Reviewed by George Fenn
After composing a song list they are collected from the audience and one is drawn at random to be the inspiration for the evening's show. I had missed the first version of Mixtape was staged at the New Zealand Improv festival, so was excited to get another opportunity to see it.
Mixtape is long-form improv, meaning you will see one epic story. Opening night's audience got to see When Sam Met Amy, a romantic comedy following ten years in the lives of two destined lovers from awkward high school dances to awkward high school reunions. The Rom Com genre was quickly established as the cast (Geoff Simmons, Mary Little, Kate Wilson, Barry Mcskimmon, Adam Williamson) weaved through iconic scenarios; The sex talk with dad, the drunk bestie phone calls, the nerd getting advice from his jock mate. The scope of the story goes international as Amy, an unsatisfied chemist, goes on her OE. Meanwhile Sam copes with coming of age in Wellington.
It is here where the complexity of worldbuilding in long-form becomes joyfully difficult. Details such as character names become confused and voices come and go. Inconsistencies are deftly justified by the cast, often jumping in from offstage to help out. Each misstep is supported and each save wins over the audience,showing skillful listening from the performers. When Amy is called Marie by a French Casanova we have a brief flashback to her BFF discussing changing her name in each country she travels to. These ludicrous moments provide an elasticity to the story, but also a structure as the story takes on episodes of different lovers in different countries as a different person.
The storytelling is most engaging at its boldest. The story wraps up with what may be the boldest risk I have ever witnessed in a final scene. “Now we tell them it's all a ruse,” from the groom to the bride at a wedding. After reaching the edge of my seat I was thrown backwards as the voice of an Elvis Vegas Celebrant comes from the DJ.
The format is a solid and fun idea, however I feel the hinges are a bit tight, and it took me a while to feel like I knew the performers. This seemed symptomatic of the space rather than the performers or format. The Fringe Bar stage is narrow, deep and short so voices often got lost in the flurry of bar sounds. Alternatively, the players could utilise the space in front of the stage to be closer to the audience. I would have also enjoyed meeting the performers in order to get know them so I could invest more in their risks.
Best on Taps improvisation skills are evident, demonstrating excellent support and delivering quirky laughs. Combined with the fun concept- the rest of their season provides a rare, affordable and tasty opportunity to see some solid long-form improv in Wellington. The Mixtape of Wednesday night’s performance is provided below.
3rd - 8th of August, Fringe Bar.
7PM start. Hour runtime.
Tickets are $10 / $8
Title: When Amy met Sam
1 - Complicated
2 - Aint no Sunshine when She's gone
3 - Hey Ya!
4 - Superfreak
5 - More than a Woman
6 - The Reason
7 - I Can't help Myself