Synopsis: The completely improvised church service for a religion made up on the spot!
A joyous new comedy from Travis Bernhardt, creator of the award winning Charlatan!, Unpossible!, and Chris & Travis. Come sing, laugh, and pray together!
Join Vancouver's own Travis Bernhardt on an exploration of the religion you've always wanted to be be a part of.
This show is great fun. I definitely recommend seeing it if you want to see a show that will have you laughing and singing along. If you are a fan of improv, you will appreciate Bernhardt's incredibly quick wit and ability to run with an idea extensively. He definitely has the gift of the gab.
I was hoping for more of a developed 'preacher' character that was clearly distinguishable from Bernhardt himself. There were moments that truly resembled a church service but then it seemed to drop off from being an actual sermon to him just riffing on the chosen subject matter philosophically.
This show may not be for kids as it has some language, but if you are a fan of improv and want to have a good laugh during your fringe-ing, then come and see this show. Whether you are religious or not, it is immense fun.
Unscriptured by Travis Bernhardt is playing at Carousel Theatre 6 - 16 September as part of the 2018 Vancouver Fringe Festival.
~ reviewed by Ferne Brown
Click "read more" for the full video transcript.
Welcome Theatre Addicts, my name is Ferne and I'm at the Carousel Theatre about to review Unscriptured by Travis Bernhardt as part of the 2018 Vancouver Fringe Festival.
So I chose this show particularly because I'm actually a bit fascinated with religions. I grew up in quite a religious country, and I've been to my fair share of Sunday school and church services. And what he does in the show is he'll take a made up religion, and make a whole sermon about it. And I just think that there's quite a bit that you can poke fun at with religions, maybe without stepping on too many toes.
Although I think maybe it's hard not to step on toes when it comes to making fun of religion. The write up of the show just sort of said that he would be taking audience suggestions, so it is an improv show. Now the problem, I am a great fan of improv myself, but improv can either be really, really good or it can also go really, really wrong if you don't have an audience that's feeding you the right things. If you just sort of have a flat audience that isn't responding. Maybe if he's going with the way of making fun of religions, then maybe he has an audience that is not accepting of this. So, improv can definitely go either way.
So what I myself want from this show is first of all, hopefully, good improv. Hopefully he's got an audience that he can feed off of. And I wouldn't mind it being very much a play on some religious tropes that people are very familiar with. And maybe be recognisably, not necessarily making fun of, but something that we can recognise as that is definitely something religious zealots would do. As we in the audience, we're supposed to be part of his new congregation of this church.
So I anticipate that there will be some audience interaction. We'll see how much there is. I don't mind too much audience interaction, I think sometimes it's a little intimidating if you kind of want to just sit back and not be a part of it. But that's what Fringe shows and definitely improv shows, if you go to an improv show, there's going to be some element of audience participation. But we shall see after the show, let's go.
So after watching the show, I'm a bit conflicted with how I feel. I definitely enjoyed it, it was a lot of fun. The audience was great. They definitely had some good suggestions, and there were a couple of people that were always shouting something out. And that went along with what he was saying. But in a way, I think that it might have overshadowed parts of the show. Well parts of what Travis was doing. And what I mean by that is now that I'm out of the show and I'm reflecting and thinking back, I actually remember more things that the audience members said, like some of the things that they shouted out, more than a lot of what he said. So I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing.
But clearly from an improv standpoint he is very good at what he does. Anything that the audience members said, he could completely run with and he can talk for sure, he can definitely just take one idea and run with it for a very long time. So I really, really admired that.
The venue itself is quite small, and definitely does get quite hot, so just anticipate that. I found towards the end of the show that was sort of starting to consume my mind, is just how hot I felt. But yeah, otherwise it's fine, the seats are a little uncomfortable. But I mean it kind of emulates what happens in a church service anyway, when you're sitting on those hard pews.
As far as the interaction part of the show goes, improvisation as I said before going into the show, there's always going to be a lot of audience participation because they take their suggestions from the audience. So I think with this one, if you're not that comfortable with talking to the strangers around you or engaging with the performer, it might be a little borderline uncomfortable for you.
But I mean he did give you an option in the beginning of the show, he kind of spoke to the audience a little bit before starting and said, if you really are uncomfortable with me speaking to you directly just give a little sign. So, you know, this is not to say that if you feel like you're very uncomfortable with any kind of audience participation or with people around you, don't go see it. I think you'll still enjoy it, you'll still have a lot of fun, and you can maybe just shrink down in the back and pretend you're not there.
So back to the actual content of the show. I think that there are reasons that I felt a bit conflicted coming out of the show. For one, when he started the show he started as himself. And he was asking the audience for the suggestions, he was getting people to write prayers, that they wanted to pray about. And it was himself, and he kind of said that, he said that this isn't part of the show, once I turn off the lights, yeah.
But for me I expected him to become more of a character. And I think that what I found is that he was still the same person that gave the sermon as he was before, saying that this wasn't part of the show. I really, I wanted him to really become this kind of recognisable character, or pastor. Not necessarily emulating exactly another religion or another specific type. But I just felt that it was the same person, it wasn't him becoming this character. And something that kept adding to that for me was he was laughing kind of at the things he was saying, nearly just as much as we were.
And I wanted it to be more sort of a structured, he started off with that. He started off with us all singing a song. Which again, if you're not really into audience participation, but I thought that part was probably one of the best parts. But I thought that after that part, the singing, that kind of united us as an audience and really felt that we were in a church. I just thought that he lost that character.
Like for example, the one part where he gets the scriptures of our new religion, that we've all formed, and we've been a part of for a while. But what he actually did was he got an audience member to look up on Google something like poetry and whatever our religion was. And then he read from that and he sort of delved into a lot, and you know, went into each line. But I found that at this part, my mind was wandering a little bit. Like I wasn't really listening, because even though he's so good at running with these things, I just felt like it had nothing to do with the sermon, it had nothing to do with our religion per se. Even though it was obviously he was tying it in with our religion.
So as a whole, the actual sermon concept, to me, just felt a little fragmented. There were parts of it that were really very much like a sermon. Singing in the beginning, like I said, it felt like we were really part of a church. He had the part where he had the prayers from the audience that they had written down in the beginning of the show. And he had us all chanting after that. I mean after him.
But I don't think that he stepped on any toes really, because there wasn't like these complete recognisable religious tropes. Which is something that I thought going in, I was wondering if he was going to play it safe. Obviously every show is going to be different, this is improv, so it would be interesting to see the different sermons he does.
Overall it's a lot of fun. It really is. I think if you want to just go to a show at the fringe where you're going to have a laugh, you're going to have some audience participation. You know, it's really one to see for the fun aspect of it. I think my expectation of it really kind of ridiculing it, was maybe a little too rigid. So maybe that's where I'm holding it against was my expectation of it being really like this overdone character of these religions that we like to poke fun at.
So that was my review of Unscriptured by Travis Bernhardt, at the Carousel Theatre here. My name is Ferne and I hope that you'll leave your comments below if you've seen the show. Especially with shows like this where I feel that I was a bit conflicted. You know the audience that I was with, they really enjoyed themselves, they were laughing the whole way through. So I feel like this is definitely one you'll enjoy. If you want to see it, maybe leave some comments on what you think it's going to be like. And yeah, check out the Theatre Addicts YouTube page, and enjoy the rest of the fringe.
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