The premise here is that a romance writer – Chandice Le Roux this night, played by Christine Brooks – wants to share her process with us and get our help. She has also roamed the foyer with her notebook getting ideas – and we take it on trust that she has not shared these with the team backstage in advance of the show going up.
The Wellington Improvisation Troupe (WIT) team who appear in her fertile imagination (i.e. on stage) – as muso Sam Smith tickles his keyboard stage right – are: Chris House, Barry Miskimmin, Jennifer O'Sullivan, Nicola Pauling, Amy Williamson and Steven Youngblood.
Brooks has warmed us up by asking us to call out the name of our first pet and the first street we grew up in, thus arriving at someone called Smudge Great North Road, but this goes nowhere. Just a warm up, then.
Our choice for “an exotic, far away place” is Palmerston North; for a lucrative profession is Dentist; for the romantic hero's key quality is Rugged. Hence the major story that evolves through the night is The Rugged Dentist From Palmerston North.
An early gem arises from Chandice Le Roux mangling the pronunciation of ingénue, as “engenue”, as Jennifer O'Sullivan steps up for the ‘new girl in town' role – Cynthia – so quick as a flash Cynthia declares she's enrolled at Massey to do her Engenuering degree.
The Rugged Dentist, Brad (Barry Miskimmin), turns out to be a final year student; their attraction is instant but he is already embroiled with Victoria (Amy Williamson), who is jealous and controlling …
Meanwhile the Vice Chancellor, Steve (Steven Youngblood) is very solicitous of his students, especially the newcomers … Youngblood also plays the Sleaze from Christchurch that Cynthia has fled from …
It plays out splendidly over a number of ‘chapters' until, as the resolution phase approaches, we get to choose who is the real and who is the false romantic lead between Brad and Steve.
I especially like it when the characters talk back to their author, given real writers say this happens all the time. It spreads the ‘control around a bit and requires more improv from the author.
Dropped in between these chapters – for the compulsively browsing and channel-hopping generation – are a number of quick scenarios pitched at the team by Chandice from her notebook of audience offers.
Thus we get a ‘medical romance' involving brain surgery; a ‘paranormal' romance involving a phoenix; a ‘bad news boss' involving zoology; and a vegie market scenario in which the lover is thrown things he must use as metaphors to express his love for Nicola Pauling's instant character. And part way through, Chris House realises he's been using similies: an important distinction.
An audience member also gets to recreate the cover of one of the ‘Thrills & Swoon' titles adorning the bookshelf, using the actors as models. They pack a lot in to the hour and it's clear the Wellington Improvisation Troupe has studied the genre well. The result is a happy blend of celebration and satire. Recommended