Audiences boarded HMAS Diamantina (20 May) for the final showing of ‘Kiss of the Vampire Squid’ by Act/React Theatre as part of the Anywhere Theatre Festival.
The performers came out with lanterns and moved among the audience in the dark, playfully ribbing or complimenting, getting everybody in the mood for some laughter. The energy was high as they mocked each other, riffing their way to great one-liners and collected suggestions from the audience for what would be the bones of this night’s impromptu never-to-be-repeated performance. They were given 'Tyrone', 'Envy' and 'Sea Horse' and thus a voyage of plot discovery and unplanned hysterics began.
Comedy improv groups are a special kind of performers, even stand-ups craft their material before going before an audience, nervous to see what will land. Improv performers have their techniques and old stand-bys, but each performance they come up everything on the spot having no idea where the night will take them and needing to trust their co-stars. The idea of attempting to do something good out of these circumstances is something to marvel at, let alone the fact that these guys and gals never fail to pull it off.
It is true, sometimes the energy dipped from that rousing opening as the bones of the plot had be navigated and built upon. Some stars made a bigger impact and some plot lines never went anywhere but that is part of walking the tightrope. A finale with the Queen of England at Royal Ascot with an unexpected tragic ending brought all of it together as if that was the plan all along.
Along the way, ignorance was celebrated, we found out America is an island with a Princess, Morse code is not a language and the lost love of a lobster stays with you. With a tasteful smattering of meta observations that would make Deadpool proud, this was a show that had you grinning from ear to ear if not slapping your thighs rocking with laughter.
The old ship of the Royal Australian Navy made for a fun location and was suitably dark and intimate which created the best conditions for these shows. Rarely noises could be heard far off on the Goodwill Bridge, but under the tarpaulin, the audience were in their own little world. Lighting and music was used throughout with great timing, the crew members reacting as much in the moment as those speaking. Some of the props while never losing that home-made aesthetic were downright enchanting and more than effective, including two bickering fish and glowing jellyfish.
Throughout, a few songs got made up on the spot, a certain joy came from watching people throw their fellow performers under the bus to sing to them including a very insistent narrator. So it seemed appropriate that a sea shanty was how the evening ended with the whole audience singing along.
No Vampire Squids were sighted on this voyage but one very entertaining show presented by some great comedic talent was enjoyed by all.