Melbourne Fringe 2016

Completely Improvised Shakespeare, Melbourne Fringe 2016

0 Comments 12 October 2016

Words by Fabrice Wilmann

“Sometimes it works, sometimes it fails, but that’s what we face when we’re dealing with improvisation.” Jan Garbarek

Improvisation is an art. It can be a hideously butchered experience if the actors are not skilled in listening to each other or are unable to adapt to their surroundings. But when done well, improv can be a majesty of laughs. The Soothplayers production of Completely Improvised Shakespeare is one such majesty. The concept is as follows: actors take a title from the audience and improvise an hour-long play in Shakespearean style.

While all shows employ the distinctive themes and language of Shakespeare, every play is unique and created on the spot: no scripts, no planning! The ensemble features some of Melbourne’s most well-trained and talented improvisers, including graduates of Impro Melbourne, The Improv Conspiracy, and Chicago’s iO Theatre.

The Forbidden Something was the tale woven when I attended the performance. A delectably delicious platter of tasty witticisms and uncontrollable laughter were offered in a performance akin to that of Romeo and Juliet, but with the warring families of Montague and Capulet replaced by the Florentines and the Macaroons.

A double-suicide climax was all but guaranteed, but the trials and detours along the way were gems of comedic timing and collaboration. The character of Jammie Dodger was a particular highlight; of course anyone with the insight and quick thinking to name themselves after an English biscuit treat in a world of Florentines and Macaroons is to be commended.

The actors remain true to their Shakespearean characters throughout and manage to weave motifs of fate, love and family loyalty into a hilarious performance. Torn ears and shaven beard hair is swept from the streets of Florence; the prince becomes so exasperated by the warring families that he decides to ride into Verona and assume princehood in that region; and the patriarchs of the warring families ride together on the last remaining donkey in all of Florence.

Completely Improvised Shakespeare is a display of camaraderie and respect for the art of improv. The cast are a perfect blend of talent and imaginative quick-thinkers, and abide by the Shakespearean adage: “With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come.”

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