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By The Improvisors
School holiday fun!
Kids love theatre that’s interactive. So do the Improvisors. Kids (and their grown-ups) loved the 2014 season of Improv For Kids, so we’re bringing it back. It’s a great opportunity to introduce your kids to the world of live theatre. We may not have millions of dollars worth of computer-generated effects, but we do listen to kids and we make their ideas central to what happens on stage. In Improv For Kids, imagination is the best special effect of them all!
Reviewed by John Smythe, 11 Apr 2015
The key to good interactive theatre is that it has to be needed and make a difference. “Let’s all be trees waving in the breeze” is a non-event compared with making a character’s survival dependent on the kids calling out, “Look out behind you!” or similar.
Improv theatre is a step up from that because scenarios can only get started once the audience has responded to an ‘ask for’. And in Improv for Kids, volunteers also get to come on stage to physically participate and materially affect the progress of a story.
This Saturday, half way through their school holiday season, Ian Harcourt (with a moustache), Kenny King (with a full-on beard) and Simon Haren (clean shaven) form the trio of improvisers, abetted by Can Crawford’s music and Uther Dean’s lighting.
Having warmed us up with yelling out practice, they kick off with a progressive story about (as offered by a child) swimming in a pool. It’s to be made up on the spot and they appoint a mum in the front row to point randomly at who must continue the story – mid-sentence, usually. Thus we hear of how a young person found himself aqua-jogging with Old Age Pensioners (OAPs) with the emphasis on the pee.
A boy suggests going to a toyshop to buy a car as the starting point for an ‘only ask questions’ game. When a player can’t respond the a question with a question he gives way to another, and the young audience enjoys their failures as much as the evolving scene.
Taking a family holiday to Ireland is the context for a sequence where kids become the objects required by the story: a book, coat, road sign, leprechaun’s shovel, a peat bog, a stone, a camera, a bubbling pool … It is salutary for adults to see how readily and creatively the kids fulfil the story’s needs.
A TV Talk Show is the setting for a game where the Interviewer (Kenny as Clive Snotgobbler) chats to an Expert in teaching kangaroos to paint (Simon as Jeremy Schnauzer) who does not speak English (it’s a Germanic gibberish) so needs an Interpreter (Ian). This too works a treat, culminating in the hilarious story of how Skippy got squashed at the opening of the Kangaroo Art Exhibition.
Young Daphne from the audience asks for – and stars in – a pop-up book called ‘Daphne Rides a Unicorn’ where Ian’s narration and the poses she, Kenny and Simon adopt at each turning of the page impact each other with the seamlessness of magical illusion.
The challenge of the next scene is that, within one minute, a family game night results in Mum, Dad and their Child ending up dead. Then volunteers are up on stage again to move Ian, Simon and Kenny through ‘The Three Little Pigs’.
When a tiny girl’s response to a request for another fairy story is ‘Princess Brave’, Ian is stumped for once but fortunately Kenny, who has a daughter, recognises this as the Brave story (involving a princess called Merida, actually). His quick précis allows them to play it out in 1 minute then shrink it down to 30 seconds, 15 seconds, 5 seconds and 1 second, bringing the show to a climactic conclusion.
Of course it will ever happen again in the same way but I hope this account will give you a sense of the sort of entertaining ingenuity Improv for Kidscan generate. It is reassuring and even inspiring to see that kids awash with technological entertainment can join in so creatively in a format that guarantees fun for everyone, including the adults they bring along.