The ‘over-the-top’ and goofy Gays of Our Lives features the Improv expertise of Andy Balloch, Marcus Willis, Justin Porter, and Shea Evans as part of the Melbourne Midsumma Festival.
The entirely improvised play comes from a platform of distinctive scenes. The incredulous soap opera is a ‘theatre sports’ of sorts, with plenty of jovial ad-lib twists and turns.
Spots flash on a wealthy middle-aged couple; then a rich son, the girlfriend, and his disappointed father, four restless Russian restaurant employees and two men at a mysterious burial. The four take a stance in exaggerated character and give a snapshot performance of the scenes to come.
There’s only one thing missing, where does the outrageous dramedy take place? The audience is asked to suggest a suburb. The ridiculously raucous events begin in ‘Doreen’, which is proudly volunteered by a member of the audience.
The introduction of the lovers Charles (Justin Porter) and Sally (Shea Evans) is a little shaky at first, then the duo quickly composes themselves and the improv dialogue gains momentum.
Andy Balloch plays Charles disgruntled and wealthy father, who is trying to discourage Charles from marrying Sally. Balloch’s ‘straight face’ routine bounces well off Porter’s leading one-liners.
Before we have finished laughing, a muscular and bearded Sally (Evans), camps it up and brushes back his hair from his face, declaring his ‘gold digging’ devotion to Charles, as they both try to convince the father of a pending engagement.
There are no dramatic, ‘facing the camera’ moments in this soap opera. The scenes are quick-witted and one of the four ads a new dimension to the improvised plot.
Evans returns as a Bank Teller at the ‘Doreen’ bank. He serves a bored and well-to-do woman. A quick prompt from Evans and we discover she is Barbara Washingbird (Marcus Willis), who eventually makes a ridiculous withdrawal of one gold bullion. The characters and connections begin to unfold. Of course like any soap, everyone is connected and the suburb of Doreen is no exception.
Then the haphazard burial scene continues. Charles (Porter) quizzes his murdering accomplice (Balloch) about the body of a woman he’s just buried. They argue as to why he chose to bury her underneath the middle of the local hiking path in Doreen. Hikers (Evans and Willis) are great comic relief.
The somewhat contrived plot reveals the identity of the body. It is Charles betrothed Sally, who happens to have an evil twin sister, also played by Evans. Again, their clever improvisation puts the plot into a tailspin. The group is cohesive; reacting quickly, hilariously explaining the twin sisters are both named Sally yet one is the ‘good Sally’ and the buried woman is ‘evil Sally’.
The larger-than-life soap slows down during the restaurant scene. Four Russian waiters set tables for the evening service and discuss the process of ‘poking’ people to get what you want. This improv initially funny lost momentum and wore thin by its second and third round at the Doreen Mc Donald’s restaurant and bank.
Evans revives the floundering pace as the rich boring husband John Washingbird. Barbara Washingbird (Willis) offers him the gold bullion she withdrew from the bank, suggesting he buy her a romantic and thoughtful gift. Evans and Willis banter with a witty fishing theme of potential gifts.
Most members of the group kept the common thread of the storyline afloat. At times one of the players seemed to be out-of-the-loop with elongated pauses. Luckily others noticed the gap and responded with a ‘tag-in’ like at a wrestling match, picked up the pieces and the pace.
Gays of Our Lives is a fun and cheesy concoction of all the absurdity of soap operas.