Around the Campfire - Big Fork Theatre

‘Around the Campfire’ // Big Fork Theatre

‘Around the Campfire’ was heart-warming.

Improv – a word that makes many actors shake in their boots failed to make a single member of the Big Fork Theatre ensemble so much as quiver, with their production of ‘Around the Campfire’.

For those new to the campfire experience, improvisational comedy is exactly what it is. The ensemble was given a cue word, in this case by the audience, and they used this to create scenes and scenarios. As Big Fork Theatre said themselves, ‘you can never really explain improv comedy shows to someone who wasn’t there without sounding crazy’. It was definitely something one needs to witness for themselves, and if you were interested in discovering this whole new world, Big Fork Theatre should be your first stop.

A kid-friendly piece for ages nine and up, Big Fork Theatres ensemble did their utmost to draw the audience, children and adults alike, into their “last night” at Camp Big Fork. With only a vague script to follow, the audience was reintroduced, in case we forgot them, to our “camp counsellors”. From then onwards, it was anyone’s game, and with one prompt word from the audience of ‘Octopus’, the show began.

Big Fork Theatre has truly done a wonderful job with this production. Most notable was the tightness of their ensemble, for improvisational comedy would fail without a team that can rely on each other. Though they worked together strongly, each person had their own unique character and persona, which they maintained for the duration of the production.

A stand out for this production was Cameron Watson, as one of the directors of Camp Big Fork. He maintained a strong presence throughout, and his introduction and explanations perfectly suited the context of the show, without dumbing it down too much for the audience. His rapport with musical director Mark Grimes, who perfectly improvised the score for the production on his keyboard, was sublime.

Olivia Kate Windsor was yet another member of the ensemble who stood out. Her quick thinking and sometimes quirky imagination brought many bizarre and hilarious scenarios to the stage. A generous actor, she was always making offers and furthering the action of the scenes, giving them new directions and adding as much content as she could.

Adam O’Sullivan was another actor that drew the eye for his role as Cleaner of King Cleanypants (you had to be there), where he non-stop wiped down his lordship, often reacting to the action of the scene with wild gestures and brilliant facial expressions.

‘Around the Campfire’ was marketed as a show you could bring your children too, however, it felt at times that the jokes were aimed more at the adult audience. It seemed as though the kids were laughing mostly because their parents were laughing, rather than fully understanding the gags. This could have been the audience reading too much into the content and deriving innuendo’s where none were intended.  There was, however, a vast vocabulary used that was definitely aimed at the adults, and left many children scratching their heads.

In saying that, the quick-wittedness and simply ingenious improvisations that occurred were a delight to behold. Such skill with comedy and quick thinking is admirable and enviable for any actor out there. There were some moments, where the comedy seemed to come more from an empathetic point of view, the audience seeing the ensemble search madly for an idea and then finally get one. However, overall the scenes were fast-paced, almost to the point where they could have been planned.

‘Around the Campfire’s’ ensemble was on fire in this production, sometimes literally as they walked through the “campfire” – a very clever lighting effect, in their fireproof clothes. Lighting was one of the facets of theatre played with the most, with the campfire effect created by a patterned beam aimed directly at the floor. Another clever moment was the “spooky campfire story” segment of the production, where the cast all had handheld torches pointed straight up at their faces, perfectly capturing the timeless sleepover activity.

Not only were the brains of the ensemble brilliant, but the physicality of each and every character was so unique, and each actor committed to it 100 per cent. This physical comedy seemed to be more the style of the children, and a sequence of actors mimicking each other elicited many delightful laughs from them. Perhaps exploring this aspect of comedy may help them better snag that younger sense of humour.

Keeping the audience immersed in the play, as they exited the theatre with tears of laughter still streaming down their face, the camp counsellors bid them farewell. There was a sense of intrigue and amazement among the audience, at having witnessed such a unique and clever show.

Though this production was only done twice as a part of the Brisbane Comedy Festival, Big Fork Theatre performs every Friday, 7:30 pm at the Paddington Substation. Tickets are only $10.00 each.  If ‘Around the Campfire’ was anything to go by it’s an absolute bargain for what is guaranteed to be a thoroughly enjoyable evening.

To find out more about Big Fork Theatre or to view their upcoming classes, visit

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