Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Theatre: In a New York Minute

Devised and performed by Spontaneous Insanity

Directed by Glenn Hall
Musical director Tristen Parr
Featuring Libby Hammer, Shane Adamczak, Courtney Sage Hart, Louisa Fitzhardinge, Emmet Nichols, Nichola Renton-Weir, Ric Cairns, Rhoda Lopez, Glenn Hall and The Triple Threat; Tristen Parr, Christopher de Groot and Callum Moncrieff 
Subiaco Arts Centre Studio
4 – 6 November 2010

The Rough with the Smooth
Improvisation – “unscripted theatre” as it now likes to calls itself – is the zany cousin of the big, serious theatre family. Great company, lots of fun, but a bit, well, hit and miss. Not someone you’d consult about matters of consequence, and definitely best in small doses.
So Glenn Hall and his Spontaneous Insanity company took on an ambitious challenge mounting a full-length, two-act piece where the story elements are provided at random from the audience at the start, and with a stated aim of using improvisation to explore relationships rather than merely fish for laughs.
The night I went, the plotline ideas from the audience were: watching lightning from the roof, the 1920s, a hand-made pinball machine, and John Lennon (“Ye gods!” I muttered under my breath), and away Hall and his eight performers went.
It was a bumpy ride at times, and there were enough wrong turns to make Hall’s interventions – he acts as a sort of human GPS device, bringing the performers back into line when things are going awry ­– almost a running gag. For all that, an entertaining story emerged from it all, and most of the audience’s elements were well incorporated (though Lennon, it must be said, pretty much defeated them).
In the absence of a script to pontificate about, I broke a reviewer’s rule and bailed up some of the performers after the show. Nichola Renton-Weir (who has something of Tina Fey about her and was terrific as a frat party wallflower turned cold-blooded killer) admitted that her strongest emotion during the show was panic, and I’m sure she was right; we felt it in the audience as well.
To successfully overcome it, and somehow manage to tie together the storylines that are floating around you, you need strong cultural literacy. Courtney Sage Hart, who was a solid foil in a brother-sister gangster act to the undoubted star of the show, the expressive and spontaneous Louisa Fitzhardinge, said he was constantly mining his knowledge of noir cinema and detective fiction to get him through.
What you need most, to use a sporting analogy, is the ability to find the ball; to see where you are in the story and where you’re going to go with it. In that respect, the best of the night’s performers – Renton-Weir, Fitzhardinge, the talented, droll Shane Adamczak and, while she’s maybe not a natural actor, the charismatic jazz diva Libby Hammer – show the instincts of a Michael Barlow. Others in the company, for all their undoubted talent, were more like Nic Naitanui.
But that’s improvisation – if you aren’t ready to take the rough with the smooth, don’t buy the ticket. I’m sure Hall and Spontaneous Insanity will be back for more and, judging by this sell-out season, it’s a risk plenty of theatregoers are happy to take.

An edited version of this review appeared in The West Australian on 9.11.10 read here  

No comments:

Post a Comment