I was impressed with the handles set up for the show. We the audience were a focus group, tasked with picking the best pitch for the client, What Now (yes our favourite 90s T.V. show). As an askfor (an improv. term where actors elicit ideas from the audience to tailor their show and inspire them), we were asked to yell our names in unison. It turned out our name was Maria - we were personified. I’ve never seen this in a show before. I love improv!
Once housekeeping was settled, two teams faced off against one another. Playing the game where you pick up the last line - throwing out pitch ideas, riffing off one another, outwitting one another (something that can be daunting for us mere mortals). This then opened up into open scene work with well-timed transitions (aided by the lighting of the talented Darryn Woods), great offers - follow through of offers and support.
Some beautiful shenanigans were inspired by the liquor cabinet which was ‘fully furnished.’ I enjoyed Jennifer’s 3:00 gin, 4:00 gin gag, which was supported by her fellow cast popping on at varying intervals to join her and Jed sealing the gag with 5:00 Scotch. Props to the set designer - the stage was detailed and on theme without being in the actors way. It’s nice to see some improv. that isn’t a just a black stage.
There were nine actors in this cast making it difficult to have enough stage time to really develop relationships and backstory in front of an audience. My favourite storyline was Freya Sadgrove's, who had begun discovering herself and discovering alcohol while on her very first date, the night before. Her awkward, self-deprecating style is something I look forward to in all of Sadgrove's work. Her journey was aided by Callum Devlin and I felt they had the most engaging relationship of the show. To raise the stakes, Powell dropped a great bombshell half way through, revealing he was the date Sadgrove had referenced in her first scene. This great offer culminated in a love triangle and tension between the characters. A happy ending ensued with Sadgrove taking both men on a theatre date, I whooped with joy.
Karin McCracken raised stakes early by introducing her desire for marriage to avoid deportation. Cain mixed things up by offering her his admiration which ended in marriage. As they had little stage time it seemed as though her issue was resolved without tugging at our heart strings. I would have liked Cain to pine for McCracken without her knowledge, a build-up of sexual tension, before that sweet release making Maria (the audience) sigh after holding on to the edge of Maria’s seat.
The final pitches were presented to the audience. Johnny Paul, leading one team in Don Draper style against Devlin, our man with falling standards. The two played off each other well with Paul delivering a moving and inspired speech. Is that man a copywriter by day and improviser by night? The audience was spellbound by him. Next, I was happy to see Devlin take this offer by shakily taking the stage and giving an ‘under rehearsed’ speech. This troupe knows how to play competition in improv. There were many instances throughout the show where characters were competing and yet actors were playing on the same team. It’s great to see a troupe that work so comfortably together as a cohesive unit.
Maria picked her winner and the Mad Men theme tune began to play, wrapping up the game. I felt the show should have ended at this point, on a high, and so did the Darryn Woods, it seemed. The lights began fading in and out on the liquor cabinet as actors lingered on stage. As there were so many in the cast, there were still storylines to wrap up and a couple of scenes strived to achieve this. But it felt a little off, after such a heightened scene beforehand. I still wonder if Stevie Hancox-Monk’s character will ever find love.
The cast did pick up on the important storylines throughout and focused on these, Stevie Hancox-Monk, Jed Davies, Jennifer O’Sullivan, and the ever endearing Sam Irwin became supporting characters. I’m happy to say, there was no showboating. And this one blemish, only means I’ll have to go back another night and see what happens to the rest!
This show begins at 6:30 and goes till the 20th. So buy your tickets quick!
-This review will now fade out to the Mad Men theme tune-