Sydney, Sydney Fringe Festival 2014

The Bear Pack, SFF 2014

0 Comments 28 September 2014

 

The Bear Pack (Carlo Ritchie and Steen Raskopoulos) are quickly building a reputation as some of Australia’s most talented comedians. At their sold out Sydney Fringe Festival performance, they proved exactly why. The Bear Pack shows are entirely improvised. Start to finish, they have an entire hour on stage to fabricate a coherent story from a word given by the audience, and on top of that, they are expected to make it funny. ‘Difficult’ is probably the understatement of the century.

The night opened with special guests, The Improv Soap Opera, an improvisational troupe who played out a high school soap opera based on a crises selected by the audience. Tonight, it was a “stapler shortage”. The plot had very little to do with the actual crisis in the end – but that didn’t stop it from being an excellent show. Susie Yousseff was a stand out as ‘Lana Del Pray’, a former religious student who had lost her way (and her sexual modesty). Edan B Lacey was also responsible for many of the laughs as a recently gender re-assigned Principal, and was often so quick with quips the audience’s laughter lagged behind, while William Erimya elicited a similar reaction with merely a well-timed look. There were, as you’d expect, a few moments that fell flat or plots that made little sense – but the humour of improv seems to lie in the failures as much as the successes.

Next up, it was The Bear Pack’s absurd, off-beat, quick-fire comedy. It’s a style of improv unique to Ritchie and Raskopoulos, and given how left of centre it gets, it’s a testament to their skill that the entire room was laughing. Starting with a setting (a golf course) and a nightshade vegetable, the journey began. Much of the brilliance of the show is in the almost psychic synergy between the two – they are masters of set-ups that are undetectable until the punch line. They aren’t afraid to stuff up or play games with each other onstage. When Raskopoulos holds a two fingered ‘gun’ in Ritchie’s mouth he replies that it is “extremely unsanitary” and from then on Raskopoulos takes every opportunity to stick his finger-gun in Ritchie’s mouth.

It’s the kind of comedy that has to be experienced live. The audience feels involved in the story, and like Whose Line Is It Anyway?, often “the plot doesn’t matter”. This doesn’t stop The Bear Pack doing an excellent job of tying up almost all the loose ends. But perhaps the best part is question time at the end, when the audience can ask about plot holes that Ritchie and Raskopoulos must then act out to reach a  conclusion. It’s not just funny, it’s impossibly clever. You laugh as much at the jokes at the surprise that they can actually pull this thing off.

 

The Bear Pack with  guests The Improv Soap Opera, have regular shows at the Giant Dwarf Theatre. They also recently announced the launch of the Improv Theatre Sydney, with classes for beginners and intermediate improvisers starting this October.

Reviewed by Emily Meller

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