It is quite fitting that a mere three weeks after original Survivor winner Richard Hatch was released from jail for failing to report his million dollar win in 2000 that we found ourselves on Granville Island witnessing our own local version of Survivor with the very funny people from the Vancouver TheatreSports League.
The latest mainstage event from the long-running theatre group, Impro-vivor Granville Island, sees its return engagement at the New Revue Stage now through July (there is no announced end date for the show as of this review).
The premise is pretty simple even if you are not familiar with the Survivor concept (but that begs the question what rock you’ve been hiding under for the last nine years if you don’t know what Surivor is all about).
Act one starts with two “tribes” of four improvisers participating in a number of improvisational challenges with one tribe member being voted off by the audience at the end of each round. Act two sees the two tribes merge with the players now competing head-to-head for individual immunity and being voted off by their fellow tribe members until the winning survivor is voted as the winner in the final tribal council.
Before I even attempt to provide a review of the show it is necessary to point out that given the cast rotates through the various TheatreSports shows, with no less than six different shows currently running throughout the week, providing a review of what we saw on the weekend does not necessarily mean you will have the same experience. The skill of the actors, the suggestions from the audience (yes, the audience must also take some responsibility for the success of the show) and the improv games that are chosen will all impact the success, or failure, of an individual show.
Fortunately for us the show we saw was a success. While we did not necessarily agree with the tribal council’s final decision on the winner, the players did seem evenly matched which goes a long way to ensure the pacing was even, the cast worked off each other well and there were no times when you felt sorry or embarrassed for any of the players.
The episode we saw on the weekend draws upon a large number of players that make up the Vancouver TheatreSports League and included Elizabeth Bowen, VJ Delos-Reyes, Graeme Duffy, Jeff Gladstone, Taz Vanrassel, Margret Nyfors, Ted Cole and Nathan clark. Joining the improvisors on stage in the “Jeff Probst” host role was Eric Fell. (You can find a list of current cast members at http://www.vtsl.com/mainstage/cast.php although on the night we attended the show the cast did vary a bit from what was publicized).
As each of the teams were introduced they were each given a hobby or occupation through audience suggestion. The assignment of these hobbies is important throughout the show as the actors are expected to incorporate them into their characters especially during the tribal council votes. On this particular night we had everything from an economist to a pharamacist to a stamp collector. And just to prove again that the audience must take some responsibility for the overall success of the evening, we also ended up with an improviser and a fast-food worker.
Fortunately we found ourselves going to the “dark side” of improv on only a couple of occassions in the evening where things degraded to toilet humour and speaks volumes to the training and self-control that the actors have as they attempt to keep things funny without resorting to crude jokes or cheap laughs.
Offstage, one of the biggest stars of the night had to be sound designer Laura Skelton who seems to pull out appropriate sound effects and music from thin air. From Laura’s bio she has been with TheatreSports for some twenty years and it is very evident that this longevity is, at times, a real blessing for the actors on stage.
A Vancouver tradition since 1980, Vancouver TheatreSports continues to provide a relatively inexpensive (all tickets are under $20) evening of fun and laughs with this re-staging of Impro-vivor Granville Island.
Impro-vivor Granville Island plays Thursday through Saturday at 7:30pm at the New Revue Stage on Granville Island. Tickets are available through Ticketmaster online.