Click on the "Read More" on the bottom right for the full transcript of the video review.
I must admit, I am a sucker for some good improv theatre. Regrettably, it had been longer than I care to admit since I’d last made it out to a show. So I had quite a bit of anticipation for Vancouver Theatre Sports’ new show Avocado Toast, a parody on the eccentricities of life in Vancouver.
Not only will the same show not be seen twice, but the cast of Avocado Toast rotates as well! I had the pleasure of enjoying the talents of: Jullian Kolstee, Ken Lawson, Taz VanRassel, Margret Nyfors, Rae-Lynn Carson, and Ed Witzke, all hosted Lauren Mcgibbon. The chemistry on stage was palpable between these wickedly clever comedic improvisors. But, perhaps the best testament to these performers is the fact that I was sat beside a woman vacationing from Mexico who’d come to see her first ever improv show. She was very excited but also somewhat unsure due to english being her second language. Well, lo and behold, she was laughing as hard as I was! Even though the odd word or reference might have not landed for her, the night’s improvisers were so good at physical comedy that their scenes transcended any barriers.
Avocado Toast is a fantastic show. It’s format is especially great because it not only has many opportunities for audience participation but also has an overarching narrative that ties oh so perfectly into the realities of living in Vancouver. A word also needs to be said for the unsung heroes of the night, the ‘Technical Improvisers’ who have the challenging -- and often hilarious -- job of operating the lights and sound cues all while keeping up with whichever inventive, ridiculously funny scene was unfolding.
I honestly cannot recommend this show highly enough. I fully intend going to see it at least one more time! Avocado Toast runs until September 1 at The Improv Centre on Granville Island. Do yourself a favour and don’t dare miss these guys!!
~ reviewed by Josh Cronkhite
We'd love to hear from you!
Please comment on the review, the show if you see it, or pick from one of the following conversation starters:
1. What things do you personally do that is typical for Vancouver?
2. What is your pet peeve / favourite part of living in Vancouver?
3. What crazy names, ridiculous double standards, or Vancouver themed activities could you offer the improvisational team?
Want to try a taste before you decide? Why not check out the VTSL promo video below?
Danielle: Welcome, theatre addicts. My name is Danielle Benzon. I am here with Josh Cronkhite, and he will be reviewing Vancouver TheatreSports' Avocado Toast, which is playing at The Improv Centre on Granville Island. Welcome, Josh.
Josh: Thank you.
Danielle: How was Avocado Toast? It was an improv show, right?
Josh: That's correct. It was fantastic. I got there nice and early and I got to kind of look at their set for a while. Even their set is hilarious. The show's great. There's one intermission partway through.
TIMESTAMP 00:37 STRUCTURED IMPROVISATION
And there's something that I'm not quite used to, actually, for improv, is that it's slightly structured, so they improvise within a structure. There's a little bit of an overarching storyline to it, so that it has a similar kind of ending for each show but everything between that is completely improvised and completely fresh each night.
TIMESTAMP 01:02 PHYSICAL COMEDY
What I love about improv is the spontaneity of it, and the situational comedy, and the physical comedy that can develop from that. Because they were really, really great at physical comedy there. That's one of the things that helped my friend who had English as a second language was the physical aspect of it that transcends borders.
TIMESTAMP 01:25 VANCOUVER-CENTRIC THEME
Danielle: I know the theme, the avocado toast theme, in my accent, it sounds kind of strange, that it's supposed to be Vancouver-centric. Is that correct?
Danielle: A lot of Vancouver jokes?
Josh: Yeah. Yeah. They have quite a bit of poking fun at things that are uniquely Vancouver, things like affordable housing and things like exercising a lot, doing the Grouse Grind, and eating healthy, and all these things that are quite Vancouvery. Yeah, it's great. There was actually someone sitting beside me who was vacationing here from Mexico, her first time in Canada, and it was actually a really great introduction as well to the city in a nice comedic way. And they did it in a way that it could be very useful for people who are from abroad or just locals. It works perfectly both ways. I found that really interesting.
Danielle: I hadn't thought about that, because I thought it would be very, like Vancouverites will really appreciate it, laughing at ourselves and poking fun at ourselves, but as a kind of introduction to the city like, "These are the things you should do. These are the things you should expect," that's kind of cool as well. We should mention it to the tourist board.
Josh: Yeah. Tthe host actually plays kind of like a tour guide, so yeah, it's perfect. It's great. I wish all tours were like the one at Avocado Toast.
Danielle: I love how you said that eating healthy is a specifically Vancouver thing.
TIMESTAMP 03:19 AVOCADO TOAST
Josh: They do poke some fun at our eating habits. Avocado toast...
Danielle: Do you like avocado toast?
Josh: I haven't had the two together, but I do like them separately, so maybe I should try them together.
Danielle: You can't call yourself a Vancouverite if you haven't eaten avocado toast!
Josh: I know. I felt like a little bit of an imposter there, just secretly, "Shh."
Danielle: You're a millennial, too. It's disgusting.
Josh: I know. I know. I'm an outcast from both groups. I don't know what's going on.
Danielle: Letting down the team.
TIMESTAMP 03:37 SET / BACKDROP
Danielle: You said that the set was hilarious. I don't go to a lot of theatre sports, but I'm not used to them having a set at all.
Josh: From as far as I know, they don't generally have too much of a set, but they had a, it was just kind of the, like the background, as it were, and they had a couple of these cool little bus stops with funny names on them and kind of funny little Vancouverisms. The backdrop had a really nice artistic view of Vancouver and also some kind of comedic things that had to do with like construction and stuff like that that kind of you saw the point of as the show went on. It was really nicely how it all tied together.
TIMESTAMP 04:36 FAVOURITE / LEAST FAVOURITE
Danielle: So actually really well planned, even though it was mostly improvised. From this show in particular, what was your favourite part, and what was your least favourite part?
Josh: My favourite part, that's tough, because it was really, really great show. I'd say they leave a lot of room for audience participation, and a couple people went up on stage, and they helped contribute to scenes. There was a guy, they asked if anyone knew a second language, and he knew Japanese. They did this hilarious scene where they said it was lucky, because they were actually all fluent in Japanese, so he would say something in Japanese, and they would incorporate that into the scene. They translated it, and that was hilarious. The quick-wittedness of them to have things that sounded similar to what he was saying in Japanese was just stunning. As for my least favourite part, that's even more difficult. To be honest, I know it sounds cheesy, but I didn't really have a least favourite part of it. It was just, it was a riot from the beginning to the end. My only regret is that I didn't get up on stage myself.
TIMESTAMP 05:58 AUDIENCE PARTICIPATION
Danielle: Is it heavy on audience participation? Because I know for myself, I quite enjoy improvised theatre, but I do not like participating, so is it very heavy on it? Like are you forced to, or is there the option of not participating if you don't want to?
Josh: Yeah, there's some, they'll have in the kind of the classical way, they'll have you call things out and call out suggestions, but there was one person, I won't say how because it kind of gives away the plot of it, and I don't want to do that, but they kind of forced it upon them. But at first, it was kind of forced upon someone else, and they weren't really into it that much, so they did it on someone else. They're not out to make anyone uncomfortable, and it ended up turning out magnificently. Yeah, I mean, if you're someone who's worried about not wanting to be in the limelight, I don't think it's too much of a problem there. From what I can sense, they're really good at gauging the types of people who really want to be in the spotlight with them, and they pick those people out.
TIMESTAMP 07:06 VANCOUVER THEATRESPORTS COMPANY
Danielle: You said something about it's a different cast every night, but they're all from the same company. Do you know much about the company?
Josh: I know a bit about the company. It's been around for a long time, and there's been quite a few, like Colin Mochrie's been part of it, and there's been some famous improvisers that you can see on TV that either kind of got their start out there or were there early on, and they sometimes come back and do a show here and there. It's really a place that has quite a lot of history to it, and it's in Granville Island, which has quite a lot of history to it as well. It's a really, really beautiful area.
Danielle: Yeah, Granville Island is kind of performing arts central, in a way, for Vancouver.
TIMESTAMP 07:50 VTSL IMPROV CLASSES
Danielle: Am I correct in thinking that Vancouver TheatreSports also hosts improv classes?
Josh: Yes. Yes, they do that. They have improv classes of all levels, and I believe they're taught by some of the cast members. So if you go there and you find, "Hey, this is actually really thrilling not just as an audience member, but I think I would also find it really thrilling if I'm up there," they do offer classes. I have taken myself, personally, a couple of improv classes before. Especially if you're shy, it's something that it's in a safe environment, and it really gets you to get out of your shell. It can be a really liberating experience.
Danielle: Great, so if you did want to participate or you want to participate more, go take some of their classes as well.
Josh: Definitely. I would highly recommend improv to anybody.
TIMESTAMP 08:45 AUDIENCE ADVICE
Danielle: Any advice for anyone who's interested in seeing it or kind of on the fence, thinking, "Should I go? Shouldn't I go?" Any advice for our audience members?
Josh: Yeah. I would say definitely, it's something that you want to take a friend or take someone with you, because it's better when you have someone there, and you can both laugh together and, if you want to, participate together. I'd also suggest getting there early as well, because they have like a bar lounge area that you can go into beforehand, and you can grab a few drinks and bring them into the theatre. It's a riot. I wouldn't let yourself be put off by the potential of being singled out because\ they're nice people, they're not going to make you suffer.
Danielle: That's good to know. It's good to know that the performers aren't out to get you.
Josh: No, exactly. I think that's a little bit of a fear people have, but they aren't. Keep an open mind, and really anything could happen.
TIMESTAMP 10:03 DIFFERENT EVERY NIGHT
That's the part of the danger and the thrill of it is that it's this magical moment that's never, ever going to be repeated again. You're part of this little piece of history in a place that's quite steeped in history.
Danielle: This is a different show, even though it's structured, it is a different show every night with different performers every night, so you could go back every weekend.
Josh: Yeah. I plan on going back, actually, because I really enjoyed it that much. It's really cool that you get to go and see a show where the ending's going to be the same or similar, but how you get there is going to be entirely different every time, and that's thrilling.
TIMESTAMP 10:34 CLOSING REMARKS
Danielle: Absolutely. Avocado Toast is running until, I believe, the 1st of September on Granville Island at The Improv Centre by Vancouver TheatreSports. If you have a chance, you can go see it as many times as you like. It's a different show and a different cast every evening. Thank you again so much, Josh, for being our reviewer.
Josh: Thank you.
Danielle: We'll see you next time.
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Founded by Danielle Benzon, a self-professed theatre addict.