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Umbridge/Kazimier

Impropriety's 33-hour marathon puts them and the Kaz at the forefront of Liverpool theatre

Written by . Published on April 9th 2014.


Umbridge/Kazimier
 

 IMPROPRIETY'S annual “Improvathon” might initially be an awkward word to get your tongue around, but it is an unmissable event in the city’s theatrical calendar.

Not only was last weekend's the longest production by miles [a shade under 35 hours], but it was conceived, created and performed by an absolutely dedicated band of actors, musicians and enthusiasts willing to stretch their skills beyond what is considered either sane or theatrically feasible.


The Kazimier celebrates its vital independence with a passion and, through it, has become the very epic-centre of alternative theatre


These productions owe practically everything to two seminal influences. Firstly, they serve as a legacy to the late, great Ken Campbell who put on the first 24-hour production of Illuminatus! with the Science Fiction Theatre of Liverpool [itself a world-record].

And the format is designed by Die-Nasty [an established Canadian improvisation company] who themselves worked with Campbell and came up with the formula of “shifts” and sequential off-stage direction.

Improvathon Kazimier Liverpool 2014 %281%29 

Impropriety uses this format to create a bizarrely-related series of scenarios within which the unfolding melodrama takes place. The actors have defined roles, some self-selected, but much depends on where the director wants to take them. In this case, Rosie Wilkinson, who’s done this for several years now, in full view of the audience, speaking directions into a microphone at the back of the auditorium.

She says “It’s surreal, what goes on. I’ve done so many now my brain just about knows what’s going on”. Good job too. Without her, everything would descend into chaos, so she has to remain focused throughout, sitting next to the all-important lighting desk with brio and active imagination at the ready. It’s no mean feat.

Plots develop through her choice of particular characters. They last as long as she thinks fit, then the lights come down and it’s on to the next wacky episode. Well, that’s the idea. If things happen accidentally onstage, so be it. They’re either instantly forgotten or things go off on a completely different tangent, often with hilarious effect.

Credit, then, to Angie Waller, who acts as the guiding light and inspiration to her fellow subversives, and Trev Fleming, her husband, who runs improv workshops at Mello Mello. These have obviously paid dividends since a group of immensely versatile actors have emerged to take Impropriety to the next level. Not only that, a sizeable portion of them will be part of the cast for Daisy Campbell’s Cosmic Trigger! in November.

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This year, the choice of “theme” [a very loose term] is Umbridge – a tale of country folk. Not that it mattered since the unfolding plot had very little to do with the BBC’s rural community on the banks of the River Am. It follows a tradition of marathons going back to 2008 and the original Oh Wait! (geddit?) and has included the Wild-West [Goin’ West] and a satirical take on TV [Back to the Studio].

As these theatrical epics developed, certain elements have improved. These include the backing musicians [now a crucial part of underscoring the onstage action], the actors self-confidence in their abilities, the number of willing volunteers and the combined results of collaborative productions both here and in Edmonton.

Given I wasn’t able to last the whole production, only around 10 hours split over the day/night/day, some of these scenario’s remain in the befuddled memory bank. These include two-thirds of the Andrews Sisters, Sheddington and his new friend Michael the spider, a female Elvis, the imprisonment escapades of the war-damaged greengrocer[s] and their kumquat song,

Then there was Squire Gently and the blistering hooves on the horse of fate, a pipe-smoking babe-in-arms, the dour and well-dusted Post Office siblings on a virtual elevator, a male vicar double-act who end up getting wed before God herself, the carnivorous chairs and the spacecar of many rooms. Yes, it was that good. At times, it was as decidedly better than Monty Python in its full prime.

These are mere snapshots of the whole production. How they do it is a mystery and marvel - particularly when they segue into songs where, I swear, occasional telepathy itself came into play. Such is their raw talent, such the ability to spark unscripted surreal relationships and bittersweet moments of genuine emotion, whether raucous laughter or prickly tears. 

The Kazimier is ideally suited to stage Impropriety’s capers. It’s all done so intimately with a minimum of props and a tangible empathy with its dedicated audience. Echoes of the goings-on in the original Globe Theatre perhaps? Most certainly.

The Kazimier isn’t part of the “established” stable of theatres in Liverpool and rightly so. It celebrates its vital independence with a passion and through it, has become the very epic-centre of alternative theatre within which Impropriety has claimed its stake as the most life-enhancing and memorable risk-taker of them all. To be part of it, as an actor, stretches innate skills to the extreme and, as a member of the audience, one feels part of a chaotic family where anything is possible and frequently is.

As Lennon himself once said…”there’s nothing you can do that can’t be done”. Impropriety/Kazimier are living proof of this more than any other group of performers or theatrical venue in Liverpool and that’s a fact.

10 out of 10 (hours)

Improvathon Kazimier Liverpool 2014 %282%29

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Peter Coyle

i wish i had been there…it sounds like something joyous and anarchic...the way the article is…

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Anonymous

Couldn't agree more. This is a super piece. Ken would be proud that not a penny of public money was…

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Reader Xxx

The review was indeed brilliant - congratulations Angie. The show must have been very special -…

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Claudia Boulton

Thanks Angie for your brilliant piece, so glad you wrote it! Now i know what was going on! Being in…

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