Last night the Enmore Theatre played host to one of the biggest events of the Australian improvised comedy year, the Theatresports Cranston Cup Grand Final.
This grand competition has been running in Sydney for more than thirty years, and brings together months of theatresports competition to showcase some of the best of the best improvisers in our country, teamed up against each other to fight for the glory of the highly esteemed, improbably and precariously enormous Cranston Cup.
The careers of many now well known Australian comedians and performers can be traced back to Theatresports, including Julia Zemiro, Shaun Micallef, Andrew Denton, Susie Youssef, Steen Raskopoulos, Andrew O’Keefe, Adam Spencer, Ed Kavalee and Rob Carlton.
Past Theatresports champions Bridie Connell (Tonightly with Tom Ballard and 2018 ARIA award winner) and Maddie Parker held the show together as host and director, bantering with each other and teams between rounds to keep the energy high and the laughs coming.
We witnessed seven teams of improvisers battle it out in four heated rounds of theatresports challenges, whittle down to a top three and finally crown a winner.
The teams were a mix of veteran Theatresports players plus some of the freshest faces of comedy selected from high school and university competitions. Last night's show included the youngest team to have ever made the grand final - PG13 from Newington College.
The grand finalists were:
New Kids on the Block
Mission Improvable 3
Screaming at Things
The Next Ex-Prime Ministers
The Transit Officers
Spectacular musical improviser Tom Cardy (The Lulu Raes) on keyboard added a soundtrack to every scene, responding impressively to the improvised drama as it was happened as well as helping shape some of the funniest (and most moving) moments.
Experienced improvisers The Next Ex-Prime Ministers (Lisa Ricketts, Steve Lynch, David Callan) were the first team up and quickly cemented themselves as the team most willing to take on a risk to increase the entertainment value of their performances. In a well-spirited means of leveling the playing field somewhat they were often seen combining two challenges in one or setting unnecessary elements of difficulty for themselves, proving all the more impressive when they made it work. One of the linguistically cleverest items of the night was an Alphabet Shakespeare challenge where not only was their scene to be in Shakespearean style text, each line must begin with the next letter of the alphabet. Even with no doubt some prepared vocabulary to spring from, this was excellent and probably our favourite challenge overall.
School teams PG13 (Charlie Papps, Sam Reucassel, Luke Mestrovic, Hugh Finlayson, Zach Zoud) and New Kids on the Block (Lachlan McIntyre, Simon James, Nick Fitzsimmons, Finn Hoegh-Guldberg), both champions of their league at Newington College, held their ground amidst the more seasoned improvisers and provided many a belly laugh for the crowd. Watch those names, Sydneysiders, we think you'll be seeing more of them.
Runner ups The Transit Officers (Kate Coates, Concetta Caristo, Jack Gorman) deserved particular mention for their commitment to character even between challenges, a trait shared with the winning team of 2018.
Speaking of which, of course there must be a winner, and this year's was Mission Improvable 3 (Jestika Chand, Rachael Colquhoun-Fairweather, Elliot Ulm). This trio played exceptionally well to their strengths and it certainly worked for them. An initial Gibberish scene starring a charismatic penguin was an early high scorer and they continued to pick up good points for a series of largely wordless challenges. A clever interpretation of a Touch-to-Talk challenge (where characters may only speak while touching each other) turned out to involve hardly any dialogue at all, yet the anticipation of it was thrilling. We would have liked to see them try something a little different for their final challenge rather than yet another mime, as we expect they do have other talents, yet their strategy was effective as they were subsequently crowned champions, winning the honour of having to figure out how on earth to take that awkwardly huge trophy home.
It was a lighthearted evening full of energy, laughs, talent and support for one another. Keep an eye on the Impro Australia website for more upcoming events and details of how to get involved with their classes, courses and new upcoming Theatresports Corporate Challenge.