For this year’s Sydney Comedy Festival, Theatresports put a twist on the conventional competition structure and pitted performers from three generations against each other to find the ultimate improv decade. Bringing together stars new and old from the Sydney improv scene, Theatresports All-Stars was a celebration of the community and the performers keeping the form going.
From the 80s came the Belvoir St Originals: Lisa Ricketts, David Callan, Michael Gregory, Dan Cordeaux, Andrew O’Keefe, and Dan Lloyd. Representing the 90s were Jane Watt, Cale Bain, Jeromaia Detto, Rob Boddington, and Concetta Caristo. The freshest performers on the scene included the winning team of the 2018 Cranston Cup Mission Improbable 3 Jestika Chand, Elliot Ulm, and Rachael Colquhoun-Fairweather with Louisa Cusumano and Finn Hoegh-Guldberg.
The structure of this competition, developed by John Knowles, involved the performers from each generation mixing together into randomly selected teams to accumulate points together and split individually. It was a great scoring system in theory but was later revealed to be not as fair as expected! All in good fun, though. Comedian Tahir Bilgic kept spirits up between rounds with his Turkish-Australian branded humour and cheerful personal enjoyment of the Theatresports process. Improvising the accompanying music for each scene was Bryce Halliday applying the perfect atmosphere throughout the night.
Perhaps it would be too simplistic to draw distinctions between the generations’ performance styles but there did seem to be common threads that demonstrated preferences for each era of Theatresports. The 80s gen lent towards narrative development and language-based games like songs and Shakespearean, while the 90s embraced physical humour as clearly represented in Caristo’s horse character, prancing across the stage proud as punch. The Chand, Ulm, and Colquhoun-Fairweather duo with their high school champion teammates are uniquely nuanced in their performances, particularly in their use of silence to build tension in such short scenes.
Bringing together so many celebrated improv performers was an opportunity for special community recognition including some bonus scenes. O’Keefe and Lloyd, a comedy duo who won the Cranston Cup twice when they were performing together, did a flirtatious free scene set on an archeological dig while the two youngest performers Cusumano and Hoegh-Guldberg did a similarly flirtatious scene set in an antique shop where the more senior performers played the antiques.
This competition also saw a rock ballad for the garbo, Game of Thrones with cookies, a mysterious inheritance case, and a time-travelling picnic.
After 33 years in Australia, Theatresports is still thriving and generating new audiences, new performers, and new inspirations. Theatresports All-Stars: Battle of the Champions showed off just how well the form is adapting and growing for future stages and generations to come.