Directed by Oliver Burton
Kings Cross Theatre
244-248 Williams Street, Kings Cross
Season: 3 – 20 August
For many people, the prospect of performing in a play is enough to garner a little stage fright. Take away the script, and the notion of improvising an entire play is just frightful. This gives you brimming appreciation for the Post-Haste Players, who decide for some unknown reason to perform for audiences not only without a script, but also virtually in a different language - Shakespearean verse and prose. Every night before the show, the audience is asked to propose a different made-up word and its meaning, to be chosen and championed as the topical springboard for the evening’s performance. These are brave creatives. How exciting.
Improvised theatre is often seen to be synonymous with comedy, thanks to the likes of Whose Line is it Anyway and Theatre Sports. But all it really means is that the performers are creating theatre off the cuff, with no pre-conceived ideas about how it will turn out. Admittedly, before seeing the show I anticipated it would take more of a comedic route. I did have to adjust when the show was instead aiming for truthful storytelling - albeit light-hearted storytelling – rather than for laughs. At the performance I attended, the performers were Anna Le Her, Anne Wilson, Ewan Campbell, Linette Voller and Oliver Burton. They were all so articulate and quick-witted that I wasn’t sure how much of the show was improvised, wondering if a general outline had been pre-planned. It was only when I spotted some of the actors gesticulating to each other back stage, trying to work out who would go on stage next, that I was assured they actually were making it up as they went along. As much as this is a bold challenge to undertake, my hesitance to identify the performances as improvisation, I think is linked to a dulled thrill as an observer. In theatre sports, the audience is continually reminded of the framework of every game and directly involved in the shaping of the next scene. We see the actors transform into and out of innumerable characters, and we are hyper-aware of their theatrical risk-taking. I think because the Post-Haste Players’ process is so much more subtle and the actors are seriously good at improvising, this experience is somehow reduced. Talk about being too skilled for your own good.
With no overarching writer, this is undoubtedly a collaborative process. Each and every actor contributes to the unveiling plot, not to mention the audience members who set the agenda in the first place. The sound and lighting ‘improvisers’ make a notable contribution in changing the tone of the tale as well. Lighting design by Matt Cox allows for shifting hues, orchestrated by Bokkie Robertson and Lila Neiswanger. Bryce Halliday is a whiz with his inspired sound creations, invoking the use of a gamut of sounds and instruments and manipulating voice for an eerie effect. These creatives demonstrate impeccable listening and instinct to respond to the actors’ spontaneity. It’s a very impressive collective effort.
Go along to the show and you’ll receive a totally different tale to the one I witnessed. This requires a trusting embrace of the concept by all involved. The Post-Haste Players are throwing themselves into the menacing crevasse of improvised theatre night after night. So take a chance, jump with them, and see what happens. It could be magic – never seen before, and never to be seen again.