Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Completely Improvised Potter, April 4, 2017 **

In Completely Improvised Potter, the cast improvise a new narrative based on the characters in the Harry Potter books. 
Melbourne International Comedy Festival
By D.A. -Australian act, improvised theatre 
At Trades Hall, The Meeting Room, until April 23, 2017 
Star Review: ** 
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Review also published in Herald Sun Arts on April 5, 2017. KH
If you are an improvisation expert or a Harry Potter purist, this 50-minute improvised story may turn your Dumbledore-style beard grey.

In Completely Improvised Potter, seven performers make up a new story based on the narrative style, characters, relationships and themes of J K Rowling’s books.

The starting point for their original, improvised play is the title of an as-yet-unwritten Harry Potter novel that they pull out of a ‘goblet of fire’ filled with audience suggestions. Tonight’s title is Harry Potter and the Trumpet. Yeah, they could have inserted a useful word such as ‘enchanted’ or ‘cursed’, but the details of this trumpety tale are now the responsibility of the players.

Snape must rehearse the Hogwarts’ Orchestra to play his original composition at the Yule Ball, but none of the students can play an instrument, Voldemort lurks around the castle doing nasty, sexual things with Nargini the snake, and Harry behaves like a bit of a whinging smart alec.

The youthful audience laughs at absurd or familiar character traits such as Harry’s smugness, his constant attention seeking and continual whining about his dead parents. They chortle at Snape’s sliminess, at Dumbledore’s weirdly piping voice and camp demeanour and at Neville’s adolescent crush on Harry.

Unfortunately, this show looks and sounds like a very bumpy student show, so do not expect high quality improvisational technique or acting and vocal skill. Improvising a full-length play is not child’s play and it requires enormous skill and extensive technique. This cast might be better at improvising shorter scenes that are easier to control.

The performers break just about every improvisational rule: the narrative is inconsistent and lacks a clear through-line, the performers block each other’s offers, they don’t advance the action and rely too heavily on gags for their laughs, and these interrupt the advancement of the story.

They laugh at each other and at their own jokes, they are often inaudible, the performances lack dynamic range and there is little physicality, a problem that makes the staging static and visually uninspiring.

Despite its obvious flaws, Completely Improvised Potter is a cheerful, playful evening for those who know the Potter books. We can only hope that D.A. got the performance rights from Rowling – because she’ll find out! Expelliarmus!

By Kate Herbert

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