REVIEW: Midsumma Festival’s THE SPARROW MEN

Impro duo take fantastic flight

By Narelle Wood

Marcus Willis and Andy Balloch are The Sparrow Men whom each night promise to take their audience on a completely unique, completely improvised adventure. Combining the audience suggestions of ‘tennis’ and ‘hostage situation’, we were treated to what can only be described as a bizarre, funny and at times surprisingly poignant hour of improvised entertainment.

The Sparrow Men

Taking us on this journey was a sociopathic wannabe-tennis player, his besotted hostage (apparently Stockholm syndrome can work out) and a restaurant with 3 kilos of Parmesan cheese. But it was the honest account of how cookbooks are actually a way for ‘The Man’ to control our lives that provided the rare, and hopefully fictional, glimpse into the inner workings of Jamie Oliver’s brain. This, coupled with a scene where a TV was literally killing a man, was what turned this performance into a social commentary on the pitfalls of consumerism.

I’m fascinated by improvised theatre and the spontaneous development of scene and story. Marcus and Andy are very talented, playing skilfully off each other’s suggestions and mostly keeping a straight face; there were moments of unusual and whacky suggestion that were clearly unexpected and made it all the more entertaining.

The only thing lacking for me was a tying-up of all the vignettes at the end of the show – perhaps it wasn’t necessary but there were some characters that I was really interested to find out how they fitted into the bigger picture and what became of them. Did Corey and Jessica get the woof whistles from the construction workers that their hearts truly desired?

Whatever your expectations of improvised theatre, The Sparrow Men presented by The Butterfly Club and The Improv Conspiracy provide a joyous frolic down whatever path the audience provides and it’s certainly a show that you could see over and over again.

Venue: The Butterfly Club, Carson Place, Melbourne
Season: Wed 28th January and Sunday 1st February 8pm, Thursday 29th to Saturday 31st January 9pm
Tickets: Full $28 | Conc $24