It was all change for the Improvathon this year – a new venue, a new time of year. This meant that many things had been caught off-kilter, and this was interesting as an audience member and critic, as a reminder that it’s not always about us, and that’s not always a bad thing.
The Improvathon, a non-stop marathon of completely unrehearsed on-stage shenanigans, courtesy of Liverpool’s experts in the field Impropriety, runs for the exact number of minutes of the year and has done since its inception in 2008. So now, in 2016, the show runs for a little over 33-and-a-half hours without pause.
And it was set up this year in the Invisible Wind Factory following the demise of the Kazimier; a cavernous warehouse to which a section was curtained off to try and create the scale and size of venue that performers and audience alike would recognise. This worked well.
More than 30 hours? MADEUP managed an entire four this year, which is rubbish and useless for reviewing purposes, true; but as a long-time Improvathon fan, it does seem fitting to mark the changes.
With a theme of When in Rome, the company rose to the occasion as ever. A number of regular cast members from over the years were not able to join the proceedings this time which was a real shame, but although their presence was missed there were enough new faces to step into the breach.
And if you weren’t there… I’m not entirely sure it’s worth trying to describe what went on. Not because four hours out of 33 isn’t enough to judge (well, it kind of isn’t really); not because it wasn’t funny, or creative, or brilliant; not because I’m not dying to wax lyrical about the cast’s sleep-deprived, sometimes-meta in-jokes (sexy caterer, anyone?); but because perhaps it was meant only to ever truly exist in the moment.
This, of course, is the point of long-form improvisational theatre to a large extent. But over the years the Improvathon at the Kazimier had come to be filmed, photographed, Tweeted, live blogged, rendered by an artist in residence for the duration.
There happened to be none of that this time, and without that to capture things for posterity– while a cast of long-time friends and colleagues performed to an audience half their number – what really was going on? If a tree falls in the woods, does it make a sound etc?
There’s probably a whole big load of books written on that theory, and I’m not a performer, but still, here it was, theatre in arguably it’s purest form. At worst, it might have seemed somewhat self-indulgent to anyone who didn’t know the score; at best it was an opportunity for all performers to stretch themselves to a physical limit while creating a coherent(ish), bonkers, entertaining story with characters that really could be cared about.
It will never be repeated – not even in the context of this review, which features at the top a picture of an oracle-like character called Netflix conversing with the owner of the local bath house in a hall of fallen idols played by other members of the cast. The actors, comedians, techs and volunteers involved in the whole crazy business will only improve their not-inconsiderable talents for taking part in the bizarre experience, whether those in the outside world bombing past them on the Dock Road knew about it or not.