‘Heartfelt High’ was adorable.
There were backward caps, bum-bags and butterfly clips aplenty in the latest show by Brisbane-based improvisational comedy troupe ImproMafia, sentimentally entitled ‘Heartfelt High’.
Presented as part of the Brisbane Comedy Festival, in the intimate cabaret seating of the Brisbane Room at City Hall, audiences were welcomed by a soundtrack of 90s hits, instantly setting the mood for a nostalgic look at teenagers nearly three decades ago.
Beginning with an introduction of “Heartfelt High’s Drama Club presentation”, the audience was asked to contribute things they got in trouble for at school, giving the impro team stimulus for the upcoming story. After familiar ideas like “smoking behind the sheds” were proffered, they settled upon “climbing on the roof of a building”. The six actors were then established through an opening credits video with graphics that would have looked right at home on shows like ‘Full House’ or ‘Saved by the Bell’.
Scenes were presented on the small stage with a rotating combination of the cast. Each segment lasted about two minutes, with a blackout and pop song excerpt between; giving the feeling of a TV drama switching between scenes and locations. Four of the cast remained as teenage characters with two also taking on roles of teachers and parents.
At first, it was unclear as to how much was improvised and how much was pre-scripted. The opening scene, which included the stimulus of a student climbing on the roof of a school building, started smoothly. Then came a few moments where actors began to speak over each other which gave the feeling that it was a scripted production which simply wasn’t well rehearsed, as opposed to it being purely improvised. As the show progressed, however, the audience began to see the give-and-take nature of improvisation occurring on stage, with recurring references from previous scenes linking the story together.
The six cast members did a splendid job of creating quite adorable characters, bumbling their way through high school life, relationships and self-discovery. Costumes were era-appropriate with large basketball singlets, short-shorts, denim and a ‘goth’ look of black eyeliner and mesh singlet. It did well at transporting the audience back to that reminiscent (but perhaps embarrassing) era.
Some ‘90s staples were present, with references to Datsun cars and the use of “rack off” as a swear word, but there was an opportunity for these to be more prevalent throughout. Especially given the nature of improvisational comedy and the opportunities to work nostalgic touchstones into the material “on the fly”.
‘Heartfelt High’ was a fun night out and the cast are to be commended for their skills, energy, and commitment to the art of improvisation. As Brisbane’s longest standing impro group, ImproMafia has shows performing all year round, as well as master classes, for those wanting to get a better grip on their improvisation techniques.
For more information about ImproMafia visit their website http://www.impromafia.com.