Wellington Playback Theatre: Hope & Desire

Drama Christi Studio, Wellington

08/10/2010 - 08/10/2010

Production Details

What is Playback Theatre?

Playback Theatre is a unique form of improvisation recognised and practiced in over 40 countries around the world.  Playback Theatre can be moving, inspiring and very, very funny. 


How it works

A Playback line-up typically has a conductor (similar to a host or MC) four actors and a musician.  There are no props (except for four storage boxes) no costumes and no scripts.   Real life stories from the audience are spontaneously played back by the actors in a variety of ways accompanied by music.

Tellers (audience) choose actors to play the characters in their stories.

Voluntary Participation
Playback Theatre performances are voluntary participation so there is no embarrassing moments of being put on the spot.  Sharing a story or saying nothing and enjoying the show is all part of Playback Theatre.

Our theme for this performance is ‘HOPE & DESIRE’. So grab your friends and family and come along for a great night of quality entertainment.

Wellington Playback Theatre

Theme: ‘Hope & Desire’
When: Friday 08 October 
Time: 7:30pm
Venue: 75 Taranaki St (Drama Christi, Studio)
Tickets (door sales only)

The lineup for the 8th October performance is: 
Conductor: Ralph Johnson
Actors: Jeremy Nelson, Loren Martin, Jane Cherry, Andreas Ahrer
Musician: Claire Hewitt

The humanity of improv

Review by Maryanne Cathro 09th Oct 2010

Quite coincidentally, Wellington Playback Theatre scheduled a performance during the Wellington Improv Festival. Playback is a form of improvisational theatre that we rarely see, and before discussing the most recent performance, I want to say a bit about what I see is different about Playback and the other improv shows on offer.

Most of what we see in improv performance is comedy. It is played for laughs and these come from the delight of watching the performers simultaneously try to outdo one another while working together. We watch in delicious trepidation to see who will land who in the middle of a tricky idea, and when prompted for suggestions, try to come up with the most absurd things we can, just to see how the performers will roll. The result is a fantasy devised from audience suggestions, with possibly some realistic mime and props.

Playback is the other side of that coin. The audience provides real life experiences to the actors, who recreate their experiences in any of a number of techniques, from simple tableaux to an entire re-enactment. Conversely however, there is no adherence to reality in the portrayal of the characters or props – Playback tracks mostly on the vignettes and emotions of the story as it is told by the audience member. When a Playback audience laughs, it is from the sheer delight of being ‘got.’

Playback is not for cynics. It has an earnest openness that could fall flat with those who mostly treasure the dodgier humour in other improv styles. But it also delivers a very satisfying experience to those who are willing to embrace it.

What all have in common is the ability to draw on our own humanity, show it back to us, and delight us in the process. Only the process differs. 

The latest performance was at Drama Christi, a delightful boutique theatre on Taranaki St, part of the Wesley Church complex. Tonight’s line up comprises Conductor Ralph Johnson, four actors – Jeremy Nelson, Loren Martin, Jane Cherry and Andreas Ahrer, and musician Claire Hewitt.

This show is exploring hope and desire, and to warm up, the audience tells of moments of hope, desire and hopelessness that the actors then recreate. Then we share stories with each other, and out of this comes three longer stories. When an audience member volunteers a longer story, they come onto the stage and tell their story to the conductor. They get to choose which actors play which characters in their story and then the actors recreate it.

I volunteered the story of our recent purchase of a new home. It isn’t a particularly startling story but it is one fraught with hope and desire. The retelling is delightful. The only props on stage are four storage boxes and they became everything from apartments we visited, to banks turning us down. What is true to my telling throughout was the emotion and colour of my story. I choose Jeremy to play me and Jane to play my husband, to see how they would respond to the gender reversal. It is in the end irrelevant, as each plays their character to recreate their role, not their physicality.

The show ends with a tableau recreation of words the audience contribute around the night’s performances. There is time at the end for a cup of tea and a chocolate biscuit, to meet and talk to the actors. It is like nothing else happening in theatres and it is an experience worthy of a go for anyone who enjoys the humanity of improv.
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. 


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