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Keith Johnstone's Lifegame

Improbable Theatre
Lyric, Hammersmith
(2010)

Publicity graphic

Lifegame is advertised as 'Part chatshow. Part improv show. Totally unique theatre.' They are not lying.

The premise is a simple one yet it takes experienced and imaginative performers to be able to create an entire show around the memories of a guest interviewee. As the interviewee is asked questions about aspects of their life, the performers choose moments to dramatise using whatever props or costumes they see fit.

For press night the guest was actor Kerry Shale who immersed himself in the experience, being both truthful and open regarding his childhood and early career. As each night is a different show it is hard to generalise but I would imagine that if other guests are as generous with their detail as Shale, then other evenings will indeed have such a mixture of humour and pathos.

When asked as his first question what he would like on his tombstone he sat in deep thought before finally sighing and saying, 'I'm really sorry, this was such a huge question.' The sentence, playfully taken as his answer, was then written on a large blackboard and stayed visible for the rest of the show. Other elements were also worked into scenes and even small details offered as asides appeared in the scenes depicted.

As an audience member it is a strange experience and yet an uplifting one as you leave the show feeling that you now know a version of the guest who first stepped onto that stage as a total surprise.

For anyone familiar with Improbable's work their trademark masks and spontaneously created puppets did make an appearance but this is not a production about the company, it is entirely devoted to the life of the participant and, in its strange hybrid between chat show and improv, some really beautifuly touching and humourous scenes emerge.

Reviewer: Amy Yorston