Two days ago I went to a try-out of theater group Mals (which means tender, or succulent, but it also means something silly. Don’t you just love homonyms?). They have been formed a couple of months ago, so this was their first show. It was just for family and friends, in their very own small rehearsal space.
This doesn’t mean it was of lower quality than any random show in a ‘real’ theater. On the contrary. All the actors were very skilled, some were even professionals. They didn’t need a big stage with a big decor or special lighting and sound effects to shine. They just needed us, for input. Because Mals played an improv longform invented by UCB theater.
I didn’t have a clue of what to expect. I just knew the actors were good, so that was enough reason for me to go see the show. What I saw was an amazing longform. Twenty minutes of theater based on one single word. This was a word they had asked us for at the beginning. The chosen word was toothbrush.
You may wonder how a toothbrush can be valuable input for exciting scenes. Well, I can assure you it is possible. They went from not cleaning your toothbrush properly, to a left-over chicken that was saved for decades, until it was put on its owner’s grave (yes, try to make that association when thinking of a toothbrush, guys). They even flossed with the spikes of a hedgehog in order to survive. It was hilarious. At the same time it was brillant. It seemed like chaos in the beginning, with lots of incoherent scenes. But the actors remembered every detail. During the play, all these seemingly incoherent things came back and were magically woven into the bigger story.
At first, I needed some time to get used to the structure. Sometimes they played the same role as they had done in previous scenes, sometimes they were a completely different character. And sometimes multiple people played the same character even. But I must say I was used to this very fast. Maybe because I’ve done a good share of improv myself, or maybe because the actors were so good, things just were very clear, even during chaos. Maybe it was because of both.
After the first ’round’, as the actors called it, they played a second round for us. New word, new theme, new story. They chose my word, rainbow, this time. A rainbow machine was invented, at the same time as a black hole machine, two men were waiting at the end of the rainbow for people to finally find them and their pot of gold and free them from their duties, and a bunch of toddlers were listening to a cute story from their kindergarten teacher. It wasn’t all fluffy and cotton candy and unicorns though. This story also was about a boy telling his parents he was gay, which his father couldn’t accept because of peer pressure by the community. Although the evening was bursting of comedy, Mals wasn’t afraid of adding a more serious note to their show as well.
After this, we already started grabbing our coats (after applauding furiously of course), but the actors felt like giving en encore. Meaning: they gave us a round three! This time the subject was beer. Obviously this is the perfect recipe for scenes with drunk people acting crazy, which the actors totally agreed on. But somehow James Bond also made an appearance, getting all kinds of cool gadgets that appeared to be normal-day items, but were actually something entirely different. A great world of imagination was used to describe the most peculiar objects, until one actor decided to give James Bond a cigarette which wasn’t actually a cigarette, but an electronic device designed to give you the same sensation as a real cigarette. This was followed by a beer that wasn’t a real beer, but a ‘beer’ containing 0,0% alcohol. This was so hilarious, after the summing up of stuff that was actually too ridiculous to be true. These super normal things seemed strange and ridiculous as well now. One would expect people to associate from normal things to weirder stuff, but these actors did it completely the other way around. That was part of what made it so awesome.
If they are going to perform again in the future, I will definitely going to watch again. I laughed so hard and often this evening, that my jaw literally hurt. Besides that, it was so cool to see a longform from the audience point of view for once. Okay, I saw a couple of them in the past few months, but never a longform that was completely new to me. So this time I could truly experience it as a regular audience member would. I was impressed by the quality of it. I’m doing improv theater for so long now, I tend to forget the skills that are being used and the talent and practice it takes to create a high-quality show. I’m very glad I was reminded of how awesome improv theater actually is.