Vancouver TheatreSports League’s TripImproviser is hilariously relatable

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At the Improv Centre on Granville Island. On Thursday, July 10

I don’t know what was behind Vancouver TheatreSports League’s latest production, TripImproviser, but it’s the perfect cross-promotional vehicle. Parodies of TV shows are one-way streets, but tackling the travel website TripAdvisor sends traffic the website’s way while also allowing them to remind the audience to bump the theatre company’s ranking (as of this writing, number 21 out of 184 Vancouver attractions with an average rating of 4.5 out of 5).

It’s a fun format, too. Everyone has vacation stories, and the emcee—on the opening gala it was Michael Teigen—mined them from the audience and got the actors to act them out on-stage. Or they would use someone’s birthplace as a starting-off point. It’s a fast-paced show, moving from country to country quickly. On this night, they took us from Colombia to the Philippines to Chile to Australia to Russia to a Regina dump.

Also, the games were inventive. It’s not your typical improv greatest hits. Yes, there was a honk-ding scene (I’m making the term up, I’m pretty sure) where an audience member would honk a horn if the improvisers got a fact wrong about his home country and ring a bell if he wanted a new scene, but that was about it for the tried and true. (Turns out there are a lot of topless women in Colombia because the horn holder let that development play out.)

And when Teigen found a woman from Kyrgyzstan who spoke Russian, he brought her on-stage, instructed her to speak only Russian, and the others performed a Russian play, inspired, of course, by death. The actors spoke English, naturally, but pretended they understood the Slavic language, none better than Nathan Clark as the murderer.

They made good use of the big screen, too. Usually it’s there just to plug upcoming shows and the bar, but here it’s used to generate scenes from TripAdvisor itself. They clicked on Holiday Ideas and got the audience to choose one, then someone else selected the region, and a third person picked the individual location. We ended up with a fun vignette of a farmer’s market in Adelaide with Ken Lawson hawking didjeridus, Denis Jones selling opals, Graeme Duffy as a travelling Canadian ironically from Whistler, and Margret Nyfors as the Canadian’s long-lost Aussie girlfriend.

Loglines from customer reviews on the website were also used. Several of them were written on paper and scattered on the floor. It’s an older device, too, but it was integrated nicely with the format. The actors took the suggestion of visiting a volcano and would randomly pick up a slip of paper, read the logline, and incorporate it into the scene.

After the intermission, Teigen drew our attention to the screen again where they had hilariously recapped the highlights of the first half, and the actors performed a series of quick-hitting scenes based on all the references used so far.

Who knew a website could provide such hilarity? Maybe I should have posted this review on TripAdvisor but I’m sure they’ll be getting enough from other audience members. Very crafty, VTSL. Funny, but crafty.

TripImproviser runs Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 pm at the Improv Centre on Granville Island.

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