Theatrical fun as actors make up great shows

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to improv1 Mark Gambino

IF THE IDEA of theatre shows literally made up on the go appeals to you, the Improv Fest is a must.

If pregnant pauses and inarticulate cries of rage fill you with dread, this might not be the thing for you.

Unlike their regular TheatreSports shows – which feature bursts of creativity around short skits – the two-week (second annual) Improv Festival concentrates on the long form.

This means you get just more than an hour of up to nine actors improvising scenes around a particular plot, all around a unifying theme.

Wednesday night is Western night, while Thursday is time for the crime documentary re-enactment (then there’s also the family-friendly musical and superscene, which is directors pitting their skills against each other).

Somewhere in between panic-filled silence and desperate piano playing, some truly wonderful moments emerged last week at the crime documentary re-enactment, thanks to strong characterisation work on the part of individual actors.

Megan Furniss got the ball rolling as a South African stuck for 20 years in a Russian prison without ever learning to speak a word of Russian. Leon Clingman and Carolyn Lewis impressed as her Joburg-based parents – creating fully realised characters with ticks and quirks.

Ann Hirsch did well to create some incidental characters including a “kidadult” who just won’t leave the house, to the chagrin of said Joburg-based parents.

No two performances are ever the same during the festival, not only because plot and theme change from night to night, but because some actors might have a better time of it from one night to the next.

Acting as director for the evening, Ryan Jales could have interfered a bit more, because when he did he upped the pace and he certainly tied the whole idea up with a neat bow when he nudged the actors into creating the last scene.

Handling the lights, David Luyt did more to cue the actors and give them a sense of who should go next, while pianist James Harvey created the mood, again subtly prompting the actors to keep going.

The success of the evening was totally thanks to the actors, who were comfortable enough to just go crazy and see how the next one would react.

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