Melbourne Town Hall during the comedy festival

Celebrity Theatresports

By Erin Handley.

First published Monday 16 April 2012 in Farrago.

Theatresports is an oxymoron. The unholy union of ‘theatre’ and ‘sports’ is akin to the combination of milk and citrus—chocolate and orange, in theory, simply shouldn’t mix. But like Theatresports, it just works.

Celebrity Theatresports has been a comedy festival favourite for more than a decade. It’s a one-off show that pits comedians, actors and Theatresports Champions against each other in short scenes. The performance was set up like a game show, with sparkly-blazered Patrick Duffy as our host.

In Theatresports, teams of three or four players perform within a four-by-four metre taped square. Players cannot step outside this stage while improvising. Each team performed scenes which were given a score out of 15 by the judges Noni Hazlehurst, Kristy Best and Christof the clown.

There are different rules for each ‘event’. ‘Subtitles’ is a game where two players speak and act in Gobbledygook (nonsense language, not the official tongue of Gringotts’ goblins), while the two others ‘translate’. In ‘Swapsies’, whenever the host calls out ‘Swap!’, the players must rotate into different roles and continue the scene. Additionally, whenever the host calls out a certain accent, the actors must all adopt it. In another event, actors must replay the same scene multiple times, but tinged with a different emotion. There’s mime, ballet, opera and stories told one word at a time. All 100% improvised.

Because it’s all off-the-cuff, Celebrity Theatresports was always going to be a hit-and-miss performance. It’s both the beauty and the limitation of Theatresports—you’ll get some fairly average scenes, but you’ll also get never-to-be-repeated nuggets of comedy gold.

One golden moment was the slow-motion commentary of the thrilling activity ‘cleaning the trophy cabinet’— Michala Banas was hilarious as she applied her tongue to the task. I was impressed by the players who managed to compose and sing rhyming lyrics on the spot, as well as the keyboardist’s seamless accompaniment. The audience was treated to a modern-day opera entitled ‘Charging My Phone’ (in which Nicola Parry was particularly brilliant) and a Kanye-style rap performance by Yoda (played by Rik Brown, with Scott Brennan using his hands for Yoda’s ears).

It was also amusing to watch Duffy bounce up and down, wondering if he should stop Rusty Berther mid-scene because he stepped over the taped line. That’s another paradox of Theatresports—you’re encouraged to think outside the square, yet never step beyond it.


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