The set up is clear. The performers need to know who their characters are and what this show is about. Each player introduces themselves and takes on each “director’s” note: Hilarity ensues! Once the suggestions have been picked, they’re off on a musical journey of organised (kind of) chaos.
Each player in the group knows their role to keep the action going so whatever the"master director" (the audience) throws at them they can try to keep up. When the tempo slowed, key players Pippa, Austin and Wiremu kept the audience engaged and shaped the musical’s movement. Austin makes sure the show keeps moving when the action was fizzling. He helpfully reminds everyone the name of the show included curry, not just coriander.
Pippa cleverly keeps an eye on the show’s arc. With subtlety, she suggests Ben keep up the temp when too many slow songs are played in a row. Her hilarious English or Scottish cleaning character keeps the audience on their toes, allowing for some entertaining interactions with the other players. Pippa’s physicality and relationship she builds with the audience brings her scenes alight. Memorably throwing looks at the audience as loved up Matt proclaims they should get married. She’s clearly not on the same page and makes a pact in song that in 10 years if they’re single then maybe they’ll get married...but maybe not.
Wiremu has hilarious comic timing. His over-the-top dramatic adds energy to his scenes. He has clearly been doing improv for a long time as he grabs the action when it is offered, including awkward coriander based friend-love songs. Bethany absolutely loved the coriander suggestion from the Master Director and holds on to it throughout the evening, staying true to her awkward, quirky friend character. A very strong singer, Bethany belts her vocal skills throughout the show. The players Malcolm and Matt stick with their unique characters allowing the audience to feel comfortable with the Mummy's boy Malcolm, and loved up rom-com Matt.
I went to the performance on Saturday 27th February and if you're going to be sitting amongst a group of people while a Civil Defence alarm goes off, being an audience member at an improvised musical is possibly the best place to be. The house lights went up and a quick moment to grasp what was happening as phones started going off in the final 10 minutes of the show. A slight panic and a then collective understanding that alert levels were changing we continued back into the present moment. The cast picked up the energy in the room and they constructed their final song. There is something poetic and almost peak 2021 that the improvised musical finished its big number featuring the Civil Defence Alert and the catchy tune of “Warning. Coriander".
The Pāua Ballads look after their audience and really engage them to create a full experience. Going to more than one performance is something I’d love to do to see what hilarity would ensue each night. They are on at Te Auhaha - Tapere Iti, until 28th February for the Fringe Festival. If you’d like to be uplifted in these weird times, catch these creative joyful players scattered throughout Fringe Festival shows!