Melbourne Fringe 2016

Who We Were, MFF 2016

0 Comments 15 September 2016

Words by Eliza Janssen 

Along with incessant photographic documentation and a militant attitude towards political correctness, millennials have long been accused of being fervently proud of their childhoods for no apparent reason. I should know. I’m a certified member of this mob. Merely mentioning the early 2000’s in the right group of 18-to-25-year-olds is enough to spark a dick-measuring contest about who knows all the lyrics to the ‘Round The Twist‘ theme song. As far as Facebook pages like ‘Australian Millennials’ and clickbait mogul Buzzfeed are concerned, Furby is still the coolest toy around, and the underprivileged youth of today might as well consign themselves to a life in the gutter, having missed out on S Club 7’s musical pearls of wisdom.

Improv Conspiracy’s cast of three is acutely aware of how gratifying this brand of nostalgia can be for a certain demographic, and in their sketch comedy show Who We Were, common middle school experiences and pop culture fixations are skewered with obvious affection. These references span from the internationally beloved (Harry Potter) to distinctively local lore (that weird ‘S’ shape every school child in Australia somehow knows how to draw).

Against a backdrop of rainbow-coloured streamers, the genial young cast nail the cadence of awkward 7th-graders in every sketch, but the more conceptual jokes consistently stand out. An imagining of what kids see when they picture the future (a rad class reunion at Caribbean Rollerama) has each character tossing up whether to vote for Heath Ledger or Steve Irwin in the upcoming national election, ‘because they’re both still alive!’ My favourite sketch was an increasingly disturbing Powerpoint presentation about what the narrator did on their holiday, replete with achingly slow animations of ClipArt bouncing across the projected screen.

Whether or not these fondly-lampooned fossils from 2003 AD will have emotional resonance or even a factor of recognition for any viewers outside the show’s limited demographic is unclear. In between the sketches, each cast member is granted a short monologue in which they relate a sincere personal story, founded in school camp heartbreak or cafeteria humiliation. These storytelling segments, and the handful of sketches in which musical comedy is employed, rely less on the audience’s responsive laughter, and provide nice moments of oxygen amidst the hilarity. But they’re also probably the only components of Who We Were that may be meaningful to anyone outside the constricted age bracket of the show’s ideal audience.

Ultimately I found Improv Conspiracy’s cabaret of post-grunge pleasures more satisfying than pandering, and was impressed at the big laughs the cast managed in an hour of 5-minute sketches. Brevity and imagination reign when it comes to sketch shows, and Who We Were manages both, snapping from pastiche to poignancy with the ease of the top half of a Motorola Razr. Oh my god, do you guys remember those? Razrs? I love the 2000s.

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