Friday 31 January 2014

IMPRO Amsterdam 2014: Day 3

Day 3. It’s cold outside. So very cold. Supplies of food at basecamp are getting low. We’re more than half way through the quest. But it feels like we still have so far to go. I will see it through. After all this is only an improv festival not an Arctic expedition.

On the wall of the bar in the Compagnie Theatre (or in Dutch, Compagnietheater) are projected a collection of intriguing stills and vines-length video clips of great physical work. This collection grows every day. It’s a great way to be reminded of some of the best moments: The Austrian opening of the Vatican cupboard, the Mexican octopus are both there.

DeTales IMPRO Amsterdam
Picture via IMPRO Amsterdam
The first half today was another high concept but low faff format, called “DeTales” (pronounced "details" as opposed to the Dutch "De Taalez"). On a table at one side of the stage is an improvised (i.e. invisible) 3D holographic model of the area where the story is set. The players use this model, expanding it, zooming into show you where the action is happening and give you an idea of how things are connected. I enjoyed that. The story was a very good but slightly confusing tale of a haunted house and its new owners and terrible past. A little less story and a little more playing the scenes would have made it great. But that’s my whole ethos towards storytelling in improv. The fun isn’t in the story, the story is what takes the fun places and it’ll pretty much do it on its own if you let it.

As ever, the Mexican contingent had a lot to teach about physicalising the world around us. What I learnt, which I don’t think I ever realised before, is that for miming long objects, like a broom, mop or extended paintbrush, another player miming just the end is super effective. Especially when hoder and object end are really working together.

Snatch Comedy
Picture via IMPRO Amsterdam
The second half was from the Irish gang, Snatch. Once upon a time, the wildcard at the Amsterdam festival would be a team from Central America or a duo or a group that brings in an outside artform, such as dance. Nowadays its a short from group.

Snatch do old school shortform with a high degree of skill and energy. The runlist consisted of old favourites and I was disappointed there wasn’t a big rousing song at the end. Partly because the stereotype in my brain says all the Irish can sing like angels, but also I’m pretty sure I heard a couple of them singing in an earlier show in a way that confirmed the stereotype.

The high point for me was the superb sound effects skills of Adrian, which were evident in previous shows but given full reign to show how a tai chi grandmaster would cope with parachuting behind enemy lines - the enemy partly consisting of birds. I’m a tough person to please with shortform, but I enjoyed it. It was solid and energetic, but I would love to have felt they were pushing themselves for a festival that is used to groups pushing at least one boundary.

I missed out on the late show with a cast of international refugees (or foreign improvisers here on their own without a group) doing a thing called Around The World and so ducked off to catch up on some of that sleep stuff and try to convince the wife she’s a yet a full-blown improv widow.

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