ShLong Form Improv (Probationary Theatre Co.) 2011 Toronto Fringe Review

I walked into the Robert Gill yesterday with high hopes for ShLong Form Improv – these are English teachers from Korea who are currently touring the country and the world as improvisors.

Living in a city that is packed with improv teams and companies, I was excited to see a team with something fresh. I was also truly enthused to see a group from Korea – a country where I have spent considerable amount of time. My hopes were that they would use their Korean stories to infuse the scenes or as a launching pad for suggestions.

The show began loosely and with just the right amount of energy – running onto the stage and getting suggestions from the audience. But there was no introduction of their names and nothing about their unique background. They decided to bring a special guest onstage who is in another show – a very charitable thing to do. They handed over the energy of the show to someone sharing the spot in the same venue, which is a lovely promo but a daring choice! She performed a monologue on women and bees and then the troupe used this as suggestions for their long form.

So the idea is that they are melding short and long form improv together. Short form being the types of games featured in theatresports and long form being a flow of open scenes with edits, like a Harold. I think they did themselves a disservce by bringing a person on to do a staged monologue rather than connecting to their audience off the top or getting someone to get a suggestion and then improvise a monologue. It was an interesting choice as well to do long form set first. Usually a quicker, faster paced, games set with lots of audience involvement gets the crowd engaged and then affords a group some longer scenes.

The first rule of improv is listening. The first rule that goes out the window when a team is nervous, is listening. They did their best, but offers were missed. Scenes went to the land of crazy continually – which may work for a bigger crowd or a bar in Itaewon but not so much on a Friday afternoon. Again, more of the short form off the top might have helped in this department.

Some really fun character choices and some great and specific object work were highlights for me, particularly with a hotel cart that takes a long time to set up. I also would have personally preferred to see them onstage throughout the show. Running on and off stage broke the energy up and with a small crowd, there is no energy to spare. Sad because, there is some improv muscle here and some true talent.

Absent was anything Korean, or about Korean teaching. This edge and communal experience would have given this team such a fresh and interesting perspective and made for some grounded scene work.

I enjoyed their take on the game “Freeze” (sort of a combination of techniques known as “Painting the scene” and “Puppets”) – which was the one short form game that found its way in for the second long form set. Improv shows have off nights and it sucks to have to review one when you know this group has likely had some great sets. But to get bums in seats in a festival and in a city that features some of the best improvisors in the world, you’ve got to bring your “A” game or structure your show in a way that creates a wider margin for error.

Shlong Form Improv performs at The Robert Gill Theatre, 214 College St.

Tue, July 12 10:45 PM
Thu, July 14 5:15 PM
Fri, July 15 8:00 PM
Sat, July 16 Noon
Tickets: – All individual Fringe tickets are $10 ($5 for FringeKids) at the door (cash only).
– Tickets are available online at www.fringetoronto.com, by phone at 416-966-1062, in person at The Randolph Centre for the Arts, 736 Bathurst Street (Advance tickets are $11 – $10+$1 convenience fee)
– Several money-saving passes are available if you plan to see at least 5 show