Amsterdam Improfestival – Burial, Babylon, Bad Boys, Budge and Bread

zur deutschen Versionfrom Thomas Jäkel and macro:

AMSTERDAM – Wednesday (Jan 28th, 2015) at the 20th International Improv Theater Festival Amsterdam promised a wide range of shows and formats. The program began with a bang, starting with a talk in addition to two very different formats presented by the ensemble.

The Wake takes a look back

The ensemble opened the evening shows at 8 p.m. with The Wake. The setting is a funeral: that of the main character as chosen by the audience. The suggestion was an arrogant butcher who tyrannized his family. The mourners sat around a large table, investigated their memories, and then played them out in flashbacks, which built up to the confession that the death was a revenge killing.

Maybe it was the one-dimensional nature of the main character, played by Torgny Gerhard Aanderaa as a truly full-fledged asshole, that made you lose some interest in him and also made you happy that he was dead. Unfortunately it was over after just 35 minutes; the fact that no one seemed to be shocked by the confessed murder could have been the prelude to a full-length piece.

Translation not literally translated

At first glance it’s not clear why the festival format developed by Randy Dixon is called Translation. The concept is to allow improvisers from across the globe to perform together, but each in their own language. This inevitably leads to a tower of Babel that might be more appropriately called Lost in Translation. This limitation of communication however, is extraordinarily enjoyable both on stage and in the audience.

Of course the most laughter came when, for example, the Dutch audience understood a part of the conversation but the reactions in Filipino or Hebrew simply did not fit. The wonderful thing about Translation is that it forces the improvisers into an expressive physicality. Together Inbal Lori and Nils Petter Morland continually discovered rhythmic and dynamic physical sequences, which would otherwise be rather rare. Translation also provided a wonderful insight into the culturally different styles of play.

3 for all – Road to Neverland

3 For All
The headliner of the evening was undoubtedly the based-in-San Francisco trio “3 for all”. Bringing 19 years of experience improvising as a trio to the stage, Rafe Chase, Tim Orr and Stephen Kearin’s level of comfort with each other was obvious. In the style of a film from the 40s, they spun a tale full of many Bad Boys: the only suggestion was the title. At the beginning the audience voted for their favorite out of three of their suggestions –Yesterday, Tomato and Road to Neverland. The latter won – but the other two titles also found their way into the evening.

Beginning with a harmless transaction situation, they created a story about betrayal, kidnapping and distrust whose implications were in the end so extensive that they resolved it in a dream. But they were not so easily satisfied, and jumped back to the beginning and indicated that now the nightmare could actually be real. This pattern of refusing as improvisers to be satisfied with a simple solution, but to always look for something deeper, determined their entire play.

The strength of “3 for all”, however, is definitely in their level of attention. They themselves describe it as a continuous struggle to be truly connected. Ultimately, this is the basis of improvisation, openness and trust in the other players. The smallest discrepancies, initial misunderstandings, and surprising allegations were consistently used and played with. Even when they didn’t recognize the ringing of the shop door from the first scene at the end, they refused to just ignore this but instead left it open for everyone.

With the unity described above, they dared to use extreme versatility and character diversity. For example, each of them played at least 2 characters at once over lengthy periods in the evening without losing the plot. This piece really had something for everyone: excitement, fun and high-caliber improv!

Sten Rudstrom – Action Theater Solo

Sten Rudstrom
Sten Rudstrøm personally welcomed every visitor to his Action Theater piece at the entrance with a handshake. It was an unusual gesture that felt good and ultimately created a connection between the player and the audience. At the beginning of his solo performance Sten explained that the piece is composed of movement, sound and words, ideally in equal parts. Individual segments may still display an asymmetrical distribution.

The piece begins without a suggestion, just the shift to stage presence creates a clear start signal. Sung, spoken and moving parts alternated with each other, just as the dynamics and intensity, excitement and relaxation also varied. The composition and the desire to create a uniform distribution is palpable. Sten plays with a notable physical presence. The dark side of characters and philosophical considerations are central themes, connected rather associatively. The drift into scary, crazy creations is the emotional and acting technique climax. The show captivates over the entire hour even without a specific theme.

Spit – Silly People’s Improv Theater from Manilla

In Spit, two representatives of improv theater in Asia appeared on one of the Late Night Impro Festival Amsterdam’s stages. They asked for experiences and prejudices, which then inspired real monologues about Manila, the Philippines, their society and culture. These monologues led to individual scenes that illuminated the subjects critically and personally.

Most interesting, however, were the stories about their country and the cultural comparisons. The audience learned, for example, what they did during the Pope’s visit, that there’s nothing in Amsterdam that reminds them of Manila, and that there are many gods for bread. It is exactly this kind of cultural exchange that makes an international festival so valuable.

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Mirko 'macro' Fichtner schreibt seit 2011 für Impro-News. Er ist Gründungsmitglied der Improbanden und Mitorganisator des Berliner Impro Marathon. Webseite: macrone.de
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