MicetroReview by Richard Thomson
WIT (Wellington Improvisation Troupe)
7pm (90 minutes)
Capital E (Bookings 04 913 3720)
Full $15, Concession $12, Six or more $12
It's poor form as a reviewer to admit to ignorance – but it was quickly clear that this sorry condition put me in a small minority among the audience of improvised comedy show Micetro.
For actors, heading on stage to whip up some semblance of enthusiasm for audience participation must usually be as attractive as swimming Cook Strait without a wetsuit. But not here. Clearly, the audience knew the score: anything and everything we say merely fuels the fire of imminent humiliation that burns around each of the players. And, most important, we get to choose who wins!
Who wouldn't happily chant "Wooooooo!" on demand in those circumstances?
Of course, that didn't stop people from coming up with some remarkably lame suggestions for the players to work to. Asian languages, anyone? Gynecology? Fortunately, compere Ryan Hartigan drew the line.
For those who don't know, nine players compete by improvising stories and songs. The audience grades their efforts and those who score lowest are progressively eliminated, until only the winner remains.
So it's a given that there will be some gruesome attempts at humour, and even uglier excuses for songs. There is banal pathos and – among some players – an inexcusable proclivity for resorting to violence when the going gets tough.
There are also some very, very witty lines, moments of true inspiration of the kind that leave you thinking, where did that come from? And I know I wasn't the only one wondering. Watching Hartigan's entire body crumple with laughter was an inspiration in itself. Lord knows how many of these things he must have put himself through, and he's still getting that incredulous look on his face.
Micetro, then, is for anyone who has ever wondered why they should bother to go to the theatre when they could catch a movie or stay home on the couch with the telly. If theatre is all about what's happening in the room, right now, improvised shows tighten the clamps another few turns. It's not just that no one really knows what's going to happen next (least of all the person currently speaking, you suspect).
I think for me the true miracles occurred when somehow, suddenly and without warning, the actors would find they'd created for themselves little worlds of real complexity and depth. A bit like the old joke about monkeys, typewriters and Hamlet, or the idea that order emerges from chaos.
It's moments like these, you suspect, that keep both actors and audience coming back for more.