Being funny is hard. Being funny completely off-the-cuff is, for many of us, completely impossible. That's why the things that Improv Theatre Sydney pull off on-stage are so awe-inspiring. We headed along to Giant Dwarf in Redfern to check out their double billing with the equally impressive Bear Pack.
In the first half of the show, ITs gave us a live soap opera. It's a saga full of as many absurd twists and turns, as much hammy overacting, as many obnoxious American accents, and as much overwrought melodrama as the most iconic TV soaps. The major difference is that everything is being made up entirely on the spot.
The cast, including some well-known names in Sydney comedy and Giant Dwarf regulars, stay in character with amazing consistency, which means that they are able to craft a story with split-second timing that remains consistent and engaging even if it is ridiculous. The laughs come hard and fast, and there are only a few moments in which you can see these talented performers thinking about their next line or breaking character for a moment.
When not acting, the rest of the cast waits at the back of the stage, and it's fascinating to see them watching and waiting for a chance to jump in and set a plot twist in motion that they've formulated moments before. When this section of the show ended (on a cliffhanger, naturally) we wanted nothing more than for it to continue forever.
In the second half of the show, The Bear Pack, the duo of Carlo Ritchie and Steen Raskopoulos, took over to "spin a yarn." Based on audience suggestions, they told a story, acted entirely just by the two of them that splintered off in some very strange directions and ended up in a very unexpected place. Again, it was delight to see the performers formulate and scheme as they moved the story forward, even taking a couple of opportunities to rib one another and force each other into uncomfortable spots.
The Bear Pack's wild and woolly yarn was, surprisingly, far more chaotic than ITs' soap, but both halves of the show were brilliant exercises in fast thinking and storytelling.
And despite how hard it may seem to do what they do, it is ITs' motto that "anyone can act." If you like what you see on stage and feel that you can join in, they offer classes for people of all skill levels.
You can catch ITs at Giant Dwarf tomorrow night (March 12), performing Improv Without Borders for the Refugee Council of Australia. Grab tickets here. You can see ITs and The Bear Pack at Giant Dwarf on a regular basis; Check out Sydney Scoop's event listings further down the page.