Theatre review: Dragons’ Improv Tank puts a fresh spin on improv theatre

Move over Robert, Kevin, Jim and Arleen, time to make room in the den for the Vancouver TheatreSports League Dragons as they begin their search for new and improved improv games in Dragons’ Improv Tank.

The brainchild of co-creators Louise Moon and Roger Fredericks, Dragons’ Improv Tank is the latest parody show from the duo, joining the likes of Impro-vivor and The Imprentice in a long string of Vancouver TheatreSports League (VTSL) shows based on reality television.

“One of our guys did some research and found that Dragons’ Den is one of the most popular shows on CBC right now.  That and the popularity of Shark Tank made this the perfect time to do another parody show,” explained Pearce Visser, VTSL Artistic Associate and one of the show’s Dragons.

Similar to its television counterpart, in Dragons’ Improv Tank inventors pitch their ideas to three potential investors, but rather than looking for an investment in a business or product, these inventors are looking for these Dragons to invest in their new or improved improv game.  If they can convince one or more of the Dragons to invest in their game, they have the opportunity to perform it for the audience.  At the conclusion of the game the audience then decides by applause if the game lost money, broke even or made money.

But while the premise is based on the two reality shows, don’t expect these Dragons to be impersonating any of the television Dragons.

“We play ourselves, not the Dragons on the television show,” explained Visser who has been with VTSL for over 20 years.  “While we can play the attitudes of the real dragons, we don’t go for an impersonation.”

Definitely not playing themselves though are the inventors who come pitching their games.  During the opening night show, the three improvisers (Elizabeth Bowen, Michael Teigen and Taz Vanrassel) faced off against the Dragons (Ted Cole, Caitlin Howden and Visser) in a variety of different characters.  For some, like Bowen’s firefighter and Vanrassel’s 14 year-old Taylor, there was a definite connection between them and the game they were pitching, making for a few of the more successful scenes.

Improv inventor Elizabeth Bowen and host Margaret Nyfors await the verdict of the Dragons. Photo by Peter Williams.
Improv inventor Elizabeth Bowen and show host Margaret Nyfors await the verdict of the Dragons. Photo by Peter Williams.

Helping out the inventors and Dragons is the show’s host, who on opening night was played by Margaret Nyfors.  Adding some colourful play-by-play, Nyfors could always be counted on just the right puns to introduce the audience voting.  In the booth, Laura Skelton was astonishingly quick on the draw with appropriate music and sound effects.

With seven other shows currently playing at the Improv Centre on Granville Island one has to wonder how the market for improvisational theatre isn’t already saturated.  With Dragons’ Improv Tank the Vancouver Theatresports League puts a fresh spin on the genre by introducing these new and improved improv games.

4 Out of 5 Stars Dragons’ Improv Tank

Format developed by Louise Moon and Roger Fredericks.  Co-directed by Jay Ono and Pearce Visser.  A Vancouver TheatreSports League production.  Currently on stage at The Improv Centre on Granville Island.  Visit http://www.vtsl.com for tickets and information.

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