, a lone musician (Luke Di Somma) responds as and when inspired, and the scores (1 = piss poor; 5 = fantastic) are a combination of the audience clap-o-meter and the marks awarded by two guest judges: ex-pat Canadian comedian Derek Flores and ex-Lower Hutt butcher turned Improvisor Pete Doile.

The season opens with two teams that blend seasoned veterans with relatively fresh new blood. The Poneke Improvisation Appreciation Society (PIAS) play one short on opening night with Tim Gordon, Nic Gorman and Dave Hoskins battling on bravely without Anna Kennedy. The 4 Seasonings (T4Ss) are at full strength with Aaron Alexander, Ian Harcourt, Kenny King and Abby Marment.

The other teams listed on The Improvisors website are Gags Ahoy (4 males) and Stuffed and Mountied (4 males, 1 woman). So why is this such a male-dominated sport? The women who do play are clearly as good as the men; the fundamental qualities of open-minded assertive responsiveness (accept and build on each other’s offers without blocking or wimping) should come as naturally to women as to men – shouldn’t they? comments or a forum welcome.

This night the players warm up with solo responses to simple offers, performing: ‘The world’s worst’ … marshmallow roaster / dentist / porn star / teacher … before settling in for the themed team bouts. While each night creates its own never-to-be-repeated mix, it’s worth reporting on this one by way of reminding ourselves of the clever chemistry designed to produce results no matter what.

In the first half we are treated to: ‘A Roller Coaster of Emotions’ in a neighbours’ boundary dispute scenario; ‘Museum Exhibits’ of prehistoric skiing; a family gathering for a funeral played out as ‘Sermon / Sonnet / Song’; the ‘Myth’ of how a young couple in the audience met; ‘Endowment’ where a team succeeds in communicating to an actor through subtext that he is a midwife activist hijacking a bus with a banana (scored unaccountably low since he got it all);and  a household crisis involving an earthquake told in ‘Rhyming Couplet’.

The first half ends with the MC Challenge: a Literature round, where (T4Ss) one actor is Cinderella while those playing his ugly sisters and Fairy Godmother may only speak dialogue from randomly selected pages of printed texts; (PIAS) a kids’ soccer match is played out while balancing books on their heads with action repeated from the top whenever a book falls.

With the audience consistently applauding to levels 4 and 5, Derek F playing mean with 1s, 2s and the occasional 3, and Pete D coming in between those extremes, half time finds The 4 Seasonings on 39 and the Poneke Improv Appreciation Society trailing at 35.

While there have been occasional flashes of brilliance, the largely low key first half has been marked by a strong consistency and fidelity to the basics, ensuring that nothing ever collapses and something always forms with a reasonable degree of coherence without outstaying its welcome.

The second half kicks off with a ‘Team Choice’ round. The PIAS pick ‘a moment from history with a key component missing’ and, drawing from the life of a 60 year-old devotee in the audience, enact the birth of Dai in Wales without his mother (5+3+4 = 12). T4Ss opt for a ‘torture puppet scene’ where the actors advancing the action can only be physically moved by their designated puppeteer. The audience asks for a bible story: Moses and the Plague of Boils (5+2+3 = 10 except because Tim G joins in, Aaron A suggests the PIAS get a bonus point and Tim H-J decrees one be deducted form T4Ss instead = 9).

Only one point separates them now – T4Ss, 48; PIAS, 47 – as they head into the Challenge Round. T4Ss offer ‘a scene involving television’ and find themselves doing a sports-cast of a father and daughter cleaning the bathroom (4+2+3 = 9). The PIAS respond with the pilot of a new NZ TV drama and – given genre and setting (Stewart Island) by the audience – deliver Horror in Half Moon Bay, strongly echoing Psycho (5+3+4 = 12). The PIAS take the lead with 59 over T4Ss’ 57!

The PIAS counter-challenge with a ‘using each other’ round that sees them act out a bank robbery while T4Ss intervene via cellphone – my personal favourite of the night although it only scores 4+2+3 = 9. T4Ss finish as a synchronised swimming team posing a threat to the world (4+3+2 = 9). So thanks to the generosity of T4Ss in conceding a point and a sudden reversal in the judges’ voting patterns, the PIAS retain their 2-point lead with 68 against T4Ss’ 66.

Everyone’s smiling. Because we all know it’s spontaneous, we are involved in the inputs and it is a high-risk, high adrenalin sport – where any semblance of laid back relaxation is a theatrical ploy – Theatresports is almost a failsafe good night out.

Don’t be deceived by how simple this looks. The major requirements – the cancellation of ego while making positive and generous contributions; starting without procrastination and knowing when to stop – are fiendishly difficult to achieve, especially for those with the drive and talent to be good actors. Indeed a case may well be put that this co-operative ‘discipline’ has had an excellent flow-on effect on all forms of theatre.

With Theatresports: the 2007 Season, The Improvisors, who will also contribute Improv – The Musical from 10 to 15 May at Circa Two, have set the bar high for the wealth of improv-based shows scheduled for the NZ International Comedy Festival in Wellington. Bring them on!


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