Reverend Jellie's Facebook page tells us that the group formed in 2007 and is an “evolving collection of experienced actors, improvisers, and comedians who have been performing in New Zealand and internationally for over a decade.” In this incarnation, the team is made up of four highly skilled improvisers: Michael Fletcher, Lorraine MacDonald, Chris Anderson and Matt Armstrong, and their show is presented in a fairly standard improvisational format.
As far as I can ascertain, this is the third Cut to the Chase to be performed at a New Zealand International Comedy Festival and it's great fun even if you happen to have already consumed two shows earlier in the evening and ingested no food or alcohol during that time. Cut to the Chase is challenging but not too challenging and is, on the whole, as comfortable as a worn old coat and, as such, really something to savour.
The original Cut to the Chase was created for the 2008 NZ International Comedy Festival and in 2010 Reverend Jellie branched out performing Introducing Harold at the Musgrove, again for the festival. The 2012 NZ International Comedy Festival saw a new Cut to the Chase again at the Musgrove and this time part of the Improvised Comedy season.
The Cut to the Chase format has the actors taking leads from ‘The Director' who is chosen for each sketch by an audience member from a hand full of named cards and the group then embark on ‘quick fire journeys into the unknown' often lead by suggestions from the audience. 'The Director', Facebook tells us, ‘must ride this comet of comedy and attempt to pilot it smoothly during their moment at the helm. Success is entertaining' we are assured while ‘failure can be hilarious.'
And so it comes to pass.
It's hard to be definitive about the show because it will no doubt change drastically depending on the nature of the audience, the quality (and randomness) of the suggestions and the interconnectedness of the team but I can predict that it will zip along, be rich in double entendre and innuendo, and be slickly and articulately performed. It's essentially a modern example of the time-honoured parlour game and as such I find it to be great fun.
The cast mix and match their improvisational tools with monologues, fast forwards, slow mo, gibberish and rewinds and are ever responsive to both The Director and audience responses. We visited the Chrysler Building and the dentist and explore a 60 second embodiment of The Godfather which is then reduced to 30 seconds and finally to 10 seconds with the action and text created for the original absolutely intact.
Les Mills gym is a further setting and we are presented with a love story of sorts played straight, as melodrama and finally as film noir. The whole thing is a riot and the introduction of conjoint twins, their sexual partners and Fifty Shades of Grey borders on the insane – and we love every second of it.
The quintessence of high pressure, improvised theatre lies in each actor's ability to get him or herself into the most appalling strife and then to extract themselves with some modicum of decorum – or not. Contributing the line “I'll just give him another wee rub” and aiming for the groin might seem like a funny thing to do at the time but when the director requires a number of varying repeats it can all get a bit dark and it is to Lorraine MacDonald's credit - and her fellow actor's relief - that this wee dram of creativity is downed with more than a little panache.
All in all Cut to the Chase was fun and was performed with a high degree of skill and I'd recommend it to anyone who loves improvised theatre and wants a laugh a minute for the full sixty.