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The Improv Conspiracy

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Vivienne Mah

Oct 02, 2012

Mention improvisation to even the most experienced actors and there’s the chance they’ll quake. The actors in Improv Conspiracy’s The Harold, though, shake their fears and provide snappy, spontaneous comedy based off audience suggestion and an overarching theme as well. Described as a ‘longform improvised format’, the night’s Harold performance sees the strategy of revisiting three scenes and the characters within them, along with the exploration of new ideas well-realised. While occasionally grasping for laughs from the audience, the performers provide for both intellect and amusement in their  exploring of ideas and the strange truths of everyday life, buried sublimely under comedy.

There’s little pretense to the two teams of improv performers, dubbed The NASA Dropouts and The Peeping Toms. Occupying a narrow room, the groups remain in casual dress and could easily pass for part of the audience. The space is devoid of props, save a stack of wooden steps behind the small stage. The audience are separated from the performers by a handful of centimeters, the action immediate. The lack of distance – literal or figurative – makes the work feel more like friends watching one another lark about; however, seating plans could be improved, as there’s a limited view of action from the back. The use of a keyboardist placed to one side is a thoughtful touch but the kitschy warbling tunes do little in the way of steering the mood.

The night’s antics are divided into two halves, with the NASA Dropouts taking the stage first. Nerves among the group are to be expected, but each member are sure and steady to contribute. It’s in the two-three person scenes that the group shines. Their skits are absurd and ever-changing, playing upon the audience’s recognition of popular culture – there’s a nod to Sweeney Todd and the kind of crazy cat lady we know and recognise. Charismatic NASA Dropout members Scott McAteer and Wyatt Nixon-Lloyd riff effortlessly off one another’s sublime one-liners and physical gaffes, as do Adam Kangas and Emmet Nichols from the Peeping Toms.

The Harold‘s format follows the same characters from beginning to end, merging space, character and timeline – and it’s here that both groups excel. Actors reference other scenes played and merge characters seamlessly. Excluding brief hiccups in humour, the event unfolds delightfully and bustles with charismatic performers drawing audience in to a well-paced realisation of life at its best and most absurd.

The Improv Conspiracy: Introducing ‘The Harold’ runs until 13 October. Tickets are $15 full-price or $10 concession (group tickets are $10 per person for 4 people).

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