Impro innovations

Diana Klaosen

Ryk Goddard, UTE 4 Universal Theory of Everything

Ryk Goddard, UTE 4 Universal Theory of Everything

For the past 4 years Hobart’s innovative is theatre ltd has conducted the National All-Media Improvisation Laboratory under the umbrella of the Boiler Room Improvisation Festival, holding a series of workshops in sound, words and voice, movement, technology and physical comedy. At the end of each day a performance highlights the skills and techniques achieved. The final night—the performance I saw—was described as a “cross-artform slam.”

Artistic director Ryk Goddard explained, “Everything you see tonight will be improvised, from the lighting to the sound, movement and images.” Part 1 evolved as a wryly amusing, absurdist piece with kung-fu moves, a tentative love scene, an engrossing, rambling monologue from a ‘Chinese doctor’, a skit-like interlude with a female protagonist and a gnome, and lots of use of 2 chairs and a cupboard, the ‘characters’ almost generating a coherent narrative. There was plenty to entertain, provoke and amuse, much of it beyond rational explanation.

Part 2 of the presentation, UTE (the Universal Theory of Everything), was a process researching improvised performance as a site-specific collaborative practice. To quote the Boiler Room program, “the challenge [is] to lift impro beyond the interesting and make work that combines the power of theatre, the visual impact of installation and the physicality of dance.”

Titled The Room, this manifestation of UTE investigated the room or cell as a site for “interaction and performance, refuge and imprisonment.” The 3 performers navigate their way in and out of a flexible, multi-purpose, interactive space created from swathes of suspended translucent fabric. Music is integral to the piece, a minimal, repetitive guitar solo setting the tone. Performers dance, pose and make abstract movements. They interact with the white cube, moving in and around the space, pulling at and manipulating its fabric walls into a fascinating variety of shapes and configurations—after which, thanks to ingenious design, it all springs back into its original form. Digital projections onto the walls add to the ambience.

Without the safety net of script and rehearsal, Boiler Room was genuinely entertaining, frequently amusing, thought provoking and absorbing, a triumph of improvised theatre.

Another unconventional performance was Jeff Blake’s anarchically original one-man show Cancelled by Popular Demand. Its non sequitur comedy is reminiscent of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Groucho Marx and the Theatre of the Absurd—to name but a few elements. Physical comedy features prominently—cricket balls are lobbed at speed against a side wall; Blake climbs into and over the audience, muttering grumpily all the while; shuttlecocks are randomly hit into the auditorium; and the performer’s neatly suited character intersperses the early parts of the performance with shuffling, deliberately self-conscious ‘cool’ dancing.

The comedic dialogue zanily dissects humanity’s woes and evils, astronomical phenomena, Shane Warne’s bowling, crooner-style cabaret…the list beggars belief but it all works outstandingly well. One of the most absorbing performances I have seen in Hobart for ages.

National All-Media Improvisation Laboratory, Boiler Room, performers scot d cotterell, Cam Deyell, Ryk Goddard, Bec Reid, Martyn Coutts, Greg Methe, Aaron Roberts, James Wilson, Caleb Doherty, is theatre ltd, Backspace Theatre, Hobart, Aug 25-28; Cancelled by Popular Demand, writer-performer Jeff Blake, Peacock Theatre, Salamanca Arts Centre, Hobart, June 22-26

RealTime issue #69 Oct-Nov 2005 pg. 38

© Diana Klaosen; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

1 October 2005
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