01/11/2014 - 01/11/2014
Ten improvisors. Hordes of zombies. It’s improv survivor and being voted off means messy, gory death. The gruesome finale to NZIF 2014! Bring a torch…
GEAR Productions have been producing improv comedy for the past few years – including the shows “Vance Fontaine in Command Performance” and “Vance Fontaine for Lovers” as well as “Thom and Greg’s Tales of Adventure”. Greg is an experienced improviser, having worked professionally in NZ and overseas since 1990.
Sat 01 Nov 9:30pm
Part of the New Zealand Improv Festival
28 October – 1 November at BATS (Out of Site)
3 show passes available! Contact the Box Office for more information – email@example.com
Zombies farewell BATS out-of-site
Review by Alex Wilson 02nd Nov 2014
Our MC, Greg Ellis, explains the raison d’etre for this show is to end the ‘love-in’ that festivals inevitably become. Audiences – largely made up of participants, he suggests – cheer on their new friends’ work regardless of quality and this must be stopped. In the last show of a festival dealing with an art form that relies on creating a supportive environment, Ellis wants to destroy that entirely.
He has constructed a show in which five pairs of improvisers take to the stage surrounded by a horde of zombies. They will perform for us and it is unto us to decide in which order the pairs are killed off and fed to his army of the undead. Art, like all other commodities, should be subjected to a free-market economy.
The scenes deal with each pair’s attempts to survive in the zombie apocalypse that has befallen New Zealand and after a scattering of ask-fors, we set off. The beauty of the show works insofar that as a pair performs, another pair, on a whim, can cut in front of the other and begin their story. Due to the interest of the actor’s storylines, or likeability of their characters, determining how long the actors survive, stage time is a valuable commodity and each pair only allows their cast mate precious seconds to further their scene.
This is brutal competitive improv and allows the show to carry on with a crackling pace, although at times actors do cut in too quickly, not allowing their peer’s stories to really develop. But I guess that is Ellis’s point and it should be noted that the actors only really cut in if other peers appear to be struggling, dawdling or are unsure of where to take their scene. Unlike in traditional improv where you would help others out these situations, Ellis has conditioned his actors to be cut-throat; to happily send each other to their dooms if there is a hint of struggle.
The scene cuts also allow the actors to play with time, the stronger scenes jumping to a new event in the pair’s doomed dealings with the undead – playing out more as a series of snapshots than as a story. The format isn’t so strong in being able to tell convincing narrative but is great in allowing us to see characters bond and grow in times of heightened terror.
A highlight would be the scene played between Wiremu Tuhiwai and Brendon Bennetts, as a petrol station attendant and owner who, despite the apocalypse that has befallen them, are still trying to carry on with the regular duties of running a business. Tuhiwai’s face lighting up when he wins the employee of the week award contrasts beautifully with the blood-soaked, creatures milling outside in the forecourt.
MC Ellis’ dour demeanour is a particular highlight. Despite his trying to sell the idea that he and his show are monsters of hate and destruction, there are many parts of the show which belie their true feelings – not least of all his beaming smile as his workshop students devoured him at the curtain call. He had all of the musos of the festival on stage and the ever present Darryn Woods on lights.
In the most eclectic show so far, there are regular performers mixed in with some new faces. Having illuminated all that the festival had to offer, Woods destroys it in his Hunger Games nightmare scenario. One could suggest the show really belies Ellis’s true intentions in giving the New Zealand Improvisation Festival – and BATS (Out-of-Site itself) – a rather sentimental farewell.
As the actors are dragged to their doom they disappear for a few minutes and reappear with their costume torn and covered head-to-toe in blood, the zombie horde growing as the body count increases. There is symbolism to be found in this idea of renewal. Now the festival participants begin their traverse home, doubtless feeling inspired and refreshed with new ideas for their troupes to experiment with. Now BATS says goodbye to its out-of-site venue and begins its move back to its original home, now renovated up to earthquake code. Art slogs on regardless of the obstacles put in its way and through collective energies it can only continue to develop, grow and evolve.
Zombies? brings to the close an extremely eclectic festival of high standard improvisation; Jennifer O’Sullivan and her team should be heartily congratulated. Festivals are much like zombies: participants come together to make something that is larger then themselves. In doing so (unlike zombies) they better their own skills, their artistic community and their craft.
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