Part of the territory when it comes to improv based on audience participation is that sections (and sometimes even full shows) can live and die by the energy of the volunteers who bravely come up on-stage.
Or, in the case of Monkey Barrel’s Dating Crapp night, the energy of those who are willing to go one further; not just coming up on stage but submitting their dating profile for all the room to see, blown up and displayed from the tech booth onto a projection screen.
Yet thankfully, host Jason Perez (Artistic Director & co-founder of the Edinburgh International Improv Festival) isn’t taking any chances. He clearly knows how to hype up a room, and to make an audience feel safe, so that when volunteers do come up, the conversation flows as if it were between two old mates. There’s not a hint of malice to his lines of questioning, despite what one might expect from a forensic examination of how someone chooses to display themselves online.
For this festival special, he’s joined by Laura Hotchkiss, Shannon O’Neill, Sebastian Conelli, Ryan Haney, Graham Dickson, Ross Filey, and Michelle Gilliam – admittedly a very full roster that seems to make blocking scenes on such a small stage a bit of an ordeal for the performers.
Starting most scenes as two-handers – the rest of the cast ready to pounce when there’s an opportunity to redirect, they invent scenarios based on what was gleaned from the participants’ profiles. This leads us tonight from the cockpit of a hilariously passive aggressive commercial flight, to potentially the world’s most cursed Duke of Edinburgh trip.
It would be a lie to say there was no mid-show lull, with some scenes ending abruptly as the steam visibly depletes, but when the vibe is this good, almost all is forgiven. The two hours fly by in one bizarre, hazy fever dream of a night. Like a good first date, this leaves you wanting more.