Opening night showcased flawless audience rapport, beginning the moment tonight’s host, Tim Gordon, bounded on stage to the 80s pop synth of keyboardist Cam Crawford, which punctuated the games with a thorough working knowledge of the entire Yamaha keyboard soundscape. His game show host-cross-auctioneer MCing seamlessly guided both the audience and the eight performers through the night’s two halves of games. Gordon’s role is far from the jokes made about Drew Carey’s relevance in Whose Line - he warmed the audience up, encouraged us to be vocal, and provided a key sense of pace and structure. Score cards are handed to two audience members; Gordon confirmed with each that they understood the rules of the games, and by extension, that the rest of us do, too. He adds another defense against getting lost in the ruleset and becoming a disinterested audience. At the start of each game, the audience was encouraged to shout out suggestions. At the end, Gordon refers to the audience judges and had the rest o applaud appropriately to determine an overall score. Of course the points don’t matter and some applauses were higher energy than others, but as a framing device, the points aren’t the point. The spirit of light-hearted competition is effective, as the audience engages with the two teams of four’s skits with the intent of judging them with applause. The night’s festivities are pacey and playful, and the gauntlet of wits bounded through laughter and applause.
There’s a very good reason for that applause, too. The aforementioned performers each earn their places on the stage. Tonight’s ensemble was fantastic, each member supporting their team with great energy and skillful adaptation, especially when confronted with unfamiliar territory. Barnaby Olsen shared his meta-anxiety about an audience prompt, exclaiming to an unknowing Stevie Hancox-Monk his incredible concern about her whereabouts (the La Brea Tar Pits of all places, which Hancox-Monk amazingly got after a particularly on-the-nose exclamation about “what are they going to put on the ROADS”). Aaron Alexander finds a running gag in hating millennials because, when asking an audience member what their favourite fairy tale was, they responded with Shrek. After professional millennial Austin Harrison lead his confused but willing un-inducted team through a parallel world version of Shrek, it was natural that we, as an audience, as per the rules, voted him out and watched three performers who’d never seen Shrek attempt to perform Shrek, without the titular character present. These were but two examples of how both audience and performers in Circa One were tuned perfectly to the same wavelength.
Improvised performances like this live or die based on a number of things. The structure may be misshapen and lack pace, the cast may not be as dialled in as you’d hope. The Improvisors harbour none of these flaws. Between the constant energy and conviction, brilliant audience engagement, breadth of skill and solid cast, the Improvisors allow Theatresports at Circa a deeply fulfilling comedy life.
The Improvisors’ Theatresports is running at Circa every Sunday at 7pm until the 20th of May. You can find tickets here.