‘Trade’ is a warm blanket of humour, mutual support and love that sweeps over the Visy Theatre and envelops all in a joyous telling of the truth of the human condition.
From beginning to end it is a sheer delight that reminds us of the power that comes from being open and positive.
It’s funny too, damn funny – because that’s what people, relationships and sex are…Funny…Heartbreaking…Comforting…And real.
‘Trade’ presented by ImproMafia and Corporate Theatre is one of the stand-out shows at this year’s MELT Festival of Queer Arts and Culture.
If you’re familiar with the format of improvised comedy, especially as practiced by ImproMafia, then some things will surprise here. First of all there are no call outs to the audience for suggestions that will define the show, this one is intended as an anthology piece and the first scene is set up with props immediately on stage and a situation ready to go.
There are still shout-outs to the audience to engage and give suggestions but it comes and goes as necessary.
Setting the tone, most scenes are set up by a performer recounting a story from one of their relationships before it is played out on stage. This creates a great sense of vulnerability and good will, the audience is sharing in something personal with the performer.
The laughs come thick and fast with each performer bringing something special.
Amy Driscoll, who often fades into the background of other ImproMafia productions, stands here front and centre as the heart of the show. She patiently builds the scaffolding for her fellow performers and shows great dramatic chops, proving unafraid to play scenes seriously.
This gives depth to the show as a whole, and she is not alone in wanting to share all kinds of stories from the LGBTQ+ perspective. She’s also pretty damn funny too.
Mark Grimes taken away from a keyboard is a revelation as a performer easily adept at following his co-stars down a good path or throwing a spanner in the works.
Tom Dunstan, who is well-known for his cherry-on-top punchlines that can close scenes, here shows a more somber side, and effortlessly rescues narratives not with wit but with his heart.
Gabby Carbon holds her own with the four other performers equally able to roll with the jokes or play it down.
Which brings us to Ryan Goodwin, who was pretty damn good in ‘Heartfelt High’ but here seems to be enjoying himself with a glee that is infectious. He runs the gamut in this show between being awkwardly embarrassed, portraying genuine affection in his love scenes to displaying Mack-Daddy supreme confidence in an impromptu strip scene that brought the house down. No matter what he was doing, he was effortlessly loveable throughout.
Through their several parody shows, ImproMafia have proven they can make you laugh, in the high tension environment of coming up with that laugh their pauses even feel in service to making the comedy better when it arrives.
Yet ‘Trade’ might be their best show ever, and it might be because their performers here are doing something more personal and heartfelt.
Friday night was seemingly full of colleagues, friends, family and fans which built this communal feeling of love and support in the theatre. It would be nice to believe that such an atmosphere will exist any night the show runs, because that goodwill will be present in every audience and the performers won’t fail to make use of it. That is a comforting thought and one we can hope to be proven true with the return of ‘Trade’ in the near future.