The final performance of 2009 year for the Court Jesters and what utter perfection is was. For those over the globe who don't know what Scared Scriptless is, let me explain. For nineteen years a 'troupe' of improvisers create and delight each and every Friday for their audience scenes made up out of thin-air. Simple in concept, but this show is no little hum-drum-tiny-out-the-back of a shady bar affair. These are improvisers at the top of their game in New Zealand. This is a show which has added shows on a Saturday night to keep up demand, it always sells out it 'usual' home of The Forge and this year as even filled to just under 300 people a per show some of the weeks.

I must admit, I am not one of the biggest fan of improvised comedy, don't get me wrong, I appreciate the skill and the quick-witted nature of the performers but for me, it may just be a little too risky but clearly hundreds of people a week mean they are doing something right. Javier Jarquin kicked off the night with a quick and brief rundown of the history and snazzy stand-up routine and the audience clearly are in tonight for the laughs, Javier has a great relationship with his audience which continued throughout the night, the audience are like play-doh in his hands, he is charming, crass, giving and very quick. For this review, I will detail the stand out scenes and performers, so here we go...

What the...?
Alice Canton was the lucky (or is that unlucky) one to be chosen to leave the theatre where the audience would choose a celebrity, gift and a country for it to be delivered to. However there was twist, while Alice was out of the theatre the audience and other players were told there would in fact be none of this, all Alice had to say was "What the f*** is going on" Alice entered and the chaos ensued. Over the next ten minutes Alice endured being shamed by her mother, meeting Napoleon, Crucified, watched another jester strip (Jeff Clark must be commended for this and the sheer courage that was in the decision worked a treat) Alice was also swung about, stood in the dark, had chairs flying around her and a multitude of other things that would fit perfectly in a Reality TV show. The highlight however, when Miss Canton did end up saying the phrase the audience erupted and a good chunk of the audience gave her a standing ovation and a standing ovation in many respects is rare in New Zealand.

Dowdy Monologue
After the sheer insanity of the last scene, came a touching, honest and deep-ish monologue from Daniel Pengelly, his concept was he was writing in his diary, his audience suggestion, dowdy. What came next was impressive. Some of the funniest humour comes from sheer tragedy and the down-play of situations and Daniel clearly understands this. As he sat their writing in his little diary he told the story of a 87kg, twelve year old aspiring cricketer who is constantly eating desert from his parents that they bring home every night. There were moments of poignancy where the audience could hear a pin drop flipped with that loud eruptions of laughter. The timing, perfect. The concept and idea of Jarquins, unique. The result, a very touching 5 minutes that could of been scripted by one of the many contemporary playwrights of today.

Xmas Carols mash-up
Along with all The Players two musicians also graced the stage. This part of the show saw two geniuses at work. Given four Christmas Carols from the audience they mashed them up, off the top of their heads and it worked. It worked so much that each and every member of the audience was pretty much speechless, they mixed it with heavy bass, techno, traditional styling and every other genre under the sun, oh and the songs? Away in a Manger, Silent Night, Snoopy's Christmas and Jingle Bells.

Imagine the simple theme of puberty and you have to put it into a Bollywood musical. Two polar opposite ideas which combined to create a wonderful ten minutes. Emma Brittenden and Matt Powell were are two star-crossed lovers from different worlds, thrust together while buying cocaine in the market square. Both these players clearly understood the genre and the treatment which these types of movies get given. They were nothing short of wonderful.

Surprise Finale
Just because they improvise doesn't mean that they can't do other theatrical jaunts, many of the other cast members are actors, dancers and singers and tonight the dancing aspect was shown off to full glory. The entire company under the guidance and choreography of Sandra Rasmussen pulled out a vibrant, energetic and spectacular rendition of 'Jai Ho' which received yet another mini ovation. This was the highlight of the night, if ever there was doubt that this crew didn't love what they did, it was dispelled during this routine. Each and every member smiled and gave it there all, the fun that was being had on stage simply overwhelmed the audience and they too were sucked in.

Along with the Jesters mentioned above each player had part to play on the night and to mention them all would make this already long review longer. But lets just put it this way, each player has a clear understanding of what works, what they make work and where they stand in the scheme of things. Emma Cusdin with her inappropriate Smurfette, Kirsty with her physicality, Kathleen with her intelligent, smutty humour, Dan Bain with his energy all the the Jesters came together on the night to create, a strong team, yes, a very strong team indeed and this is where they excel. These guys and gals are talented and given a free stage to do what ever they want it works, previous shows 'performed' by the Jesters at earlier times and with given genres have struggled to find an audience, but maybe the only ones who know who their audience are, are the Jesters and maybe they should be the ones coming up with concepts rather than being given them.

Many times we can look at improvisation as something that takes a backseat to the "real" theatre such as drama, comedies or musicals but looking around the 200 plus audience that night the average age would of been somewhere in the twenties and should we not be getting these people in to any type of theatre or arts? Scared Scriptless is getting young people interested in theatre and the potential that lies in it and for that reason alone the Court Jesters can hold their heads high feel proud and realise that they are doing what many theatres could only dream of! This was a show on this chosen night was of such a high calibre that it could easily of been scripted and you could be forgiven for thinking it was. Again, Unscripted Perfection. Perfection! Perfection! Perfection!

The cast features: Alice Canton, Andrew Todd, Ben Allen, Brendan Bennetts, Daniel Allen, Daniel Bain, Daniel Pengelly, Eli Matthewson, Emma Brittenden, Emma Cusdin, Hamish Parkinson, Jarvier Jarquin, Jeff Clark, Kathleen Burns, Kirsty Gillespie (Manager), Matt Powell, Michael Bell, Ralph, McCubbin-Howells, Robbie Hunt, Scott Koorey, Vanessa Wells.

Scared Scriptless returns early January 2010 at 10pm every Friday night. Adults $15 Students $12.

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From This Author Tim Bain

Tim Bain has been working in professional theatre for four years but recently left it to pursue other ventures in life which included travelling to (read more...)