This was the scenario that greeted audiences at The Sparrow Men’s fully improvised Feast Festival show, where the performers’ fate lies in the hands of the audience.
Marcus Willis and Andy Balloch are The Sparrow Men – two fast-thinking, imaginative artists who take suggestions from their audience and use them to create a performance filled with all kinds of colourful characters.
As they took to the stage at UniSA’s West Bar on Friday night, they asked one simple question: “What would you like to see a show about”. One enthusiastic audience member suggested leprechauns – and we were off.
Over the course of an hour, we were introduced to Stephanie and Trevor, two lovers celebrating their tenth wedding anniversary, and laughed along as they reminisced about their 10 years together. We also met two men trying to reconnect 15 years after a seemingly impossible fire mishap ended their friendship, attended a rather traumatic ninth birthday party, and witnessed a budding young romance cut tragically short by an equine-related death.
Willis and Balloch are both highly skilled improv performers and their natural ability to take even the most inane idea and twist it into something ridiculous has to be seen to be believed.
For this show, they created six emotionally rich characters with a surprising amount of depth; and their ability to switch effortlessly between personas enabled the performance to maintain a steady pace without sacrificing plot or character development. Their use of descriptive language brought each scenario to life in vivid detail.
There was a moment when the men seemed to lose their train of thought but, like true professionals, they carried on, turning an awkward silence into a moment of pure hysteria.
Comprising romance, comedy and a hint of drama, The Sparrow Men was a thoroughly entertaining show. There is also something special about attending a performance which “has never been performed before and will never be performed again”.
The Sparrow Men performed one show only in Adelaide as part of Feast Festival, which continues until November 29.
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