Thursday, November 02, 2006

Day 1: Late Night Laughs in Christchurch

It was a cold and windy night. We'd given up waiting for the bus and were sprinting seven long blocks down Gloucester and Worcester streets to catch an improv show at the Court Theatre. Called Scared Scriptless, this improvisational comedy series is performed every Friday night by the Court Jesters. I rarely jog - let alone run two-and-a-half kilometers! - so the sole thought propelling me down the pavement was, "This had better be good!"

And it was.

Waiting in the audienceThe concept is charmingly simple yet effective. Two teams of four actors each, going head-to-head in a comedy face-off. That night they were competing for, well, a bunch of bananas. The MC decides each round's rules ("Perform the same scene in 3 minutes, 30 seconds, 7 seconds, and 1 second!"), and the audience provides a flurry of suggestions that determines the theme and style of the performance ("Snakes on a Plane? We want Aardvarks on a Monorail."). The monorail conductor's rendition of being bitten to death by aardvarks was hilarious. Never mind that aardvarks normally defend themselves with their claws - I could almost see the mad little critter tearing at the conductor's throat.

Improv is theater's equivalent of a dice roll - one scene may bring the house down and the next fall somewhat flat. Scared Scriptless was no exception, but had a lot of great gems. Performer quality was good although uneven, and by the end of the evening we'd developed definite favorites among the actors. The show's pianist was amazing - improvising spooky, serious, or slapstick soundtracks as the scenes progressed.

A good improv show is a great way to start a trip. We got a lot of mileage out of our $15 tickets - 1856 miles, to be exact - because quips from the show became humorous catchphrases for us throughout our South Island travels.

Check out the Court Jesters' performance of Scared Scriptless every Friday night at 10 pm. They perform at Court Theatre in the Arts Centre, right in the cultural heart of Christchurch. You can buy tickets at the box office or book ahead by calling 03 963 0870. $15, free seating.

Learn more about this fascinating and funny theater art form:

Read the previous entry or check out the rest of this New Zealand trip series.

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