As we reach the final weekend of FRINGE WORLD 2020, we are rushing to grab tickets for whatever we can before the season ends. But if there’s one thing that we should always strive for in this Festival, it’s supporting our local artists.
The Oracle is an unscripted, improvised performance from The Actors Workshop which relies heavily on audience engagement in order to drive the story.
As the crowd took their seats, the Host for the evening – clad in her ornate shawl – chose a volunteer from the audience. The young ‘victim’ was then asked to select a prop from a set of shelves, picking out a wooden box. We were then presented with four snippets of stories which the performers improvised using the prop, with one of these snippets – a story about pirates, island treasures, and the Fountain of Youth – being chosen to shape the rest of the show.
Though the simple box was a potential treasure chest of charmingly bizarre stories – full of emotional and comedic gold – it felt as though we spent more time sailing in circles.
I can only imagine how difficult it is to get up on stage and perform without a script, especially when major plot points are put into the hands of the audience who, at any time, could demand a kiss, a death, or the reveal of one’s darkest secrets.
But while audience engagement was high, it felt like many opportunities to progress the story were wasted. New characters disappeared as soon as they were beckoned on stage, the dialogue was either repetitive or vague, often requiring further prompts from each other or the Host, and the lack of vocal projection made it difficult to hear their performances from the back rows.
However, the power of improvised theatre lies in its ambition and unpredictability, and tonight’s show may yet be one that sweeps you off your feet. So take The Oracle for what it’s worth: a good first dip into the watery depths of improv, and a means of supporting a passionate troupe of local performers.