By Suzanne Tate
After a brief introduction, the Impromptunes show started as most improvisational comedy of this nature does – with suggestions from the audience for show titles. The crowd was small tonight, only a few rows in the ETU Ballroom at the Trade Hall, and two voices stood out; ‘I’m Bankrupt’ and ‘How I fell in love with Chat GPT’. Since the previous night’s show had been about mass redundancies or something similarly financially depressing, they chose to go with the Chat GPT story line. And here is where this group differed from previous improv musical groups I has seen – they launched straight into the show, with not even a moment for consultation or planning. While there is no doubt that even a few minutes of discussion amongst the cast would no doubt improve the structure of the resulting show, this approach does show off the improvisational skill of the cast and the musicians. The overture began moments after the decision was made. The three-piece band, led by David Peake on keyboard, were extremely impressive. They created the mood for each song, each appropriate for the current moment of the improvised story. Peake would verbally guide the drummer and guitarist through microphone and earpiece, but despite sitting less than two metres from him, I could only just see his lips moving, none of his vocals reached the audience to distract from the show.
The Impromptunes first formed in 2013 and have performed at comedy festivals across Australia and Internationally, including Perth Fringe World, Adelaide Fringe, Bondi Festival and Edinburgh Fringe. The cast list seems quite fluid, with more actors listed on their website than appeared in the MICF show this weekend, with some of the cast not appearing on their website at all. A cast of 6 performed on Saturday, playing the roles of Mum and Dad, with sons Ronnie and Donnie, love interest Becky and Chat GPT personified. The topical storyline produced musical numbers including ‘Swipe Right’, ‘I’ll never meet anyone’, ‘He’s a little honey, that Donnie’ and ‘Because of Becky’. During the musical numbers it was also impressive to see dance routines also being improvised, with the cast following each other’s lead to develop, and then modify a routine, just as they did vocally. They even had the audience singing back-up vocals at one stage!
As Drama teachers, both my companion and I wondered about the troupes improvisational ‘rules’, as there often seemed to be less ‘offers’ being given than ‘demands’ being made, but these are questions that would not bother the majority of the audience and were understandable given the need to create the structure of a complete show and draw it to a conclusion in under an hour. There were times, as often happens in improv, when the show started to develop a life of its own and had to be pulled back by one of the cast to connect with the title.
This is first-and-foremost a comedy show, and a lot of the improv was played for laughs at the expense of story, but it was highly amusing. An unexpected gem was the accidental invention of the term ‘Kate-fishing’ which was then played to throughout the show, for many laughs. The show maintained a steady momentum, and the cast launched into musical numbers with zero hesitation, following every musical lead they were offered. The ability of the cast to improvise script, song lyrics and dance moves, and keep some level of control over the story, while presenting an entertaining comedy experience for the audience was impressive. I don’t think ‘How I Fell in Love with Chat GPT’ is going to win any Tony awards, but it made for a fun night out. The beauty of an improvised show is that it will be different every night, so Impromptunes is a great option whenever you have an hour to kill at 7:30 pm, throughout the festival.