You get off the bus at ten o’clock at night. You head past Footbridge and down Science Road. You follow the signs to the Cellar Theatre. This is not a late night study session. This is a Mishap-ridden Organisation of Improvised Stagecraft and Theatre – MOIST. One-hundred and sixty-eight hours – exactly one week from 6pm on April 26th to 6pm on May 3rd – was the length of this production. Running nonstop and occasionally to no physical audience – although still live-streamed to Twitch – SUDS partners with Improv Theatre Sydney for a production which now proudly holds the badge of ‘world record for the longest continuous improvised theatre performance’. Pending proper Guinness World Record confirmation at the time of writing, this factor alone is worth extensive praise; the improvised absurdity wreaked upon the Cellar’s waxy floors was nothing short of impressive.
With the scale and logistical extent of MOIST then comes the challenge of reviewing it. A performance pulled out of thin air by a cast in excess of seventy, performing in four-hour blocks according to a roster with as many as seven and as little as two on stage together at any given time cannot exactly be judged for it’s cogent narrative structure, compelling character relationships, or rich subtext. Yet, it is in this spontaneous and oblique engagement that MOIST was able to discern what makes improvised theatre so electric and enlivening; players working harmoniously to produce engaging and surreal – yet ephemeral – theatrical tangents.
Making a gold coin donation at the door, one sits amid a semicircle of chairs opposite the open performance space bordered by couches, a few small tables and – by closing night – scattered food wrappers, cotton wool, a rocking chair, and a suspended piece of rope. On opening night, this space became everything from a Dante-esque ninth circle of hell, to a consultation with a polar bear psychologist not covered by private health insurance, and a riff on Monty Python and the Holy Grail’s three riddles scene; with a bridge-keeper – the inimitable Matt Forbes – interrogating Jake Parker and Jackson Hand as Chandler and Ross from Friends. Cut to days later, midday of May 2nd sees an intriguing transgression to the meta ‘show-within-a-show’ realm. Veterans of Manning Bar’s hallowed Thursday lunchtime TheatreSports competitions Ruby Blinkhorn, Elliot Ulm, and Sophia Morrison – among others – captivated audience members with mimed bank robberies and subtitled-gibberish dairy farm revolutions. This marathon of intermingled references, in-jokes, and incorporations of post-it note ideas from a ‘suggestion box’ at stage left become a clear testament to the capabilities of the rabid performers’ minds when left with several hours of ideation and an audience that they sometimes outnumbered two to one.
But, sadly, all shows must come to an end; 2pm to 6pm last Friday saw the conclusion of this weeklong odyssey as MOIST approached its curtain call with a semblance of what felt like closure. Mastermind Felix Faber, SUDS President Lincoln Gidney, and Improv Theatre Sydney company director Edan Lacey played as bickering family members in what seemed to be middle-America’s interpretation of Downton Abbey; a monologue-filled, melodrama-oozing battle of wits culminating in Gidney’s ‘Uncle’ character’s revelation that he was indeed ‘twelve rats in a trench coat all along’.
This was simply a fraction of the weeklong experience. SUDS broke the record by late Thursday morning, collectively showcasing an immensely engaging improvisatory performance, and raising well over a thousand dollars for Cancer Treatment Centre Chris O’Brien Lifehouse in the process. Considering the wild variation in both the performances that were seen and those that lie between, MOIST felt firmly in the control of all involved – a farcical means to a gratifying and rollicking end.