Here’s a Thing! NZIF Kickoff
Directed by: Jennifer O’Sullivan
BATS Theatre, 9th Oct 2019
Reviewed by: Madelaine Empson
“Who’s got a thing?” asks New Zealand Improv Festival (NZIF) director and tonight’s vibrant MC Jennifer O’Sullivan. “I’ve got a thing!” eight improvisors respond enthusiastically in turn. Cam Percy, Daniel Allan, George Fenn, Jason Geary, Katherine Weaver, Lyndon Hood, Liz Butler, and Tara McEntee all step up over the course of this casual but well-run show. After a brief ‘interview’ with O’Sullivan, in which the amusingly underprepared candidates haphazardly detail their upcoming NZIF shows, they propose and direct their fellow cast members in an improv game.
Audiences are treated to a pop-up storybook, a monologue from a superhero, a conversation made up entirely of the word “mate”, and much more. Familiarity isn’t a requisite; each game is explained clearly and concisely by its director, and of course, nothing in improv is ever the same.
For example, one scene tonight features Weaver, Hood, Geary, and Fenn. After accepting obscure audience suggestions – spoon, teacher, rollercoaster, and cat – they each take turns outlining the way their characters die. Links between characters are quickly and cleverly woven and in the end, the reapers responsible are a loose screw, a stuffy backpack, a handle in a heart, and height. What we’re witnessing then is something that will never happen again. It’s a special feeling for those in the room. Great improv deepens bonds with people we know and forges bonds with people we don’t. This is great improv.
O’Sullivan expertly oversees the show, ensuring it runs smoothly and doesn’t derail. Individual directors are also quick to step in when needed, with fast thinking from improvisors on the sidelines sprinkling hilarity to stop things falling flat. Fenn running past as a skyscraper is one such moment.
I find myself craving more throwbacks to characters and situations from previous scenes throughout the night, but overall, this Thing! is a rollicking good time. Our improvisors are equally matched in talent, wit, and alacrity, dolling out delicious tasters of what is bound to be a brilliant festival.