Acting before thinking
Last night’s improv theatre was the best yet. Act Before You Think has been running a theatre competition for three weeks now. The first two weeks were often mediocre and cringe worthy – though entertaining. I think that’s a part of improv theatre. Last night’s show – with teams led by Sirraj Abdul Hamid and Dominic Keller – was actually excellent. The night was marred only by slightly insane judging, almost randomly putting Sirraj’s team down, a bummer that they had to work through. On the whole, however, wholly entertaining.
It’s a large space, the warehouse in Maradana. While the first theatre competition had a few empty seats, by now it is almost always full, if by full you mean taking up a fourth of the ginormous space. The space is such that you can get up and get food or deal with a whiny child without the traditional excuse me excuse me stumble of an ordinary theatre. The show had suffered from terrible sound the first two weeks, but now there are mics hanging from the ceiling and one can actually hear the dialogue.
A very funny girl is on stage, dry humping Sean Amarasekera. They’re playing the hitchhiker games and this is one of the character traits that the audience suggested. Sirraj is leading the opposing team as they, alternately, pantomime a scene where a protestor has climbed a pole, act out Mortal Kombat sound effects, and enact a scene where a father discovers a sons piercing and the family compares body parts and experiences.
The team of Dominic and Sean (mentioned because I know their names) ended up winning, and they were probably the better team. Their acting out of sound effects told a story – a team stuck on a life raft, alternately terrified, panicked and finally overjoyed. The girl on their team, whose name I cannot recall, was hilarious and a crowd favorite, during one scene even pulling out a funny portrayal of inapt politician/actress Paba out of a chaotic fight scene.
That said, they did not win entirely fairly. Not that they kneecapped their opponents, but that the judges did. One judge in particular, Ruwanthie De Chickera (a brilliant playwright and screen writer) gave almost random and often cruel scores, handicapping Sirraj’s team from the first round. They were given an undeserved 2/10 then and another undeserved 1/10 later, effectively putting them out of the running. Not that one could not deserve those scores, but they did not, and De Chickera’s scores were widely out of the range of the other judges. This cost the competition for that team and, worse for the audience, rather broke their spirit early.
Such are, however, the vagaries of live theatre. The troupe organizing the show – Mind Adventures – has, in the past, not hesitated to confuse its audience in order to try something new. From the abstract script of Fefu and Friends to the devised (made up as they went along) script for the Travelling Circus, their theatre has been getting more and more free-form. Improv is perhaps the culmination of that. These Act Before You Think competitions have also been building towards something, the final next Thursday. As each show has gotten better, this should be great. I recommend.