Pros: A bold and ambitious production with impressive improvisation techniques on show.
Cons: Nothing to get your teeth into – no gear change or progression.
No one’s really bothered about hearing other people’s dreams. A while ago I was telling some pals about the time I was on a plane with Justin Bieber and One Direction. On landing, I offered to carry Bieber’s bags, before One Direction were called into an impromptu gig in the airport. Niall (the one who looks like mashed potato) wasn’t feeling very well, so I stepped in to take his place. We brought the house down. But no one was interested in my story. Because sadly, it was all a dream.
Why don’t people like hearing about dreams? I believe it’s because they are often short, sporadic incidents that lack any real-life substance, feel at times very random and non-linear, and don’t allow the listener to bed down and become entwined with them. And also because the person telling them is normally utterly self-indulgent. In tonight’s performance of Tomorrow’s Parties, we heard a series of hypothetical musings on what might happen in the future. Because each ‘muselet’ generally lasted a few lines, and was immediately followed by an often unconnected one, I felt I was really just listening in on two people telling me their dreams.
But at least these guys weren’t self-indulgent. The two actors – who I can’t name check because they rotate amongst the five-strong troupe each night – were really likeable and engaging in their performances. The pair entered and stood on top of a wooden crate – multi-coloured carnival lights their only other stage-garnish. Then they just started speaking.
At first the woman actor seemed terrified – I thought it was all part of the act until I realised the performance was entirely improvised: she’d have to talk freely for the next hour or so. It was very impressive, especially as neither made any discernible slip-up throughout. But no wonder she had a case of the heebie-jeebies initially.
What would happen is this: one of them would start with “in the future, there’ll be (for example) a rule where theatre reviewers always get the top front seat of a bus so they feel like they’re driving it, and they always get to win Great British Bake Off without having to bake any cakes, and they never have to hear any acoustic covers of favourite pop songs on TV adverts ever again.” Then the other would go “Or…” and pick an inspiration from the previous line to riff off and contradict. So, in this example they might say: “Or… in the future, there will be no theatre reviewers, because the general public will be tired of having to read their terrible efforts of trying to give funny examples.”
Clearly, there was a lot more substance in tonight’s performance than my pathetic attempt – but not always. At times I felt the ‘last resort’ position for the actors was to recount the plot of a famous sci-fi movie: I certainly spotted The Matrix and Terminator in there, as well as others I couldn’t put a title to. The biggest shame was when an actor would describe a really poignant future vision, and talk movingly for a long time about it, with the crowd hanging off their every word… and then the other actor would chip in with something so banal that it would destroy all the beautiful imagery that had just been conjured up. Sure, this was a device for comedy – and at times it brought a lot of laughs – but it happened so often that in the end the joke was long lost.
It would have been far more enjoyable if they’d used this improvisation exercise – for that’s essentially what it was, an exercise – to form an interesting angle, which they could then explore further and deeper, develop characters that might form strong opinions on it, and actually create their own relationship and narrative. In that way, there would have been some kind of gear shift that would have held the audience’s attention. As it stands, it was just the same from start to end. And, judging by the increase of coughs and dropped mobile phones throughout the auditorium, that wasn’t to everyone’s liking. Maybe my 1D collaboration would’ve fared better…
Conceived and Devised by: Forced Entertainment
Director: Tim Etchells
Box Office: 0207 223 2223
Booking Link: https://www.bac.org.uk/bac/shows_list
Booking Until: 23rd November 2013