'Salty Superwomen: a review of Heralayan Salt Lamps' / Matilda Heselev
At the mention of improv in drama class or band practice (trumpet was my forte in year 7), my heart never failed to jump to my throat and if you looked closely enough you might have seen beads of sweat forming on my forehead. The very word ‘improvisation’ sent me into a world of panic. So, when I was invited to the Improv Conspiracy Theatre to watch a cast of eight talented actors take to a small stage with nothing but a single word prompt, I was relieved to be safely concealed in the audience as the house lights went down.
I had my apprehensions as someone enthusiastically yelled ‘potato’ from the crowd, but they dissipated and were replaced with fits of laughter as the ‘Heralayan Salt Lamps’ seamlessly worked together to create the complex characters employed at a McDonalds on a rather dark and twisted McHappy Day. I’ve been to a few comedy shows in Melbourne, but this performance felt different. Once the audience had well and truly suspended belief, it felt like we were all in it together; neither actor nor audience member knowing which wildly absurd direction the story would take next.
While Edgar, the bun boy, and his long-term girlfriend, the till girl, struggled with the soft serve machine separating their undying love, an elderly war veteran was valiantly attempting to control the deep fryer with frail hands. It was later revealed that tragically, the bun boy could not conceive with the till girl. These unfortunate circumstances prompted a telethon raising donations in the form of ejaculate. Soon after, the couple were rewarded for their hardships with the opportunity of adoption. The child in question had an equally strange and unpredictable back story. Having been deprived of ever watching Dexter, this child was clearly troubled. Not to mention having to use his own piss to lubricate and escape the Maccas slide that he had been stuck in for three years as his parents opted for a skinnier, sexy baby who didn’t get stuck in slides. Thankfully, no member of this newly formed family was sacrificed in the annual McHappy Day purge and instead the McDonald’s was dramatically demolished to make room for Cody Banks’ (former McDonald’s nightshift cleaner) new high-rise sleep hotel.
From a single word, this collective crafted a witty, fast paced comedy that effortlessly filled an hour, and they don’t even rehearse. They aren’t close friends and they don’t even see much of each other between the monthly performances and yet they seem to anticipate and dynamically work together as if they’ve been mates since the womb. I was eager to chat to the ladies after the show to find out where on earth they gain the confidence from. Because god knows I could use some of it to conquer the panic attacks evoked by a 30 second trumpet solo. And to my surprise they empathised with me. They told me that off-stage most of them feel anxious and improv has helped them manage and overcome these feelings. I guess it makes sense... If you’re scared of sharks, why not jump in a tank full of them. These salty women are swimming with the sharks, they are performing in front of a paying audience of Melburnians with nothing but their own sense of humour to protect them. They have done the impossible and, in my eyes, they are invincible superwomen saving the day by saying ‘yes’ (the golden rule of improv), listening and responding to suggestions from each other and turning ‘potato’ into a clever and uproarious performance.
So, if you are searching for a way to manage those creeping anxious thoughts in those pesky social situations, perhaps improv could be your answer. And there are really no excuses because the terrifying world of improv is being made super accessible by Tiana Hogben and Laura Buskes, members of the ‘Heralayan Salt Lamps’, who run free improv workshops every Saturday at 12.30pm – I’ll see you there. https://improvconspiracy.com/workshops/improv
The ladies of Heralayan Salt Lamps are Laura Buskes, Molly Daniels, Tiana Hogben, Taylor Griffiths, Lena Moon, Hayley Tantau, Jenni Townsend and Caitlyn Staples.
They perform monthly at the Improv Conspiracy theatre, in the CBD, so go hide in the audience. You can find them at: @heralayansaltlamps on Instagram or facebook.com/heralayansaltlamps