In ‘Stiff Company’, “four actors are paired with four improvisers. The actor has prepared a scene and must not deviate from it, while the improviser has no idea what they are walking into. The improviser must make bold choices, making decisions about who their character is based on the information given to them. The actor must stick to the word of the script but respond emotionally truthfully. Each night will showcase different actors and improvisers.”
Sounds interesting but the Fringe is over and you missed it? Never fear, The Improv Conspiracy will soon be running the show monthly, beginning at the end of October 2016 – see their Facebook and website for details coming soon!
For complete transparency, entire shows based on improvisation are not my cup of tea. Preparation, timing and execution, for me, are essentials to quality comedy whether it be traditional stand-up or ‘theatre’ shows. While I certainly appreciate ad-libs mid-set or where a situation dictates, there is a small part of my being that feels uneasy at the prospect of shows dedicated to improvisation. But here’s something strange, the balance of ‘Stiff Company’ might just have won me over.
The blending of script and improvisation is a ‘toe in the water’ experience for the improvisation averse like myself and also gives it structure, ensuring the performance does not stagnate.
An advantage of the show, directed by Adam Kangas and Lucy Griffin, is the breadth of performers on stage. Each actor and improviser on the night had a distinct style and varying approach to the scenes. When watching the show, it’s important to remember that while the actors have to stay on script, they have the freedom to bring their own mannerisms, individuality and physical expressions to the performance.
Other highlights included the enchanting performance of Lelda Kapsis (actor), who did well to stay in character in front of the awkwardly adorable Broni Lisle (improviser) in their scene from The Real Thing by Tom Stoppard. Lelda appeared to make the most of putting her partner off but the cheeky Broni also enjoyed the to-and-fro!
In moments where a pairing lost connection or where they did not feed off one another, scenes occasionally lost momentum and required some forcing to get the humour back on track. One performer who fed off their partner particularly well was Millie Holten (improviser). Millie did a commendable job of using her opposite’s scripted lines for humour while also engaging with the story, progressing it and developing her own character to match.
‘Stiff Company’ is a thoroughly entertaining show, particularly if you view the performers as opponents, attempting to one-up another, matching each other in a fierce improv/scripted duel.
If it’s caught your eye, follow the links below for more information.
About the venue
Bustling with energy pre-show, The Improv Conspiracy is a hidden venue located at Level 1, 19 Meyers Place, Melbourne. The rooms are well set up with no bad seats in the house. If you missed a drink from one of the lovely establishments close by, don’t stress, The Improv Conspiracy have got you covered with a decent range of beer and cider for your pre/during/post-show enjoyment.