Stage Whispers 2022
Letters To The Editor
Presented by Changing Jennifers. Adelaide Fringe. The Bally at Gluttony. 15th - 20th March, 2022
Improvisational theatre, often called improvisation or improv, is a form of theatre, often comedy, in which most or all of what is performed is unplanned or unscripted - created spontaneously by the performers. In the case of the tightly performed 60 minutes of Letters To The Editor, the audience, using a random ‘marker pen voting model’ (possibly useful for the slew of upcoming elections across the country), choose a letter from the day’s local paper. In our case the theme and heading was, ‘Truth Telling’ done with a political flavour. To be frank, I was very nervous when I discovered the topic method as I had had a letter published that day, but mercifully came out unscathed.
Improvisational theatre exists in performance as a range of styles of improvisational comedy as well as some non-comedic theatrical performances and the skill and discipline of the four members of Changing Jennifers showed impressive discipline, creativity and theatre craft. The Adelaide troupe - Eden Trebilco, Sam Calleja, William Mellor and Sam Hobbs-Griffin - move seamlessly between ages, genders, and in Calleja’s case, occupations and situations, in the same scene!
Performed in Bally, which looks like an inverted soccer ball, the venue is well lit, comfortable, and the right size for the audience to see and hear every second of the zany, unfolding performance. Spotlighting is well used and the stage has an old fashioned typewriter, used cleverly to open and close the twisting tale. Two chairs that become cars, beds and a range of improbable things are the only furniture and frankly, the plot is complicated enough without more to deal with. Somewhat reminiscent of ‘Thank God You’re Here’, it captures and hones the skills and techniques used by legendary theatre coaches and actors, and joyfully, we get to watch.
To tell the story fortunately does not involve the ‘I will have to kill you after’ clause because subsequent audiences simply will not see the crazy, lunatic exposition that we enjoyed. But let it be said that these performers have lightning wit and reflexes, are immensely charismatic and creative, are very well read (to enable them to slip and slide through current events with ease and precision) and are seasoned ‘risk takers’. Their use of delicious words and phrases like things being ‘A contrivance’ and ‘It’s about raising expectations’, when referring to political machinations had the mixed age audience laughing out loud. I am not a lover of expletives, but these words were used strategically, and with purpose and wit and felt cleverly apt. Vignettes stayed with me including Hobbs-Griffin knitting an invisible 28 kilometre long scarf that fortunately became two sports uniforms, and Calleja miming being a runaway mushroom helplessly dragged behind the getaway car, will stay with me as genius.
This is an event that any aspiring or early career actor should see. This ‘tight’ four hander illustrates how well a team can work together, and importantly, think together in a way that brings joy to an audience. Together, they are fun, clever and funny whilst being skilled and astute. Mind you, I may now be just a little more cautious with my ‘Letters To The Editor’ lest they fall into the hands of a madcap crew like Changing Jennifers.