Keith Johnstone is a pioneer of improvisational theatre who is responsible for many of the core concepts which have been adopted by impro companies worldwide.
Though 'Theatresports' may be his chef-d'oeuvre, there are two other formats he is responsible for called 'Maestro' and 'Gorilla Theatre'. Being great ambassadors of Keith’s stylings, Brisbane’s ImproMafia decided to ape the most complicated of the two for some shows at the Metro Arts Theatre.
The rules of 'Gorilla Theatre' are more convoluted than many 'Theatresports' games which are often built on simple concepts that can often be summed up in one sentence. The ensemble on stage were made up of a series of experienced improvisers in Cam Percy, Ryan Goodwin, Jim Reynolds, Alisdair Cameron and Chris Spensley, an unnamed player in a gorilla suit and the illustrious Robert Patrick Zosars on keyboard.
Each scene saw a player taking the role of Director while the other players did what they could to make it a reality. Each director had their own predetermined one-sentence description and genre which would frame each scene they created throughout the night. For example, Jim twisted his mantra of “there’s no I in team” to create a scene where two blind doctors performed surgery on the gorilla, justifying it via a homonym. Afterwards, the audience would decide whether to award the director a banana or a forfeit by the medium of shouting.
It was framed as a competition, though as is often the way with impro, the scores are essentially meaningless. Shortly after realising that the results of the forfeits were far more entertaining than simply awarding a player a banana, I opted to shout forfeit for every scene that followed.
Whether it meant the player had to run around the theatre shouting about how awful their scene was or allowing an audience member to leave them a voicemail with feedback on the scene, there’s nothing like a good bit of schadenfreude to up the ante.
The format felt a little clunky at first as the opening scenes were particularly short-lived and the convoluted nature of the rules took a while for the audience to get their heads around. The raucous nature of the crowd threatened to derail some scenes, especially when the shouts were funnier than what was happening on stage. However as things progressed, the players seemed to find their stride, and the whole format began to come into its own.
A scene that hinged on the film 'Die Hard' played by someone who’s never seen it, a battle between drag queens and homophobic aliens and a re-enactment of 'Snakes On A Plane' from the snakes' perspective were some definite highlights.
As ever with impro, it’s an unpredictable format where the excitement lies in the unknown and this particular format demands a hell of a lot from the players who partake. The pace was relentless; switching between styles with such haste left your head spinning. The result was sometimes hilarious, sometimes shambolic, but always entertaining.