Photo credit: Alex Rabina
But what is the purpose of these bananas, you might wonder? Mild West: Draw is inspired by Western quick draw, which is that tropey gunfight duel that usually takes place outside a movie-set tavern. Cue tumbleweed. Here, however, it takes place at BATS, with aforementioned bananas instead of guns and the winner being determined by a coin toss. In the context of a longform narrative, this means that whenever a pair of characters clash within the story, they challenge each other to a duel. Whoever loses ‘dies’ and is out of the show. This is an especially unique and clever improv form because it offers the stakes of elimination without the actual competition.
I’ve also never seen an elimination form before with such a direct impact on the show’s narrative, and I think that this is where the true strength of the form lies. The storytelling skills of the cast have to be commended, as each member is so quick to jump on the repercussions of each death. With all the small-town family connections, this inevitably creates a number of revenge plots, and the way that the cast step up to the twists and turns is impressive. Tara McEntee deserves special mention for her character Dorothea—a family-oriented criminal who is trying to barter for marriage, as Brendon Rose’s character is the only man in town she’s not related to … bar the sheriff. McEntee does a brilliant job of driving the narrative and finds a way to build interesting character relationships with nearly every other cast member, and this raises the stakes of the whole show. I also especially appreciate Sam Irwin’s metatheatrical acknowledgement of his place in the story when he admits to Tara McEntee (his character’s sister) that he hasn’t been taking things seriously and has been off doing his own thing, after having just played a horse for a few consecutive scenes.
Mild West: Draw showcases a clever and creative new improv form that goes a long way in supporting narrative, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Unfortunately, Improsaurus has now completed their two-show season as part of New Zealand Improv Festival. For more information or to book tickets for other great shows in the festival, visit the NZIF website.