Lights. Suggestion. Improv.

A small room in Myers Lane came alive during the Melbourne Fringe Festival with the startlingly fresh enthusiasm and vigour of the Play like a Girlperformers. We were to be introduced to and enveloped by the world of Chicago long-form improvisation.

Beckoning the audience to be creative with a starting suggestion for the show, an audience member boldly called out “magic!” and thus the magic began. The zealous all-female cast took their places on either side of the stage and the booming mock-Eastern European voice of Nadine Sparks began the show, declaring the setting of the performance to be a magic house. We were pulled into this readily fabricated world inside, filled with contrived connections and flawed relationships, from inadequate non-magical daughters to clingy best friends.

A trademark of Chicago long-form improvisation, the style of improvisation used in Play like a Girl, is its various interwoven characters, named and with personality, stepping in and out of the scenario as they see opportunities to bring their character into the story. Adding history to a character, developing them and feeding off the comments of other characters, slowly distinct individual personas are born and worn in throughout the performance. The actresses of Play like a Girl executed this element seamlessly. The patriarch of a magical family began as a stereotypical gypsy character and was then endowed with the role of a husband, the ability to ‘blast’ women and spontaneously impregnate them and the entirely non-subtle sleaziness of a sexed up middle age man past his prime. His daughter, who at first appeared to the audience only as a timid girl, became a series of complex insecurities and hilariously ridiculous shortcomings. His wife, too, and all the other personas were developed complexly and deeply in the same way, all the while maintaining the light and spontaneous hilarity that flooded the stage and the audience’s minds.

Read the full review in the upcoming issue of TAT GiRL

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