Review by Marita Bellas Miles
Ho Hum Musical Improv is a Brisbane based improvisational troupe, creating on the spot musical performances across the city. Joining the anywhere theatre festival line-up with their new show The Wake, they bring a much-welcomed lightness and warmth to Brisbane.
Stepping off bustling Caxton street into a cosy corner of the Lord Albert Hotel, you are greeted with a handful of tables and chairs for the audience, an open vertical coffin and a handful of musical instruments. The performance space created a sense of intimacy and comfort essential to the show. It made the audience quickly feel comfortable with each other and the cast which allowed laughs to flow from the get-go.
The show opened with an improvised musical number in which we discovered some integral plot points based off audience written suggestions. We find out who died, how they died and a few interesting hobbies they had during their life. The outrageousness of these alone was enough to guarantee a hilarious bunch of stories. The hobbies from the evening included gnome collecting and lace making. The way the chosen character died was a case of mistaken identity and being murdered in Nicaragua which prompted the opening title ‘Murdered in Nicaragua.’ By the end of the first song, the whole audience was singing along and was sitting in the palm of the casts’ hands, eagerly awaiting more.
Throughout the next 40 minutes or so the cast took turns telling stories from the perspective of mourners at the wake based on these suggestions. There were some very strong moments that had the room howling, along with some numbers that did not quite hit the mark, which is not unexpected from a fully improvised performance.
The first highlight of the evening was Big Tony’s gnome collecting song, it introduced the structure of the show and kept the energy levels high. The specific and deliberate choices made by the two actors involved were hilarious.
Another crowd favourite was the deceased’s brother’s ‘Big Box Store’ number which highlighted the characters unfamiliarity with superstores. Again, the audience was joining in and laughing non-stop throughout the entire bit.
The introduction of a very welsh uncle was a genius addition towards the end of show. Watching the other actors dictate the uncle’s accent levels and delivery was brilliant. Watching the cast have fun with each other allowed the audience to partake in that fun themselves.
The musical accompaniments provided by cast members was varied and helpful. The timing was perfect and there was a sense of excited anticipation in the room as soon as the first few bars of each song were played.
Seeing how much content the cast produced from only a few prompts was incredible. One can only imagine what kind of hilarity they can create with a completely different set of prompts. I easily could have stayed another hour to see what they come up with again but unfortunately that was the final performance for the evening.
Ho Hum Musical Improv takes the often-serious setting of a wake and fills it with humour, fun and the occasional crocheted murkin. The Wake is a heartfelt, joyful evening of laughter which isn’t to be missed.