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A CurtainUp London London Review

I've never done this before. — The Interviewer
This week Improbable Theatre returns to the Lyric with its part improv - part chat show masterpiece. An improvisational extravaganza, Lifegame is one of the most impressive pieces of 'organic' theatre one is likely to see in London. Not only does it impress with the sheer talent of the actors, musicians and lighting technicians, we are given a rare insight into how theatre is often constructed. Starting from a single idea or memory and with collaboration, team work, and passion, beautiful and inspirational theatre can be created.

The show involves a member of the company interviewing a "top secret"' guest whilst the rest dramatize moments of his/her life using a variety of theatrical techniques. The identity of the guest is even kept from the performers until he is welcomed on stage. The objective of the evening is "to find out how life was for our guest."

The interviewer begins by asking some basic early memory questions before delving deeper into their more personal memories. If a certain memory screams of theatricality the company, with impressively almost no vocal consensus, decide to act out the scene or situation described by the interviewee. There are musicians on hand to add atmospheric noise, a variety of props to help set the scene and if are you are lucky one can witness a variety of eclectic skills such as live mask making. However, it is difficult to describe the evening in detail as the show will invariably differ with each guest.

The performers are all of exceptional artistry and are at all times at ease with each theatrical brainstorm thrown at them. At any point you could be treated to mime, live music, physical comedy and even singing reminiscent of a Gilbert and Sullivan Operetta. To make all this successful requires absolute comedic timing and awareness which the whole company seemed to posses. Everyone must have an unparalleled instinct for theatrical effectiveness and from the interviewer down to the lighting operator you will witness a collaborative effort like no other. I am going to refrain from emphasising certain performers and from even revealing the identity of our guest as every night you will see something entirely different and perhaps one night one performer will shine more than the next.

There are moments that will not work and for sure this evening there were moments of perhaps over indulged sentimentality but that is the beauty of such daring improvisational theatre. At every awkward moment of staleness or if the scene being played is just not working the company always manages to bring the evening back to life.

The Lyric Hammersmith has firmly established itself now as a theatre that promotes uniqueness, diversity and exceptional British talent. Improbable Theatre should be praised for its contribution in keeping that reputation alive.

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by Keith Johnstone
Presented by Improbable Theatre

Performers: Lee Simpson, Phelim McDermott, Julian Crouch, Angela Clerkin, Guy Dartnell, Stella Duffy, Niall Ashdown Nick Powell
Designer: Julian Crouch
Composer: Nick Powell
Producer: Nick Sweeting
History: LIFEGAME was first performed at Brewery Arts Centre, Kendal on 20 March 1998. It has been presented nationally in Bath Theatre Royal, Bath; Bonnington Theatre, Nottingham; Everyman, Liverpool; Lyric Hammersmith, London; MAC, Birmingham; Newcastle Playhouse, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne; Phoenix Arts, Leicester; Purcell Room, South Bank Centre, London; Sheffield Crucible Studio, Sheffield; The National Theatre, London; Tron, Glasgow; Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry; and West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds.
Internationally LIFEGAME has been presented in Jane Street Theatre, New York, USA; La Jolla Playhouse, San Diego, USA; The Energex Brisbane Festival, Australia.
Running time: Approximately 1 hour 40 minutes including interval
Box Office: 0870 050 0511
Booking to 17th July 2010
Reviewed by Tim Newns based on 8th July 2010 performance at the Lyric Hammersmith, 2 King Street, London , W6 0QA
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