Expressivo (Performance Reviews)

REVIEW: UPSTAIRS DOWNTON (Theatre / Comedy)

Who needs reality TV when Soap! Improv is presenting a different kind of soap opera? Over three weeks, eight actors combine their wit and talent in improvisation to produce one episode each week which could give The Bold and the Beautiful a run for its money.

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Eden Trebilco, William Mellor, and Kirsty Wigg. Photo supplied.

In episode two, set in the early twentieth century, the show picked up with a spot of audience participation, the actors seeking suggestions for a female character’s name and possible occupation befitting its time and setting. The result: Mrs. Darcy and the miner. The latter homophone was apparently open to interpretation according to the quirky host.

Overt melodrama made for a humorous opening. The art of improv is daunting and the actors listened intently for cues and generally timed their punchlines well.

Evidently a talented and brave group, some shone more than others. A clear standout was Eden Trebilco who radiated stage presence and elicited audience laughter in every scene. Trebilco shared the stage with fellow actors: Claire Bottrall, Kirsty Wigg, William Mellor, Curtis Shipley, Joshua Kapitza, Marshall Cowan, and Paul Gordon (founder of Soap! Improv).

The premise of the episode was initially intriguing but proved challenging to sustain for an hour. As the subplots developed into the intricate and ostensibly more chaotic, actors forgot characters’ names as the eight of them tried to determine the best time to enter a scene without blocking one another’s efforts. They managed to laugh at themselves, and their own larrikinism made the audience enjoy the performances.

I admit the errors were funny and they recovered well, but the improv lost momentum in the latter part of the show. Perhaps, a single episode was too much for the hour. The accompanying soundtrack looped back around a number of times before the episode saw its end. This show may have had more impact as shorter episodes or sketches within the time allotted.

Nevertheless, the cast had me in stitches several times with their on-the-fly humour and light-hearted portrayal of Victorian life. Their unique insights about an old gentleman (named Lord Old), a hairdresser who didn’t make the cut in Jane Austen novels, and persons of privilege in a manor with many gates were entertaining. I recommend it if you enjoy the unpredictable.

Rating ☆☆☆

Reviewed performance: 25 February 2018
Season: 18 and 25 February, and 4 March
Time: 6.30 pm
Venue: Gallery Room, National Wine Centre

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