First published on 11 Mar 2008. Updated on 20 Mar 2008.
It’s quick, takes no prisoners and can easily throw light on the talents (or the short-comings) of the quick-witted challengers. And in true competition, the person with the most points and laughs takes the glory.
Theatre sports is the ultimate form of improvisation. It throws comedians, actors and game punters quick challenges, requiring them to work on their toes in teams to perform scenes and scenarios based on audience suggestions. Think Who’s Line Is It Anyway and Thank God You’re Here.
This week, Sydney hosts the fourth annual Theatresports National Championships (TNC), a night of impromptu comedy sketches, physical theatre and maybe even some opera. According to TNC producer, Cale Bain, it attracts Australia’s finest improv artists. “The winners get all the glory, of being able to hold the belt above their heads at the end of the night – a World Wrestling Federation-stylee belt,” says Bain.
Expect some quality competition, as entry to the TNC is given to the winners of the state-led Cranston Cup, regarded as Australia’s number one comedy improv event.
Running for an amazing 25 years, the Cup sees teams across Australia battle it out during a three month campaign to represent their state. “For the last two years,” says Bain, “the Victorian team have won and it has been very close. Last year they nearly lost to WA.”
Doing NSW proud is The Wizard’s Finger, with Simon Greiner and brothers Jordan and Steen Raskopoulos taking the 2007 NSW Cranston Cup. Bain’s a fan. “They have great teamwork, know exactly where each other are going. They have a good time and they come up with outrageous stories.”
Jordan Raskopoulos – aka The Man With a Dominant Claw – is an old school theatre sport fan. “We did theatre sports in high school and at university so I’ve been doing it for around seven years now. The trick is to know each other’s nuances and figure out the next move very quickly.”
Theatre sports attracts a mixed bag, both on stage and off. “Actors love it and fans of the theatre get involved as well because of the theatrical side of theatre sport. Of course comedy buffs like it because it’s hilarious,” say Bain, who remains positive that the 2,000 seats of the Enmore Theatre will be filled out.
But it’s not all about making the audience laugh. A surprise celebrity judge will be scoring each team’s skills of narration, while well-known improviser Kevin Gillese from Canada is judging technical skills, with Cam Knight from the Comedy Channel judging the quality of the entertainment. “It’s a competition in name only, everyone has a good attitude and we are all there to put on a good show,” says Bain.
The Theatresports National Championships happen at Enmore Theatre on 15 March.
Wanna see theatre sport?
Scared Scriptless The Clarence Hotel, Fridays, 450 Parramatta Rd, Petersham. 2049. (02 9560 0400) Fridays, 8pm. $5. It’s Sydney’s longest-running improvised show. Every week, teams of improvisers battle it out to win the love and laughs of a jovial audience in a plush, smoke-free venue.
Mic In Hand ThursdaysFriend in Hand, 58 Cowper St, Glebe 2037 (02 9660 2326) Doors 7.30pm. $10. Founded by local boys Kent Valentine and Sam Bowring, Mic In Hand offers fresh and professional comics an opportunity to get some stage time. Sydney’s friendliest and supportive room.