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The One Hour Plays

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
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Up at the Belly Laugh, a new play is underway. It is called Revenge at 20,000 Ft, is set in Nepal, and features an unlikely threesome: The Easter Bunny, Bob the Gardener, and A Beautiful Ghost. An odd choice, you might say, and I would agree - except that I had a hand in creating it.

Yes, improvisational sketch teams are now not the only ones to be making it all up on the spot, for The Matey Institute have applied similar rules to their unique and immersive performance. To put it succinctly, the audience and the company collaborate to create an entirely new play in the space of an hour, with actors, a writer, a director, a seamstress, and assistant all ready and willing to race against the clock.

However, the creative process is in fact a performance in itself. Paul Ham essentially leads proceedings, playing a power-mad, pretentious director in a ghastly neckerchief and forever abusing a young actress whom he once loved. There are very amusing rehearsal exercises which slip into brilliant silliness, and a gormless assistant director who darts about doing very little. 

Ideas, props, reviews, and marketing are all provided by the audience, and there is even a chance for a Q&A session with Ham, who keeps proceedings running smoothly throughout, a Ricky Gervais-inspired dictator of bile and self-importance.   

This is gentle, teasing fun; a knockabout and ramshackle project that everyone around me lapped up. As improvisers, the actors leave a lot to be desired, and of course, the play itself is pretty dire, as well it should be with our suggestions. But as a pleasurable lunchtime show, you would have to look hard to find something that matched its joyously daft charm.

- Adam Elms


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