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 The Theatreguide.London Review

In March 2020 the covid-19 epidemic forced the closure of all British theatres. Some companies adapted by putting archive recordings of past productions online, others by streaming new shows. Until things return to normal we review the experience of watching live theatre onscreen.

Tennessee Williams Unscripted
Impro Theatre at Assembly, Edinburgh  August 2021

The American company Impro Theatre appears in the virtual strand of the 2021 Edinburgh Fringe by way of a video recording of a previous live performance back home.

It is not really improvised and is not about Tennessee Williams. But there are some good laughs in this ninety minute show, perhaps enough to satisfy.

Like many improv companies they start with a request for audience suggestions, here accepting the image of “volcano.” So the opening scene features very clever references to underground rumblings, lavas of passion and the like.

But the theme is dropped very quickly and almost completely forgotten for the rest of the show as they begin a plot, and you realize that, like many improvisers, they're not really making it up as they go along, but dipping into their repertoire of previously created material.

In this case it's a scenario having something to do with an orchestra conductor, his talentless wife, a singing hotel manager and a pair of church ladies more interested in the body than the spirit.

The bits and pieces may come together in a new order, and occasionally an ad lib or flub inspires someone to a bit of on-the-spot invention. A lot of it is delightfully silly, and some of the deliberately broad performances are funny. But it is very likely that other audiences have seen essentially this same show on other nights.

And of course it has nothing to do with Tennessee Williams.

It takes more than wavering southern accents to evoke Williams, and there are no hints of the playwright's signature themes, poetic style or Southern Gothic atmosphere.

Even more surprisingly, since it would seem both easy to do and guaranteed laugh-getters, there are no references or allusions to Williams's plays. No one feels like a foot-scorched cat, no one collects glass animals, no one arrives on a streetcar, no one yearns for the kindness of strangers.

Take Williams's name out of the title, and nothing in the show would lead you to think of him.

There is enough genuinely clever comic material here for an excellent revue sketch or a better-than-average half-hour sitcom episode. But at ninety minutes it is stretched a little too thin.

Gerald Berkowitz
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Review of  Tennessee Williams Unscripted - Improv Theatre 2021