Vancouver International Improv Festival
It’s 8 o’clock on a cold Tuesday evening and the majority of downtown Vancouver has already fallen silent. However, a crowd gathers at the Roundhouse Theatre in Yaletown for an evening of laughter... By Jason Lam and Nataly Richardson
It’s 8 o’clock on a cold Tuesday evening and the majority of downtown Vancouver has already fallen silent. However, a crowd gathers at the Roundhouse Theatre in Yaletown for an evening of laughter; an evening of improv! It is the 9th Annual Vancouver International Improv Festival kick-off with a Showcase Spectacular. And for 2 bucks a pop, it’s safe to say that we were indubitably spoiled rotten! Featuring great improvisers from all over the continent who will be performing throughout the festival, the showcase was broken into two acts, each featuring completely different ensembles of actors. The first half was much along the lines of your run of the mill “Who’s Line is it Anyway” format, relying heavily on audience feedback and prompts to set up scenes. The set included several favourites such as, tap out, Oscar moments, four square (rotate stage left/right), and a game called teleprompter where Jason and another audience member were invited on stage to mouth lines that they would interpret and use as part of their scene. Set favourites included Al Connors with his variety of characters and clever mannerisms (and his Dave Grohl-esque gotee), Julie Dumais’ strong stage presence and ever-changing personality, and Sarah and Ken’s improvisation of an adorable Québécois girl (Sarah), who gives into her addiction and thus consumes a personified poutine (Ken). The second act brought a more dramatic ambience with a game called Ghost Train in which random scenes would be improvised, interspersed with various queries on life presented as individual monologues. Highlights included the spectacles of Arlen Konopaki’s overly expressive face as a terminally ill child, a number of creative and witty characters from Chris Blair, a brilliant monologue on invalids by Stephen Sim, and a picnic party with three grown men with British accents, a jar of jam, a blanket with a hole in it, and pickles! Overall, the entire evening exceeded my expectations. The dynamic mix of personalities each actor brought with them added to a diverse experience with each new scene (not to mention the background music added by their very own keyboardist!). Needless to say, we look forward to the rest of the festival! Seldom will you get to see such great improv acts of this calibre in Vancouver. While you won`t be able to get in the next few nights with just a toonie, you can still bank on the experience being well worth your money.
The Vancouver International Improv Festival. Roundhouse Theatre in Yaletown, October 7-11, 2008.