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Small Car at MICF 2017

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by Donna Sue Robson (subscribe)
Donna Sue Robson specialises in the communication- and healing-arts. Jamie Natural Health and Healing is her energy-healing consultancy. Her modalities, workshops and boutique natural products can be viewed and purchased from www.jamienatural.com.
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Fast-paced, dude-speak fuels small cars
Small Car The Melbourne International Comedy Festival The Tuxedo Cat Improv Conspiracy Longform Improvisation in Melbourne
Broni, Andrew and Mario are 'the dudes' from Small Car. This classic improvisation trio engage in tag-team hilarity to inject warmth and vitality into their audiences and host-venues. All actors took time to chat to both loyal and new followers after the show: they are not only quick-witted and clever, they are just great guys.


The Small Car improvisation team of Mario, Broni and Andrew are 'dudes doing dumb stuff', which means delivering unscripted theatre with off-the-cuff humour to bring out the best in each other, drive a story line and create a high-energy vibe to which audiences confidently respond. Small Car have a loyal following. Their audiences enter the venue, ready to rumble, ready to laugh and tune-in to the style of humour that dialogue-driven stories Small Car invent or sometimes even take off-course. That is Small Car's style.

Small Car humour comes from real-life interactivity and is the product of creative, bold minds. Even though this troupe are highly trained, (their combined training background includes: The Improv Conspiracy (Melbourne), Second City & iO (Chicago) and The Hideout (Austin)) they come across as completely natural because of their ability to work-off each other respectfully. It is their friendship that helps them create a laid-back vibe, which gives the audience confidence that the trio can handle whatever is thrown at them. There are no awkward moments or silences in their deliveries. Friendship, is also compelling because it drives a type of creative tension between performers because there seems to be more at stake. Their friendship has developed a clear, shared vision of comedic direction which translates to a tight, professional show.

Small Car The Melbourne International Comedy Festival The Tuxedo Cat Improv Conspiracy Longform Improvisation in Melbourne
Just like 'a small car' this comic trio keep it simple and are unpretentious. It is unusual to see 3 'dudes' working off each other, and so well together, bonded by shared humour, quick wit and friendship.
Each Small Car show is different because of its improvisatory nature. The Small Car team demonstrate this 'journey through the unknown' superbly. As presenters, they ask the audience to suggest 'a setting' which becomes the foundation upon which they build 'character'. Through characterisation and by listening as each actor positions info, links and twists, a story-line and events begin to unfold. Therefore, long-form improvisation (as opposed to skits and sketches) is developed from two very real-life scenarios: place, which draws characters together, and characters, who drive sequence and story. This is a different style of story-telling from mainstream 'plot-driven' scenarios upon which most Western drama is based. The point about each show is not 'what is the story about or what happens', but rather, how each story naturally unfolds as characters come together and simply 'relate' to one another. How each performance unfolds is testament to Small Car's improvisation skills and the layers of their connectivity to each other and the audience.

An audience member volunteered 'a Barber's shop' as the setting. Clearly, it was going to be more dialogue-driven and conversational (rather than physical comedy) because in a barber's shop, the characters would most likely be seated. I am not sure, therefore, whether dialogue-driven composition is a Small Car forte or if that just a style-adjustment to the night's suggested setting. However, I can well imagine that fast dialogue plays to the strengths of the quick-witted and highly articulate Andrew Watt. Mario Hannah, at this performance, played 'the classic straight man' and the 'odd man out', as on-stage personas quickly evolved and the triangulation dynamic locked each other into roles and onstage intra-relationships. Broni Lisle, who also presented and concluded the show, had the role of 'egging on', and quickly turned the tables on the other two men when the content-ball was hand-passed. He also took the initiative to change the action and setting when change was needed. The diversion was seamless because Andrew and Mario followed his lead. The lead, roles and tone changes were so quick that the audience remained in-step.
 

Small Car The Melbourne International Comedy Festival The Tuxedo Cat Improv Conspiracy Longform Improvisation in Melbourne
All Small Car actors teach improvisation classes. In Broni Lisle's own words, long-form improvisation is 'a nice, even mix of joy, listening and support' and with that recipe 'all improvisation scenes can succeed'. I am sure that they are also able to impart their life attitudes and messages in their classes as well as teach classic and essential theatre skills.
Small Car has fast content-delivery. Each performer is aware of the role that they need to play within the ensemble. A dialogue-driven story meant that there were not a lot of other skills to fall back on (e.g., physical humour) and the measure of success of this Small Car performance was their impeccable time-management and sustained audience engagement. The most compelling part of the show was that you were literally a 'fly on the wall' or witness to an all-male conversation: it seemed natural, layered with 'dude-speak' such as sharp sarcasm, argument and even put-downs all of which were light-humoured and really funny. As all all-male ensemble, Small Car inevitably give audiences an insight into 'dude-speak-think-tank' and present delightful complexities of maleness and male bonding.

Long-form improvisation is experiencing a rapid rise in popularity with theatre audiences who now demand greater interactivity and grass-roots social connection. The Improvisation Conspiracy host shows four nights per week and offer a range of classes in skill-development and performance pathways. Think outside the square and consider the benefits that studying improvisation can deliver: it is all about letting go of the script, submitting to life, developing great relationships and engaging in the moment. Outside of the comedy world, Andrew is a neuroscientist, Mario is a filmmaker and Broni is a singer-songwriter. Long-form improvisation theatre is a place where art meets life, and life becomes creative.

Part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, Small Car is hosted by The Tuxedo Cat and Improvisation Conspiracy. The Tuxedo Cat is a venue for other comedy festival gigs, and exudes a laid-back, club-vibe at the city's edge in Latrobe Street. Owner-operator and event manager Cassandra Tombs spent time with me to just chat about the festival while 'playing' on the newly acquired coffee machine was internationally recognised comedian Daniel Kitson. He made coffee for those who were hanging out, having a chat or playing pool. The Tuxedo Cat supports artists like Small Car and Kitson who are warm, intimate and totally connected to their audiences. Small Car, The Tuxedo Cat and the Melbourne International Comedy Festival combine to inject life and feel-good vibes back into Melbourne's CBD.
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*Donna Sue Robson was invited as a guest
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Why? To make a booking
When: 9.45pm Mon-Sat at The Tuxedo Cat; 8.45 Sundays; 8.15pm at Improv Conspiracy Theatre on Friday and Sat nights
Where: The Tuxedo Cat, 293 La Trobe Street Melbourne
Cost: $10-$15.30
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