But on with the review ...
Here’s a Thing: NZIF Kickoff didn’t have a familiar form. Instead, it felt like an homage to everything that is yet to come over the next two weeks. MC Jennifer O’Sullivan opened the show by describing the structure simply as, ‘I’ll ask who’s got a thing, and someone will put their hand up and say “I’ve got a thing!”, and then we’ll do that thing.’ Vague. It sounded like more of a jam than anything else, and it was, but there was reason to it, and a pattern quickly emerged.
Each member of the cast is also featuring in or involved with another show in the festival. So Here’s a Thing: NZIF Kickoff did the thing (pun intended) that every festival kickoff should aim to do; it effectively publicised the rest of the festival. Festival kickoffs are always a great celebration, but not all of them pull this off in a way other than a rushed list of things you should attend, delivered at the close of the performance or event. The loose structure of Here’s a Thing: NZIF Kickoff meant that they were able to work it into the show itself. Each offering of ‘a thing’ linked directly to the show that that improvisor is involved with. For example, Tara McEntee is performing in a show called Mild West: Draw (Tuesday and Wednesday next week; buy your tickets here), which is based on Western quick draw, so her ‘thing’ was a scene about death. It’s a great promotional form, as it gives the audience a chance to hear a bit about upcoming shows, watch a crazy scene and get a taste of what those upcoming shows might be like.
In a show like this, there are so many unexpected things to comment on, so instead I will leave you with a couple of small highlights. Daniel Allen and muso Matt Hutton had a beautifully timed moment with a mimed record player. Not only was this a great example of players listening to each other, it was also on par with those ‘oddly satisfying’ videos that I know you secretly watch. George Fenn’s ‘thing’ was a pop-up storybook, which was a tableaux-style narrative scene, and for a plebeian non-improvisor like myself who has only ever seen these scenes delivered as slideshows, this was super interactive and fun to watch—especially when librarian-narrator Daniel Allen pulled a pop-up tab and the other performers started moving.
Here’s a Thing: NZIF Kickoff was a brilliant and energetic start to the festival, and I’m excited to see what’s in store. For more information or to book tickets for upcoming shows, visit the NZIF website.