Saturday, September 19, 2015

3 Mad Rituals, Melbourne Fringe 2015, Review

3 Mad Rituals

Reviewed by Lee Bemrose

Disclosure: This reviewer isn't an improv aficionado. He's actually pretty clueless when it comes to the intricacies of this particular art form. He loves good comedy and has seen a couple of improv shows but had never heard of Del Close or his Harold before. He will now get on with the review speaking in the first person.

It's true. I really had never heard Del Close, even though, I now realise, he was the highly regarded mentor of many modern American comedians and a giant in the world of improv. If nothing else, that's one massive hole in my knowledge filled.

I know all about the structure of The Harold now, but prior to 3 Mad Rituals, didn't have a clue. As a result, when the show got underway I didn't really have any idea what was going on.

What was promised was a marathon (90 minutes) of three forms of improv, sparked by audience suggestion. After the cast of eight took to the stage in the intimate theatre, there was a brief introduction after which we were asked to offer a favourite line of poetry as the show's starting point. After a few seconds of internal head scratching (I was trying to think of songlines because what kind of nerd carries around lines of poetry in their head luggage?), someone from the back yelled out a couple of lines of obscure poetry. Oh that kind of nerd. And by obscure, it could well have been the most famous couple of lines of poetry known to humankind, if the gaps in my knowledge are anything to go by.

This single vocal ejaculation of poetry was seized upon immediately and that was that. There were no other suggestions and no invitations for alternative suggestions. Let's just say that the more cynical among us might have thought a bit of gardening had taken place.

The inspirational lines or line of poetry vanished into the night as activity commenced on the stage. I may be wrong, but I seem to recall an assurance that we should not worry if we were not familiar with these forms of improv because all will be explained. There was no explanation, resulting in 90 minutes of WTF for this reviewer. The Deconstruction was followed by The Movie which was followed by The Harold, all of which have their own rules and to some extent structure which I'm not going to explain to you here. Don't be lazy. Google it.

There was much chaos with a myriad of sketches and characters coming and going and sometimes coming back again. If some of the story lines had been carefully scripted and performed as comic theatre they would probably have seemed pretty stupid. But in the almost stand-up comedy format with inspiration of characters and lines and scenarios coming at random, stupid can reign supreme. I may not have known exactly WTF was going on, but I was constantly amused. There were loads of very funny lines, lots of wonderfully ridiculous characters and some truly absurd situations.

Part of the game seems to be to put your fellow players in difficult or overly complicated situations. This frequently had the effect of the performers struggling not to laugh, and again the cynic in me couldn't help wondering if occasionally this was genuine or merely a device to get the audience to laugh along. Regardless, there was much laughter for almost the entire hour and a half, with some in the audience literally falling about in hysterics.

So for this former improv ignoramus a show was enjoyed, a yawning gap in knowledge has been filled, and interest in another form of comedy has been piqued. Job well done.

At The Improv Conspiracy Theatre, 19 Meyers Place Melbourne. Part of The Melbourne Fringe until October 3. Check here for further details.

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