The Bear Pack

★★★
comedy review | Read in About 2 minutes
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The Bear Pack
Published 19 Aug 2017

There was a time, not so long ago, when 'improv' had not-too-subtle undertones of ropey, only mildly jokey sets performed by students, very much for their own benefit. That might be unfair. It's definitely unsustainable in the light of contemporary improv troupes the like of Austentatious and The Free Association, who have undoubtedly helped professionalise the genre. Add The Bear Pack to that list, aka Steen Raskopoulos and Carlo Ritchie, whose improvised "yarn" format is a wonderful exposition of the possibilities of long-form improv.

The setup is familiar: audience suggestions provoke a wholly improvised story. Tonight it's set in Neverland, and features a potted plant (not, thankfully, a penis, as suggested by one wag). Raskopoulos and Ritchie take us on a trip through a dystopian land where the magic has gone, but to which captain Hook has returned. Will Peter return, too? The pair are very, very good at this: it's actually a proper story, with tension and resolution, and some real success with comic devices such as callback. There's a good balance between help and hindrance between the pair, at times working together to move the story on, at other times placing each other in tough spots for the fun of watching them escape which, mostly, they do.

The "yarn" idea is, by and large, a bit of a red herring. Billed as a "conversation", it's not clear how this adds anything to the structure or the jokes. Perhaps the ace up the sleeve, though: Raskopoulos and Ritchie are accompanied by Ange Lavoipierre who improvises a soundtrack on cello. As is perhaps inevitable, there are sections which drag while the pair work out a fruitful route. The music maintains tension and atmosphere at spots that the comedy doesn't. Clever.