The ‘Brisbane Improv Festival‘ was lively.
Quick quips, motley teams and barrels of laughs were all on show at Big Fork Theatre’s ‘Brisbane Improv Festival’ launch on Thursday evening.
Improv ensembles ‘Guilty Baby’ and ‘Raised by Wolves’ kicked off the first-ever Brisbane Improv festival at 6:30 pm at the Ron Hurley Theatre in Seven Hills. Next up, ‘Hard Boiled Dick’ and ‘Never Before Musical’ took to the stage for the 7:45 pm session. Running until Sunday, the festival brings together Brisbane’s improv scene for a wide array of shows and workshops, which gives Brisbane thespians the opportunity to be both entertained and learn a little something about the art of improvisation.
Putting their own spin on the long-form improvisation format ‘The Harold’, ‘Guilty Baby’ took a one-word suggestion from the audience (“cheese-grater” on Thursday night), and created a zany and off-kilter world from there. ‘Raised by Wolves’ (featuring members of Big Fork Theatre) then built their very strange and equally funny short show around the prompt “cyber”.
The audience was responsive and eager from the outset, and the improvisers certainly fed off the buzz and festival atmosphere. In what felt like a coming-together moment for current improv in Brisbane, there were nerves on display, but both troupes brought chemistry, comedic abandon, and some great highlights to this flagship event.
‘Guilty Baby’s’ drug-addled, pop-star washing machine, eclectic antique shop, and creative evaluations of the musical potential of various kitchen utensils were some of the highlights of their comedic digressions on the word “cheese-grater”. Members were constantly pulling great one-liners from seemingly nowhere, and creating new situations creatively from the last.
Raised by Wolves were energetic and brimming with ideas. From the word “cyber”, they gave us an internet café filled with a group of gamers with their own rigid hierarchy, ridiculous backstories, and poorly adjusted personalities. No one scene lasted too long, as members were ready to jump in with a new direction which led the scene into new comedic possibilities. This show was certainly a crowd-favourite, and it was hard not to be impressed by the invention, timing and confidence on display.
After a successful first session, the second show of the night saw the introduction of a live band backing the noir-themed improv of ‘Hard-Boiled Dick’. The double-bass, keyboard and drums set the tone for a hard-boiled adventure. Again taking suggestions from the audience, one actor played the detective and the other tackled the remaining characters. Attempting to solve the mystery of some valuable missing cricket bats in Austin, Texas, Brad Daniels was calm, collected and sardonic as the grizzled detective, trading barbs with the various bizarre characters of Chris Milne. Daniels was able to bring back energy and received big laughs with his one-liners when some scenes lost momentum.
‘Never Before Musical’ completed the second session with a bang. Featuring some members of ‘Guilty Baby’ and various other troupes, the amalgamated troupe made-up scenes, songs and ultimately a musical on the spot. The show was always surprising and impressive. A math-centric conversation about how much a father loved his son led to the hilarious improvised number ‘You’re Always Rounding Up Your Love’, while two men called Steve, who shared a kiss in Ibiza, crooned a seductive duet called ‘Steve’. The cast ultimately came together for a closing song ‘Town of My Dreams’, circling back to the original prompt of ‘Dreams’.
These first two sessions of the Brisbane Improv festival were fresh, energetic and impressive. Across the different forms and styles on display, the audience was brought along for some wild rides and treated to some skilful and hilarious moments. The first ‘Brisbane Improv Festival’ is off to a strong start, and with members of troupes featured on the first night performing throughout the festival, the standard is set to continue.
The ‘Brisbane Improv Festival’ runs until Sunday, 21 February 2021 at the Seven Hills Hub. For more information visit the ‘Brisbane Improv Festival’ website.