Few shows are named as literally as Big Fork Theatre’s In the Dark. An hour-long, short-form comedy improv show, In the Dark is an immersive experience, performed entirely – cast and audience alike – in the dark.
Unscripted and unplanned, with characters, dialogue, and action created collaboratively in real time, creating good comedic improv is challenging enough. Turn off all the lights, and the challenge becomes infinitely greater: performers can’t use gestures to drive a storyline, they can’t fall back on physical humour to get a laugh from the audience, and they can’t rely on visual or physical cues between themselves to guide timing or participation. It’s these extra challenges that make In the Dark such an exciting work.
A fresh and unique concept for sketch improv comedy, In the Dark is an impressive demonstration of the performers’ individual creative, comedic and vocal skills, and their collective ability to vibe as a team. Initially riffing off a theme suggested by the audience (in the show I saw, the word was ‘haunted’), the eight performers work their way through a variety of short sketches, using only their voices and bodies to create the stories, characters, and sound effects.
The intentional unpredictability of improv theatre is one of its most exciting aspects – and one of its riskiest. While there were points in one or two of the sketches where the storyline seemed to get away temporarily from the performers, the shared skill of the group in, overall, keeping some pretty surreal storylines cohesive (while keeping them funny) was impressive.
The show takes place in the ambient, underground Spring Hill Reservoir; a cosy and atmospheric venue with good acoustics – crucial for a sound-based show. In the Dark is deeply entertaining, full of witty word play, moments of genuine hilarity, and some truly excellent character voices (my personal favourite from the show I saw was the displeased turtle). Each sketch was bookended by wonderfully rich soundscapes, created – again – by nothing more than the clever, effective use of the performers’ voices and bodies.
Good things happen in the dark, the Muppets once said, and Big Fork’s In the Dark proves how right they were.
Review by Sylvia Speakeasy, Friday 21st May, at the Spring Hill Reservoir, Spring Hill. Presented by Big Fork Theatre.