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October 10, 2009 | by  | in Theatre | [ssba]

Off The Map

Hey people, when you review improv there isn’t much point actually reviewing content in the same way you do with that fancy “scripted” theatre that Uther Dean reviews. Instead, the things that are important are about the way the improv troupe utilizes the format and interacts with each other. Form over filling, if you will. You need the filling to be able to see the form, but it’s not that important.

The nuts and bolts of Christchurch improv troupe the Court Jesters show Off the Map are this: It was a long form piece based around a small New Zealand town (Friendly Springs) and the characters that lived in it. Story strands involving different characters comfortably interwove into a town shaking conclusion involving a flaccid clock being used to save a family from a giant cabbage.

What I really enjoyed about watching the Court Jesters at work, was how quickly they could snap between scenes. To transition, an improviser would literally run onto the stage, calling an end to a scene merely by his presence, the other improvisers would immediately vacate the stage unless they were grabbed by the new improviser.

I know this doesn’t sound like much of an innovation, but the conceits speed and cleanliness was at odds to the often muddied change overs that I see in most improvisation. A high stakes manoeuvre to be sure, I felt that the transition could only work because the troupe itself had such an implicit trust with each other that could only come from a large volume of quality play time together.

As for the actual interaction of the troupe, they were both very real and very amusing. While there were gags for gags sake, the world the Jesters formed was one of solid characters and relationships, who while inherently amusing (a fry cook/part time stripper who’s in love with a 75 year old man), surprisingly managed to touch me in my emotional special area. Part of this had to come from the precision that the Jesters assumed their characters. Javier Jarquin was especially effective at this with both a one note gay poet character who bloomed into an emotion fulcrum in a story about domestic abuse, and a clock tower worker who forces his father into happiness.

That’s right, the Court Jesters, managed to take domestic violence and work it into a funny story that didn’t mock the horror of that situation. This was a very successful show by a really tight troupe.

The Court Jesters Present Off The Map was part of the New Zealand Improv Festival 2009, presented on Friday 9th Of October at Bats Theatre.


About the Author ()

Nic Sando is a god amongst men, fifteen fathoms high he be, with strange and wyrd powers at his disposal. Only a fool won't harken his ears to the east when he hears The Sando man stumping his way.

Comments (1)

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  1. Jan Adams says:

    Yes – Court Jesters do rock!!! They’re F.A.B. – wonderful people, great tutors and inspirational all round!! Glad Wellington recognises this and enjoyed the show.

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