Californians Dreamin’

Californias Dreamin’, performed by California Poly SLO’s company Smile and Nod, comprises a mixture of short and long form improvisation, based on audience suggestions.

The group failed to develop any initial absurdity, landing themselves in a stalemate where performers were too scared to do anything particularly daring that might move the scenario forward

This particular show began with a single suggestion based on the prompt “a recurring nightmare”, without any real introductions or warming up of the audience as one might expect in this sort of show. The first suggestion, “being naked at school”, turned into a painful and drawn-out long form improvisation, with very little material to sustain the fifteen-odd minutes of this single opening scene. The group failed to develop any initial absurdity, landing themselves in a stalemate where performers were too scared to do anything particularly daring that might move the scenario forward. Nor did any of the improvisers have the confidence to cut the scene when they realised it wasn’t going anywhere. Instead, the group chose to neglect their audience by letting the scene drag on, with its awkward pauses, unconvincing scenario and excessive references to humour points that simply don’t translate well across the pond.

Trying to start a show with such little material and such a long scene was never going to be a successful idea; even the most experienced of improvisers would run out of steam. It was a real pity that this is how they chose to open, as it immediately alienates the audience.

The second half of the show did pick up, moving into a slightly more manageable format with frequent scene changes. Bouncing off the prompt “being in a plane crash”, they managed to create some very entertaining scenes about two trainee pilots unleashed on a Boeing-747 for the first time, an aggressive air steward victimising the unsuspecting man in seat 7B. This section saw some amusing scenarios and cut ins, making real progress on a very feeble first half. However, the improvisers still refused to pick out the absurdities of scenarios and miss out on some very obvious choices, making it seem like they weren’t 100% committed to what they were doing.

Although it did improve as the performers found their feet, Californias Dreamin’ does feel like the amateur fumblings in improvisation, indulging in too much campus humour. They didn’t seem particularly aware of their demographic and what kind of humour might appeal to their audience, leading to a very studenty, and not particularly universal in its appeal. Fine for college comedy, but for a £10 show, it’s really not worth the money.

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Performances

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The Blurb

Join us in this comedic exploration of the subconscious narrative taking audience suggestions which fuel the action onstage. A different show created each night. Sit back, relax, and dream on. Presented by a renowned student-run college improv team from California. ‘Truly hilarious throughout’ (TheNewCurrent.com). ‘Brilliant… Slick and imaginative… Genuinely funny’ (BroadwayBaby.com).

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