Doth thou speakest true? Not a script betwixt these players yet drama and merriment dost ensue!
It’s hard not to get carried away with the language used by the Post-Haste Players in their latest production, The Post-Haste Histories, especially because the Shakespearean-inspired script is developed entirely before your eyes. This is improv theatre at it’s very best, pushing the boundaries of traditional theatresports.
Because the show is different each night, it’s hard to provide a description of the plot. The audience is asked to contribute to the story by choosing a word from the Shakespearean dictionaries laid out in the foyer. The ‘word of the night’ is then drawn from a chest and used. Suffice to say the show begins in a tavern, where young William Shakespeare looks to his companions for inspiration. As Will lifts pen to parchment, we are transported to a play within a play. The rest, as they say, is history.
The cast varies from night to night, but the actors have been handpicked for their outstanding improv abilities, guaranteeing a confidently performed theatrical experience. Watch for epic (and seemingly endless) metaphors from Ewan Campbell, delightful facial expressions from Atlas Adams and confident soliloquies from Oliver Burton, who also directs the show.
The venue – the Theatre in the Kings Cross Hotel – is an inspired choice for a play that has its beginnings in a bar, and the intimate stage is perfect for this type of production. With the audience seated either side of a square stage it feels a bit like watching a boxing match, as the actors spar with their words. On the third side of the square is drawn a beautiful piece of chalk art, with a space on the depicted seal reserved for the ‘word of the night’. The final side is occupied by Musician and Sound Designer, Bryce Halliday, and Lighting Operators Lila Neiswanger and Bokkie Robertson, who also improvise their respective components.
Although the entire cast can hold their own when it comes to tickling our funny-bones, what makes this show interesting is that it is not intended to be a comedy. According to Burton, the real motivation behind improvising Shakespeare is to deliver something ‘true’. “We as an audience in a theatre have the pleasure of watching other human beings live for our consideration. And maybe, just maybe, we’ll walk away having witnessed at least moment of authentic behaviour that has moved us,” explains Burton in his program notes.
On opening night, the performance certainly tended towards the comedic. This is not a criticism by any means – it’s what most fans of this company would expect – but it would be really interesting to see a more dramatic encounter play out. Methinks a second or third viewing is required.
The Post-Haste Histories promises a thoroughly entertaining night out, with more than a few laughs and possibly even some tears. Strap yourself in for 90 minutes of entirely new and never to be repeated again storytelling.
The Post-Haste Histories is playing at the Kings Cross Theatre until 20th August. For bookings, visit www.posthasteplayers.com
The reviewer attended opening night on Friday 5th August.
Photography credit Stephen Reinhardt