Queen and Friend, is an improvised (aka improv) show presented by Grimes Productions Aus and the Fringe Brisbane at Big Fork Theatre.
Improv is a genre of live theatre where its actors/players have no prepared script to speak of. Each show they produce is unique, therefore, no two shows are the same. This is a skill that may be cultivated through study and plenty of practice.
Big Fork Theatre is both a school of improv comedy and venue space. The theatre space is rectangular in shape, and has been designed as a black box theatre nestled in an unexpected office building in Fortitude Valley.
The stage, bare except for three stools along the back wall and a large silver desk bell sits on the middle one. The characters used the stools when needed but the bell was used to incorporate audience participation at various intervals throughout the show. Audience participation is quite common in improv shows. Also, there are two doors along the back wall; one at either end. Lighting is kept simple and music by Queen was used to open and close the show.
Our actors, Imogen Behan-Willett and Mark Grimes enter from either door and take a moment to introduce improv comedy and how audience participation would transpire via a QR code voting system we were introduced to on arrival.
The show begins with a vote where Imogen and Mark are given their initial audience suggestion, who asked, ‘Where does this story take place?’ And after a majority vote is revealed on a screen above the stage, the answer was, ‘Intercourse, Pennsylvania.’
Being the seasoned performers they are, both Imogen and Mark brought to life interesting characters inspired by this location and whose lives were made clear through a series of events that kept the story moving forward.
Being the bell keeper, Imogen rang it at various intervals which incorporated more audience participation which helped bring twists and turns to their unfolding story plus the introduction of additional characters.
New characters, you say? Yep!
At the beginning of every improv show players, in this instance Imogen and Mark, portray their characters but what was unique to this show was that as the story unfolded, both Imogen and Mark would inadvertently introduce more character’s whom they portrayed in addition to their initial ones.
This was done obviously, for example, the doors were used where one player would exit and reenter as a new character who would enter the scene, whether it took place in the past or present.
Each player kept their cool as they somehow seamlessly seemed to swap between each character while maintaining each character's personal traits including accents, smoking, drinking, etc.
Kudos to them for their focus, skill and incredible flexibility on stage as they kept track of all that was going on. At times, they even swapped between each other’s characters.
Admittedly, there were a couple of times towards the end, where they, no their characters, had memory lapses, as it were, which naturally brought the house down.
This was a show generously filled with humour, plenty of seamless and timely quick wit.
Though this was the last show for Queen and Friend, Imogen and Mark are actively involved in other shows/festivals in and around Brisbane so it is highly recommended that you look them up.