Review: Striding Backwards at the Gulbenkian

Review: Striding Backwards at the Gulbenkian

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Photo: Striding Backwards Facebook Event

Rebecca Fatharly reviews UKC’s 5-piece improv group, Striding Backwards, as they perform at the Gulbenkian.

Back for their second show, this time at the Gulbenkian, Striding Backwards put on a show with plenty of twists and plot diversions to keep the audience in suspense. As a team of five, the actors act on instinct and their interactions with each other, in order to present a story on the spot. Rather than doing a series of short sketches, the group used long form improvisation for their performance. The idea is that they pick a plot strand at random, and then create an hour long story around that single idea. The show was free for the audience, but there were collection buckets for CHAC (Canterbury Housing Advice Centre) who help to prevent homelessness.

Whilst improvisation is usually used for comedic sketches, Striding Backwards wished to focus on more serious topics to bring awareness to them. However, this does not mean that there was no humour at all. The actors all had great comic timing, such as Josh Hards’ flirting with the inspector or Emma Peadon’s well-timed Christ Church jokes.

At the beginning of the show, the actors picked a random scenario from a bowl of ideas. The strand that they ran with was a scenario where the pain relief drug, co-codamal, had gone missing from a hospital store cupboard. Launching straight into the plot, three of the actors pretended to be doctors who were concerned about the lack of the drug. The hospital has come under fire for negligence, and the medics realise it will be the final straw if the inspector were to find out about the missing drugs, so they hilariously try (and fail) to prevent her from finding out.

The plot thickens and diverges from the initial plot strand, which often happens in improvisation shows. It’s great because the audience have no idea where the plot will go, and also the actors often have no idea either. Going from a hospital setting, the story expanded into other settings, such as a restaurant, a drug-dealing park and the home of one of the doctors. As there are only five members in Striding Backwards, there can only be five characters on the stage at one time. Therefore, the actors use props and clothing to differentiate between different characters. The start of the show had all the actors be medical staff, but by the end they were all doubling up as members of the same family. It must have been very confusing for the actors to switch between multiple characters, but they all handed the changes very well.

 

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