Playback Impro

Five actors in their pyjamas create a show from audience anecdotes, bringing them to life with their expressions, postures and words. The idea of playback impro is simple: audience members tell stories and which the actors reflect back to them in a particular style. Production company A Drunken Sailor made it seem like an easy task. But how do you become an angry wasp? You grab a stool, place it on your forehead and start chasing the target with it of course. The performance was spontaneous, ingenious and thoroughly entertaining.

One hour was way too short for this treat.

The cast proved to be solid professionals. The five strong London-based group were Julia Munrow, Kelda Holmes, Chloe Conquest, Nathan Allenby and Roderich Millan – a good mix of experience and playful enthusiasm. If I had to pick a favourite, it was young Chloe. The performance of the night goes to Kelda for her hilarious drunken Irish women, but there are no weak links. It’s evident from the quality of the performance that group have been working together for over a year.

Different formations and styles kept it interesting and soon we got used to the impro lingo: ‘short form’ is a brief moment in life, ‘free form’ means the actors decide the style and so on. We had normal chorus, diamond chorus, split chorus, pairs, and what not, with styles ranging from horror to opera. I still feel out of breath just thinking about it. Wearing identical pyjamas was a stroke of genius. It acted as an ice-breaker, dissolved gender and age, and guided the audience to the world of bedtime stories.

We were fortunate to have a selection of really funny stories from the audience - a 21st birthday party where a guy dressed as a caterpillar decides to drink a bottle of expensive perfume. Or a girl who cuts off her great grandmother’s plait with scissors and places the hair on her doll. The loose theme seemed to circle around childhood misdemeanours. The show ended in an amazing medley, which formed an absurd yet intriguingly coherent narrative.

Those audience members who don’t like to be involved can rest easy as well. There is no hackling or pressure to perform. But most were more than happy to see their memory played back to them. This was one of the few shows at the Brighton Fringe that I really didn’t want to end. One hour was way too short for this treat. There are still two more chances to catch the show at the Quadrant. It’s free and the afternoon matinee time means that kids can go too. So what are you waiting for? It doesn’t get any better than this.

Reviews by Johanna Makelainen

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The Blurb

Playback can be funny, sad, silly, moving, amazing... and always about you. 'Playback Impro' plays back moments and stories taken from the audience on the spot. Come and tell a story or moment from your life and actors will play it back... or sit back and let others tell theirs. Interactive if you want it to be but no compulsion to join in. Totally spontaneous live theatre with the audience as the star.

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