You don’t get many transvestite mechanics in theatre and when you do they’re rarely as much fun as Holly Georgia’s Steve, one of the stars of last night’s never seen before and never to be seen again, The Pimp from the Bakery.
Improv Noir consists of Sayde Scarlett, Bhavnisha Parmar, Cecillie Aclon, Holly Georgia, Hayley-Marie Axe, Jade O’Sullivan and Annina Kaski. The actors are all on stage for the whole performance, standing at the sides and trying not to laugh when not in the action. The creation is an ensemble piece, but last night Hayley-Marie Axe took the lead, as a soldier returning to the garage he left four years before. His hair had grown, but that didn’t stop his workmates recognising him…
A few props, such as hats, guns and cigarettes are used to add atmosphere – I’d have thrown in a few Trench coats as well – but otherwise the fun is down to the unscripted words. Noir is a literate genre, with long diatribes, pithy comments and absurd statements – in Farewell My Lovely Chandler has Marlowe say The coffee shop smell was strong enough to build a garage on. These are hard to improvise, as are noir plots which are convoluted at the best of times. Trying to put together a noir plot on the hoof is going to be difficult and the attempt does lead to some repetition, exposition and confusion. But improv allows ludicrous plot points and statements to develop, Axe’s explanation of the importance of socks in times of war being an amusing example.
Films noirs are not inherently funny so the Improv Noir team has a battle in making the plot amusing. Often the jokes come from cast members pointing out anachronisms (‘A Lamborghini? In 1940?’) but the set-up definitely has comic potential. The story I saw was over-complicated – but The Big Sleep was so complex that the author himself famously had no idea who killed the chauffeur, so maybe that shows that Improv Noir really have got their film noir spoofs sorted.