In early July of 2016 I arrived in Melbourne, Australia, looking to get involved in the comedy scene and do as much improv as possible. A few weeks later I had the good fortune to find myself in the bright, upstairs room of the Dan O’Connell hotel for a Saturday Soothplayers rehearsal.
The Soothplayers, for those who don’t know, are a troupe of improvisers, actors, writers and all around theatre enthusiasts who perform improvised Shakespeare plays.
From my very first scene -- in which I played a young catholic confessor shamed by the exasperated town priest (played by Stephanie Crowe) into dropping her protestant lover and agreeing to commit more wholesome and regular sins instead, such as coveting things and taking the Lord’s name in vain – I was hooked. I was wholly intimidated by the thought of having to make up Elizabethan language on the spot, not to mention the occasional rhyming couplet in iambic pentameter, but it didn’t take long for me to let go of the fear go and have fun.
In my nearly 9 months as a Soothplayer I got to perform in a sold-out run at Melbourne Fringe, a monthly show at Hares and Hyenas bookstore, in a hay-filled barn at the country wedding, and at a month’s worth of shows at our Melbourne International Comedy Festival season.
One of the many (MANY) things that makes The Soothplayers so special, in my opinion, is our collective conscience and the way we imbue our work with it. We are a very progressive group, so much so that it would’ve been impossible for us to recreate “accurate” Shakespearean scenarios (if that had been our aim). What I mean by that is you would be hard pressed to find a Soothplayer willing to do justice to an improvised Taming of the Shrew or Two Gentlemen of Verona. Instead, we routinely let our conscience shape and alter our plays. For example, In a Soothplayers’ version of Taming of the Shrew, Katherine probably tames Petruchio, or, more likely, the two agree that human beings shouldn’t be “tamed” at all. A Soothplayers Two Gentlemen of Verona…. Just wouldn’t exist.