On Tuesday the second of October I took a chance and headed down to Orange Tree to partake of a little comedy from a few of Korea’s transient residents. Orange Tree is doing wonders for us Expats with performances coming at you from all angles and in all guises.
This evening it was a recently formed Improv troupe called ‘Seoul City Improv.‘ that swamped the small, red stage with their numbers, when to begin the night each participant was introduced to an attentive crowd. That alone gave a warm impression of the enthusiasm of the team to not only entertain us but also to ensure their time spent was just as enjoyable.
The chance I took turned into an opportunity when after the slow start, the games and the wit became genuinely entertaining. I’m pretty familiar with the rules of Improv so switched off during A.J.’s explanations but as my companion commented, who is herself well versed in many aspects of theatre, he could have afforded to go into a little more detail or perhaps it was clarity that was called for.
‘Freeze’ was a difficult choice first up as it requires the actor’s brains to be well in gear as they jump into and reinterpret the scene being played. A few worked overtime to compensate of other’s more sluggish starts.
Asking for volunteers in these situations is always a difficult undertaking so acquaintances were called on by name which can result in the alienating of those who popped along, not to support a friend but to have a good night out. So to have the second scene of the night demand audience participation was perhaps demanding a bit much too early.
Prior to things getting underway, little slips of paper were passed about the milling crowd asking them to contribute a random snatch of dialogue. These appeared in the first installment of ‘Pocket Scene’ with pleasing results. The actors had to work to find ways to produce slips of paper from their pocket. It was here that I felt the possibility of things to come. And when it was followed by a scene constructed under the limitations of having the first word of each line beginning with consecutive letters of the alphabet, things seemed to be gaining both momentum and laughs.
The next two scenes however put the brakes on. ‘Superheroes’ turned more into a farce than something that produced genuine giggles. Earwax and toe jam seemed a little cheap and the cringe factor shot through the roof. In ‘Countdown’ when the same minute long scene had to be replayed in increasingly less time, an in-joke took centre stage. The laughter and applause of the troupe outdid that of the audience.
The first act ended on a high however with Matt coming to the fore and showing great skills in thinking on his feet and a calm clear projection that alluded to confidence. Qualities that are appealing in any stage performance and as a result the laughter rose and the applause before intermission was enthusiastic.
After a short break, a few more volunteers and another slow start, gusto was found by a repeat of ‘ABC’s’ set in the Seoul Subway. This was followed up by another ‘Pocket Scene’ where Thomas channeled a poor soul, sacked from Scientology. He was supported well in his exploration of a legitimate character and the entire evening began to find its feet.
There were moments of extremely witty and highly engaging performances and the show ended with the entire team getting on stage to participate in ‘World’s worst things to say…’. This was another of the games that required the audience to make offers of locations or situations. Matt had clearly shown himself as one of the gems of SCI but I found myself willing him to take advantage of the following he had garnered when in this final game he was attempting too much. Three times he stepped to the front and three times he stepped back waving away the line that had fallen flat, each time the audience laughed a little more. Not at the line but at his genuine-ness and willingness to try. All he had to do was step to the front once more and without saying a word, wave his hand and turn his back and he would have treated to a fervent response from an appreciative crowd.
This was Seoul City Improv’s fifth outing and I dare say at this early stage they are in a healthy position to bring cackles and guffaws to a grateful Seoul audience. They will be performing twice each month, the first Tuesday will be at Orange Tree in Haebangchon and the third Sunday will at The Electric Cat in Itaewon. Their next performance will be on the 21st of October at 8:30pm. At this stage performances are free. SCI can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org