As something of an improviser myself (hey, you can’t tell me these reviews are well planned), I was keen to see this one-man improvised show, which is part of the Powerhouse’s L’attitude 27.5 series. Improvisation is a strange beast, and unlike a play where you know you’ll at least get rehearsed performances (however bad they may be), impro shows are more of a risk. And there are not so many of them, so Andrew Morrish had a willing reviewer in me.
The show is a hard one to sum up in a sentence well, at least one that incorporates the artist’s … artistic vision. “A bald, middle-aged man in a suit flops about onstage” is probably nicer than the simple “Git” that my Dad would probably give it. Morrish has been improvising and doing movement training since 1982, and obviously knows the abilities of his own body. But it wasn’t like watching those chiselled Zen Zen Zo physical theatre types. It was an exercise in “linking movement with poetry” (said the poster), hosted by … a bald, middle-aged man who flopped out onstage.
The show, simple in set-up and execution (having no set and minimal lighting) began with Morrish walking to stage and starting the first of his physical demonstrations. He jumped, he twisted, he spiralled. He made wacky gestures with his hands, face and body. He made unintelligible noises, then broke into “I haven’t decided … should it be a short sharp show tonight, or a long languid one?” So we know he’s an improviser. Unfortunately, with all the wacky movement and poetry, my “arty wanker” siren was beginning to wail in my head. “Uh-oh,” I thought. “He’s going to offend me on that level that always offends me artists who take themselves too seriously.”
But luck was on my side. At about the ten minute mark, Morrish took off his coat and looked around for a hook to place it on. He stated that if this was a real theatre someone would have come out to take his coat by now. The audience, which had been giggling hesitantly at the amusing sight of the bald middle-aged man flopping about on stage, cracked up. My “arty wanker” siren died down. Thankfully, Morrish doesn’t take himself seriously.
The show continued with movement sequences, but more and more “talking bits” (as I call them for want of a better term). Morrish has the basics of a good stand-up comedian. Indeed, at some points I was reminded of Eddie Izzard, the slightly surreal and stream-of-consciousness style comedian from the UK. Moments of absurdism were grounded in truth. Morrish talked a bit about his childhood, his mother, his Scottish grandfather who “scared him more than any other man has scared him”. These bits were touchingly real, and most of all funny. When he described how he developed a limp as a child to appear more interesting, the accompanying exaggerated limp around the stage had the audience in stitches.
And that’s the way the show continued for all of its short 37 minutes. Movement and poetry were interspersed with touching pieces and good comedy moments. Morrish held focus well, and the minimalist setting ensured you only ever looked at him. I would have liked a bit more development with some of the stories, but I understand the time limitations and the premise that this was not a stand-up show. Overall, Relentlessy On was different, and not anything like I imagined. Of course, being primarily improvised, the two remaining shows will not be like that one. However, I’m sure that they too will stand alone as intriguing experiments with the (often underrated) art form that is improvisation.