Review by Thomas Gregory
It should come as no one’s surprise that, in the leadup to the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, our city would start to see some fantastic shows pop up. The Saboteur is one such show, offering a night of improv with a vicious twist for both audiences and performers.
You see, in the vein of Among Us, The Mole, and Werewolf before it, Jim Fishwick’s The Saboteur is a game of loyalty… and one of the five improvisers on stage is anything but loyal.
As far as improv comedy, each scene is a stock-standard affair for the seasoned performers on stage. “Do a scene from this period”, “death in a minute”, and the modern classic “do a TED talk” all appear and are performed with great laughter. However, each comedian on stage has to be better than most because one of them is actively making things difficult. “Yes And” goes out the window for the saboteur as they find subtle ways to trip up their co-stars without ruining the show for everyone.
While it would be unconstructive to discuss individual actors, as the cast changes every night, it can be assured that each and everyone is brilliant. The saboteur cannot pretend they are bad at improv because no one on stage is. If anything, this may be the show’s one and only weakness - despite being as subtle as possible, the uncooperative player stands out. When audience members were surveyed last night to see who the traitor was, over half of us were confident in the first ten minutes, and 80% of us were confident by the end.
While this gimmick, which adds an extra twist to an old standard, should be applauded, it should not overshadow the fact that this was also a solid night of comedy. Each performer was a compelling character to enjoy as they morphed into well-understood and well-lampooned stereotypes. Tropes would be subverted regularly, and only one small scene was not responded to with loud laughter. One special mention should be given to the “write a song” scene that never got to the part where they wrote the song and the oft-called-back “three strikes” joke that was hilarious without ever becoming a crutch for the troupe to lean upon.
It’s difficult to say much about improv performance, especially with a rotation cast. Improv is either clunky and embarrassing or one of those smooth productions where you struggle to believe it isn’t scripted. The Saboteur falls directly into the latter category and is not a night to be missed. Unfortunately, it is only on until Saturday, so I would hurry to get tickets before you miss out. Otherwise, this fun little show might be just the excuse needed to catch it in Sydney on 26 April as part of that little town’s own comedy festival.