Gordon’s Big Bald Head unleashed on any play: a review of improv comedy at its most deluxe

Jacob Banigan, Chris Craddock, Mark Meer in Jacob Banigan, Chris Craddock, Mark Meer in Gordon’s Big Bald Head: The Play’s The Thing. Photo supplied.

By Liz Nicholls, 12thnight.ca

Gordon’s Big Bald Head: The Play’s The Thing (Stage 12, Varscona Theatre)

There is a trio of performers at this Fringe who do something insanely difficult better than anyone else anywhere.

Armed only with a Fringe program, and each other,  three elite improvisers will, on the spot, invent an entire 60-minute Fringe show. And it will be smart, unfaltering, and very funny.

It will contain breezy topical references, jokes about the fourth wall and pop culture, witty lines. It will pursue a multi-pronged story, maybe juxtapose incompatible genres to see what happens. They’ll negotiate absurd turns in the narrative with a masterful ease and enjoyment that never wavers. It’s an astonishing achievement. 

They are Gordon’s Big Bald Head, Jacob Banigan, Chris Craddock and Mark Meer. The premise is that they “assimilate” an existing show, a different one every show, and “alter its DNA on the molecular level.” For Monday’s near full-house matinee, it was Disenchanted, picked at random by a woman in the audience. It’s an Off-Broadway musical about the real story behind the happily-ever-afters of fairy tale princesses.

And what GBBH collectively made of it was an intricate weave of narration and action periodically returned to the studio where the Brothers Grimm were doing re-writes, with a view to selling rights to Disney. And so it became a story with a line of funny commentary about adaptations, and commercialization, and movies, and ….

There are ironies attached to this enterprise. For one,these long-time collaborators are so commanding, sharp, and unfaltering that you might actually wonder if the show was improvised at all. It is.

And that’s simply amazing.    

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