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Improv Theatre Sydney’s Birthday Extravaganza!

Nabila Chemaissem reviews a night of improvised theatre at the Giant Dwarf.

Improv Theatre Sydney’s Birthday Extravaganza hosted three, wholly improvised, completely amazing shows on Thursday night that had the audience engaged and hooting with laughter. Garden St Boys, Garden of Eden, and Motherfather (performed by Bridie Connell and Tom Walker from Whose Line is it Anyway?), were witty and loveable. Each show lasted for approximately fourty-five minutes, and were unique from each other in ways that only great improve can be.

The host of the show introduced the performers by lunging elaborately on-stage and doing great imitations of Zyzz. Following this, Garden St Boys erupted from behind the curtains and indicated that they would be joined by another improve group consisting of one man and two women. Altogether, they performed an improvised ‘movie’ sourced from audience ideas and suggestions. The story of ‘Thomas Jensen’, born in 1945 and killed in 1983 by cheesecake, was a story of true love found in a cemetery between a woman (Clara) and ‘the man who built graveyard town’.

For fourty-five minutes, the five comedians created characters and a storyline that was in equal parts complex, ridiculous, and hilarious. Anytime a scene began to drag on for too long, or a comedian was beginning to stumble, another jumped in with a scene change that kept everyone on their toes and any errors irrelevant.

The same level of skill was show by Garden of Eden. Made up of familiar faces, one of whom was Science Revue’s 2015 director Davis Murphy, Garden of Eden put on a show inspired by the life of their mentor, Eden Lacey. Five commandments derived from Eden’s life, including ‘Thou shalt not wear different coloured socks’ and ‘Thou shalt lean into the kiss’, were used to create a series of Science Revue-esque sketches that were as witty as they were hilariously weird. Several jokes took the form of recurring motifs, which was to be expected given both the constraints of the commandments and the previous theatre background of the comedians.

Like the Garden St Boys, one member of the Garden of Eden would run out and around the other two performers to signal the end of the sketch. This smart manoeuvre acted as a kind of curtain drop for when sketches were deemed to be over. This ensured that the Eden was kept entertained rather than anything else.

When asked which show they thought was better of the two, one audience member exclaimed, ‘Oh, don’t ask me that! Don’t make me decide!’. Both Garden St Boys and Garden of Eden are thoroughly good at what they do.

In the final show, Connell and Walker concocted an intricate world of stories within stories, while their friend, Benny Davis, played music on his keyboard in the background. I was often torn between watching the comedians perform and watching Davis’ bemused reactions towards the absurdity on stage. The show ended with Walke, laying in a figurative pool of his own blood, with Connel hovering over him and proclaiming in a terrible American accent that everyone he loved was here to see him off. Excitedly, Walke asked, ‘everyone? All fifteen members of my platoon?!’ To see Walke have fun and mess with his fellow comedian, and make her create characters for all fifteen platoon members, was a joy to watch and by far the highlight of the night.

Improv Theatre Sydney’s Birthday Extravaganza was an amazing week of performances. Thursday night was no different, and all those who performed in the show are definitely worth keeping an eye on.