Given its spontaneous nature, improvisational theatre and comedy often go hand-in-hand. The goal of many improvisational performances is to make people laugh, and the goal is usually achieved. The Life Game, created by improv guru Keith Johnstone and presented by Vancouver’s Truth Be Told Theatre until December 16, works a little differently.
In most improvisational theatre (read: comedy) I have experienced, the focus of the show is on the performers and how well they handle the unexpected. In The Life Game, the focus of each show is a guest (a different one each time) who volunteers to describe moments of their life to the audience and to the cast, ringing a bell if the performers are re-creating the moments accurately, blowing a horn if the re-creation seems off. Guests are reminded that they are not responsible for making the show interesting, and the show works best if the guest is not concerned with this.
The performance I attended last Friday was a bit unusual, in that instead of interviewing an invited guest, the company interviewed guests from the audience. The first guest, Lisa, described her childhood and her dynamics within her family. Using stock props and set pieces, the performers set up her bedroom as it had been in childhood. It was, to put it simply, really really cool to watch performers take on Lisa’s descriptions of her life, and to watch Lisa physically step into her re-created childhood bedroom. From the day Lisa told her little sister she was adopted (a cruel lie to tell a younger sibling), to an imagined show-down between Belle (Lisa’s favourite Disney princess) and the evil queen from Snow White (Lisa’s bogeyman), Lisa’s life was the focus of the performance and it was funny and engaging.
After the intermission, I was asked to be the evening’s second guest and I accepted. It was a very interesting experience. Watching my heart break as my friend Carmen told me the boy I was infatuated with started dating someone else a week after he kissed me under the starlight broke my poor little heart all over again, but also made me laugh. When my “interviewer” turned to my current partner, TC was pointed out and he was invited to join me on the stage as we helped the cast re-create the moment of our engagement. Funnily enough, the actors we had chosen to play us were engaged in real life, and like us, had used an heirloom ring (nifty!).
Ultimately, the point of the show is that ordinary lives are beautiful, interesting, and extraordinary. Each show interviews a different person, and different life experiences are created for the audience. It’s a simple and elegant idea, and the talented cast and crew of Truth Be Told delivers. This is an innovative show you should definitely see once, but should probably see more than once, since every night is brand-new.
Disclosure: I was invited to attend The Life Game Vancouver and provided comps. I was not asked for a positive review and my views remain my own.