Review: UNWRITTEN: The Improv Show

by Lynn on May 10, 2024

in The Passionate Playgoer

Live and in person at Young People’s Theatre, Toronto, Ont. Playing until May 16, 2024

Directed by Herbie Barnes

Cast: Tim Blair

Lisa Merchant

Paloma Nuñes

For audiences 11 years old up.

Improvisation (improv) for young audiences, now that’s brave. But the student audience with whom I saw this show was game. Many knew what improv was; they had seen an improv show, or they had participated in an improv show.

The three experienced improv actors: Tim Blair, Lisa Merchant and Paloma Nuñes, engaged with enthusiasm with the young audience.  They talked about little trick they learned doing improv that acted as tools to perform an improve show. They talked of having to build a character, situation or story that was funny, fully developed and didn’t-over stay its welcome. The audience certainly would tell the performer if the sketch was working or not—they would either laugh at the situations and seat of the plants performing or they wouldn’t. I noted both in the student matinee I attended.

One skit involved Lisa Merchant being the centre of the piece as a student who was called to the principal’s office. Merchant had to leave the theatre while the other two polled the audience for suggestions about why she was sent to the office, what accomplices were involved and where the transgression took place. Biting her nails and Taylor Swift factored heavily. Then Lisa Merchant was called back into the theatre and had to guess the transgression, the celebrity and where the transgression happened.

Another sketch was more elaborate. Before the show, the students had to note on slips of paper their favourite villain, a saying, and various other things. The slips of paper were then divided into categories and put in a separate box by categorty. As the three actors improvised a situation they would regularly take a slip of paper from a box and use what was written to progress the story. A favourite villain proved interesting. The Joker was very popular but one student listed “my mother” as the favourite villain. I don’t know what to make of that. The skit seemed to go on past its best ‘end-time’ but the audience was appreciative.

Tim Blair, Lisa Merchant and Paloma Nuñes are inventive, tenacious and charming. Director Herbie Barnes instilled a sense of pace and energy into the show. Unwritten: The Improv Show is an intriguing production from Young People’s Theatre’s usual fare. It was an interesting effort.

Young People’s Theatre Presents:

Playing until May 16, 2024.

Running time: 60 minutes with a Q & A (no intermission)

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