The Improv Conspiracy – 3 Mad Rituals

By Elyce Phillips Improv 3 Mad Rituals

For the past few years, The Improv Conspiracy has been establishing itself as the company to see for longform improv. In 3 Mad Rituals, a team of fabulous performers take on a marathon of longform formats, displaying both incredible stamina and a talent for pulling comedy gold from seemingly thin air.

3 Mad Rituals is a 90 minute behemoth of improvised comedy. The players take part in three “rituals” designed by Del Close (a legendary performer and director at Second City) – Deconstruction, The Movie, and The Harold – all working from the one suggestion. In the Improv Conspiracy’s version, the suggestion is taken from a line of poetry called out from the audience. On the night I attended, it was Emily Dickinson’s “Hope is a thing with feathers”.

First up is the Deconstruction – a series of short scenes playing off an initial opener.  Performers Andrew Strano and Andrew Watt showed that they also had drama chops, starting things with a brutally emotional scene about a father caring for his drug-addicted son while he gets clean. The rest of the crew then skilfully created comedic scenes based on this relationship.

Following this was The Movie, in which the team created a half-hour “film”, complete with suggested camera and lighting instructions. From the embers of the preceding half-hour, they created ‘Noah and the Mecha-Angel’, an anime-style take on the biblical story, featuring Hayley Tantau and Mario Hannah as a pair of extremely unproductive water demons, intent on destroying the world but failing to do much about it.

Finally was The Harold, a long-form staple of The Improv Conspiracy. Here, things got a little hit and miss. A series of scenes about a murderous husband strayed into uncomfortable territory, with the dark subject matter not getting enough laughs to feel justifiable. However, there were also bright spots. Broni Lisle’s performance as a magician facing discrimination from his community was hilarious, as was Dan Pavatich as the nation of Chad, who inexplicably spoke fluent Japanese.

3 Mad Rituals is a wonderful opportunity to check out some of Improv Conspiracy’s strongest performers testing their skills in a gruelling format. Keeping a captive audience with a 90 minutes show that starts at 10:15pm is a tall order, but the team well and truly accomplished it, keeping the room in stitches for the duration.

3 Mad Rituals is on at The Improv Conspiracy – Theatre until October 3

Quiet Achievers

By Elyce PhillipsQuiet Achievers

Melbourne has always had a strong improv scene. All year round, there’s a good range of groups you can see in any given week. However, while the nature of improv means you’re getting something different every time, you often see the same games and formats time and time again. So it’s wonderfully refreshing when you can see new, riskier concepts being tried out. In Quiet Achievers, Charlie Sturgeon and Andrew Strano perform completely silent improv, taking inspiration from a randomized selection of 500 music tracks. This is spontaneous comedy stripped down to its basest principles.

Sturgeon and Strano make a great team. Sturgeon has a knack for bringing heart to a scene and often directs stories to unexpected places.  Strano is a fearless and talented physical comic, unfailingly bringing the silly and occasionally getting weirdly sexual. The restriction of communication led to some confusing scenes where it wasn’t entirely clear what was going on, however, Sturgeon and Strano’s performances are strong enough that you’re still laughing, even when you’re baffled. It’s a style of comedy that’s infectiously likeable. Most of the audience got involved at various points in the show, and no-one broke the pact of silence. For that hour, we were all mimes.

One of the great benefits of this show is the fact that the silent performance makes it friendly to the Deaf community – part of a fantastic trend we’re seeing this year of more shows becoming accessible to the hearing impaired.  Quiet Achievers would also be a fantastic pick for non-English speakers. By taking speech out of the equation, Sturgeon and Strano present comedy that is near-universal, drawing on expressions of emotion that we are all familiar with.

Quiet Achievers is a delightfully different show that all fans of improv should go and check out. The performers may be silent, but the laughs are loud.

Quiet Achievers is on at The Tuxedo Cat until April 4

For Tickets and Bookings check the MICF Website: