Venue: wham, bam, thank you Jam

This then, is it. The final chapter. The parting shot. The last lovin’ spoonful. For contrary to what our bumbling political nonentities would have you believe, there will be no Jam tomorrow.On the menu tonight, The Factory are reinventing ‘The Seagull’ again (alongside their ‘Round 2’ series of roving playlets – see yesterday) so we slip off to the Paintshop, where, staggeringly, in the now familiar hard-boiled, Prohibition-era Easyville, our impressively perky improvathon-ers (actually a composite scratch company comprising several nationally-known impro groups) are entering their 26th hour. Little’s changed: all are still in character (the same characters), the same clothes and in the same space with the same lack of natural light – but the energy levels haven’t dropped a watt. The string-pulling MC continues to drolly yell out script notes stage right (“Back in the courtroom, the trial of Flimsy Premise draws to its conclusion… in the style of Bertholt Brecht.”) whilst the actors make do with whatever’s flung at them – X-Factor contests, weddings at the downtown Jewish deli, pontification on the golf course, prison romances, shoot-outs, love-ins, bust-ups, smack-downs…The audience – spurred on by the non-performing cast members – whoop, holler and wolf-whistle. The songs – which parody everything from West Side Story to Spielberg to Shakespeare – go down best, the group’s perpetual vim and vitality carrying the occasionally flatter scenes. It’s all very self-congratulatory of course (presumably to stop everyone going mad, snapping or falling asleep), and a little treacly for much more than the four straight hours we indulged in tonight, but it’s an undeniably impressive feat of mutually-supportive endurance which consistently keeps the balls in the air and occasionally stumbles into dazzlingly smart farce and uproarious musical comedy.Best of all perhaps, as the thumping honky-tonk licks of ‘You Give A Little Love’ pound out the inevitable full cast finale, all the crew, theatre staff and many of the writers, directors, actors, singers and musicians who’ve cropped up in the past ten days, reconvene to flop out, Glastonbury-style, on the floors of the cafe-bar/foyer to relive it all, swap stories and perhaps plan more; cheerfully explaining to us unwashed punters what it was all about, where it came from and how it was done. Suddenly, the theatre – and the making of theatre – seems a lot closer, more grasp-able, less impenetrable than usual. And, perhaps more than ever before, at this freewheeling festival of made-up stuff, where a single word, a suggestion, or a casual glance can generate a fully-fledged four-act play, it felt like, we, the audience were included – and mattered – too.Thanks for that.


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