With 4 days left of the Fringe I should have plenty of time to reach my goal of 10 Fringe shows this year. Number 7 was “This is Uncalled For”. Though I have heard a lot about these guys, I had never really seen them perform improv (I’m not counting the 13th hour). The same can be said about the Fringe theatre in which they were performing…had heard a lot about the Bath, but never been. So I’ll talk about both here in this review.
I had heard that this space was something that a Fringe artist just wouldn’t want to be stuck with. It’s true, it’s a ways away from the other venues and the big lights of the beer tent. But the walk didn’t bother me (except that I stepped in a pile of puke on the way back home…that was gross). The stage was set up in the deep end of an indoor pool (the pool was drained…but thinking about it, how cool would a floating show be…) with the audience in the shallow end and along the deck. I sat in the front row of chairs, which was slightly below the lip of the stage. The weather outside was cool, so I had no problem with heat, but the performers made reference to it a few times and Marc, a Without Annette improviser (you all know him…but he forgets his own name so I write it down in places like this where I think he’ll look), confirmed the fact that the stage is sweaty sticky. The theatre capacity looks to be about 80 (that’s if people only sit in the provided chairs. If everyone came in and lay down on top of each other you could probably stuff thousands in there) and there is no obstructions to worry about.
The only really weird thing about this space is the bathroom, not bathrooms, bathroom. It’s an open concept kind of thing. While I was at the urinal a woman came in. It made me uncomfortable because I was standing really far away from the wall to see how far I could pee and I had to run all the way back…but it was for not. Men…women know our secret now…they know we pee standing up and that sometimes we play weird games like “see how far you pee”, “pee in all the urinals with a sideways gallop”, and “laser melt the urinal ice”.
So as I’ve already mentioned, this was the first opportunity I’ve had to see the entire troupe perform. The troupe consists of: Dan, Mike, Caitlin, Matt, and Anders all of whom were in the show, and Amanda who I watched on MuchMusic when I got home.
This was Uncalled For’s long form show. There maybe those that are reading this blog and don’t know the difference between long form and short form improv. Short form is a series of short scenes; each scene follows a story arc (it’s self-contained) and involves new characters. Long form, on the other hand, is composed of one long story arc and typically follows a group of characters through the entire thing. There are those that will have a different definition, they may have a time criteria, anything over this length is long form, etc…and that’s fine, because there is really only one universal truth to improv and that’s ACCEPT (write that down). Uncalled For’s long form show was structured loosely around a one hour game of â€œmeanwhileâ€, or maybe â€œspace jumpâ€. Each member of the troupe portrayed many different characters, and killed off characters as required to have a series of unrelated scenes meet at one location at the end.
I love a strongly improvised show. For me improv is fun, exciting and different every single time. If youâ€™ve seen Uncalled For once, you can go back and see them again and feel like itâ€™s a brand new show (I realize that I said before that Iâ€™ve only seen them once, so how would I know? Because that is the magic of improvâ€¦itâ€™s always different). The Uncalled For players listen to each other really well, and immediately give each other (or introduce themselves) names. They did a good job of defining the space that they were working in so the audience had a clear picture of the environment. The scenes rolled from one to the other nicely, and they â€œfrozeâ€ the scene at the right times to make sure that the action was moving forward. As well, they did a great job at keeping the audience pumped. Audience energy either makes or breaks an improv show, and the audience definitely loves Uncalled For. Their show was a lot of fun. These guys do a really great job of entertaining, and they are getting deserved accolades from appreciative, laughing audiences.
There were a few criticisms that I have as well. Iâ€™ve been improvising for a lot of years, so I hope the guys wonâ€™t mind that I give some advice. The stage is a little awkward and there is a large drop directly between the audience and the troupe, so this may have had some affect on the choices made in stage positioning. About half the scenes were towards the back of the stage, in case the Uncalled for troupe is reading this the scenes Iâ€™m referring to are the airplane and the magic umbrella. The trampoline (the whole scene not just the setting) was positioned very well and utilized the front of the stage for each of its sub-scenes. Iâ€™m not saying that the improv in the backstage scenes was poor, just that it was staged in an inferior position. As improvisers we donâ€™t typically have a physical set to contend with, (but there is that big scary hole in the floor to worry aboutâ€¦) and venue is completely free of obstructions (no pillars at the front of the stage you lucky bastards) so move right up front.
There were some great and memorable characters, but in long form it is essential that your character is completely different from the person standing on stage with you. In some of the scenes the emotional energy (though the actual energy level was always high) was mirrored by the other improvisers in the scenes. Having a different reaction, not just verbally but emotionally and physically as well, will help to define your characters.
So, I hope you guys donâ€™t mind the critique. You can tell me Iâ€™m wrong, most people tell me Iâ€™m wrong and ugly, so I wonâ€™t be offend if you only call me wrongâ€¦But I thought the show went great. I had a lot of fun, and I would recommend The Uncalled For show to anyone who asks (unless itâ€™s at the same time as a Without Annette Show, then I would recommend it afterwards).