#hashtag’s players were Amanda Buckley, Ali Little, Steven Lyons, Jennifer O’Sullivan, Aaron Pyke, and Luke Rimmelzwaan. The team of players were supported by the phenomenal musician Jamie Burgess, who always found an opportunity to support his players with a symphony of tunes and moods, and the lovely MC Jaklene Vukasinovic, who prefaced and closed the show, helping us to understand the 'rules' and how #hashtag came to be.
What truly made the night was their willingness, or perhaps eagerness, to work together and build on from internal offers. Watching Little’s secretary character try to appease Buckley’s corporate character at every turn in the scene from #TheThingsIDoForYou, only to discover Buckley’s character is pushing Little’s to see how much of a promotion the secretary should receive. It started as a simple scenario, the secretary agrees to everything the boss says, until she doesn’t, and thus unfolds a complex narrative about power and pay gaps. #ThisIsHowYouGetAnts is another similar example; Lyons here reminds me of Sid from Toy Story, much like Sid tortures his toys, Lyons’ character beings burning an ant colony with a magnifying glass and the sun’s rays. We watch, helplessly, as the colony submits to the fire and falls to their knees… at least until Rimmelzwaan’s Ant Thor appears and smites the ant-murdering Lyons with his magical ant lightning. This scene, too, builds from something as simple as burning ants to a story about sticking up for the little guy. The way the players work the hashtags into such varied and in-depth scenes is, honestly, remarkable.
Some of my favourite scenes stemmed from the hashtags #WorstDateEVER, #YouveGotMail, and #YoureGettingALotOfNotifications, the last of which came from Twitter asking the NZIF twitter account if they’d like to filter their feed since they received a rapid influx of tweets. #WorstDateEVER spawned one of my favourite characters of the night, the misunderstood waitress who went by Cheryl; she didn’t want to be there, she didn’t want to serve you, and she was going to make sure the time you had was hell and that you’d feel bad about bothering her at work. From Buckley’s constant condescending tone to her angsty adolescent struts between the date table and the ‘kitchen’, everything made me want an encore: #BringBackCheryl. Another popular scene, #YouveGotMail, centred around the deteriorating relationship between a man and his mailbox, which couldn’t be more fitting considering we were using Twitter as the primary means of communication throughout the show. A wave of supreme sorrow and sympathy cast over the audience for O’Sullivan’s mailbox, as Lyons’ man reminisced and promised mailbox he’d still use them for packages and the occasional letter. The dramatic, gut-wrenching scene causing intense laughter from the crowd thanks to the scene’s ludicrous nature and O’Sullivan’s use of a red box present on stage (which even looked like a mailbox when she held it up!) to assimilate into her character. The rest of the audience and I had nothing but feels when Lyons’ character and his mailbox return in #HugLife.
I must also extend a special thanks to Jennifer O’Sullivan for making my dreams come true and bringing #StabbyTheUnicorn to life. I couldn’t have asked for a more hilarious closure to the night’s proceedings: a violent unicorn that stabbed people if they wanted her to and had a drinking problem. Every time I see an improv show, I’m reminded at just how creative the players are, of how many ideas and musings they can unpack out of a few words to create the most interesting, unusual, and hilarious of scenes.
#hashtag is a show I would like to see return to the Festival; the way it involved its gimmick built on from the initial concept rather than feeling tacked on, which made the experience feel much more dynamic and thought-out. It presented a great challenge to the audience as well: when’s the right moment to offer a hashtag, and what might I miss while I type out my tweet? I went into #hashtag expecting to laugh, and I was never once disappointed with the indisputable talent served up by its team.