Remember back in high school drama class when your teacher would call "Space Jump"? It was a game where one person would start acting out a scenario ("I am playing baseball") and then another person would join and transform the scene ("That's a nice baguette you're holding there, want to have a picnic?") and then - because it's high school - by the time the eighth person has entered, the scene is now "we're at a party, let's dance". It's really fun for kids who have a great imagination, and a total nightmare for sports kids who thought drama would be "an easy subject".
Now imagine your teacher calls "Space Jump" at the start of the class, but instead of being in a classroom, you are now in front of a crowded theatre; and you're left to make up an entire string of evolving scenarios the accumulate into an actual storyline with a beginning, middle and ending. And instead of five minutes, this exercise will now run for an hour. Now also imagine that there are three musicians who every now and again will strike up some music you've never heard before and you have to start singing your way through your imagined scenario, and structure it in a way that sounds like a properly composed song. Don't forget that you need to be funny and you're surrounded by other funny people who are going to have the audience in stitches - but you're not allowed to laugh. Finally, this entire hour of "just make it up" needs to be wildly entertaining, mildly sensical, and at some point you might find that somehow you've end up playing three characters at once. Go.
If the idea of public speaking is enough to make you sweat, then the above scenario probably sounds like nightmare fuel. But that scenario, ladies and jellybeans, is essentially what Impromptunes does, every show.
Impromptunes is an Australian improvised musical comedy troupe that's had audiences all over the country (and sometimes in other countries) in stitches for ten years. Each time they perform, there is a different bill of actors, each as brilliant as the previous. Usually performing with a pianist, for this year's celebration the troupe was accompanied by a three-piece band. Led by a musical director on keys, the band is so tight that it's very easy to forget that this music is literally being made up on the spot.
On the evening that the reviewer was present, the line up was as follows:
Emmet Nichols Hollie James
Jake Leaney (keys)
Mark George (guitar)
Tom Doublier (drums)
It really is almost impossible to fault this show when the talent is so incredibly strong. Not knowing what will happen, the actors ask for the audience to shout out the title of the show that they are about to perform. The winner for this evening was "Your Parents". Your Parents - The Musical told the story of the Williamson family reunion. Revolving around a sort of "Why are you still single?" situation, pushed by a needy grandma (Hollie James), the troupe managed to shape an truely hysterical story that was so funny, that at many points, I found the mere act of breathing to be a real challenge.
There was not a weak link on the stage. If I were asked to give MVPs for the night, it would be to Jack O'Riley and Izaak Lim - for their hispanic-tango-number-turned-travelling-montage (with the brilliant assistance of Emmet Nichols who just shouted modes of transport, then became that mode of transport).
Having seen an iteration of Impromptunes before, in a smaller space with only one musician, I must say, this show deserves much larger spaces and absolutely was sprung into new heights by having a band on stage with them. Once the show was decided, the band played an overture. I found myself simply enjoying the music until I clicked "This isn't rehearsed, they're just making this up". How these three musicians shape and support the music throughout this entire show truely is something to behold. Like the actors, they are masters of their craft and deserve just as much kudos as the actors do.
Impromptunes is a masterclass in improvisation. As an actor, if ever you were to witness something that so clearly demonstrates how to "accept an offer", this is it. You will laugh, until you don't think you can laugh any more, and then you will keep laughing.
Make sure the next time you see Impromptunes on the billing, you make it your top priority to attend.
Happy birthday to the entire troupe. Here's to ten more hilarious years of brilliance.