It’s fitting that Montreal Improv’s newest show, Superhospital, takes its name from an enormous medical centre that’s currently being constructed just west of the city’s downtown core. For the uninitiated, improvisational theatre—or improv—is a type of performance art in which a group of actors hop on stage with no script, no direction, no concrete plan, and proceed to construct the entire act on the spot with little more than a theme, word, or suggestion from the audience as a starting point. Even though there’s room for sloppy disaster, hilarity almost always ensues.
As the name implies, the show features nearly a dozen improvisers performing a long-form improv in a hospital setting. The twist? Every single actor has a specific character that they’ve developed before the show to embody during the performance. For those purists worried that this gimmick takes the improvisation out of improv, don’t be—everything else is entirely made-up on the spot, with audience members filling out a sheet of paper with a made-up symptom beforehand to be selected by the performers. It assures that the plot is as silly, nonsensical, and down-right funny as it should be.
While I was disappointed that my own suggestion—Compliment Tourette’s—wasn’t selected, the show was consistently funny throughout, providing steady giggles and occasional gut–busters to keep the energy riding high. This isn’t to say that the show is perfect: Many of the performers are amateurs, which became apparent as some scenes petered out into awkward silences or into confused and sometimes outright misunderstood plot points. Fortunately, these instances were few and far between and didn’t damper the overall plot, which was surprisingly coherent—at least as coherent as a plot can be in improv. Furthermore, the pre-established characters lended a much-needed layer of consistency to the structure of the show.
Massive amounts of kudos must be given to the performers, whose relative inexperience is more than made up for with heaps of talent. Every character was fully fleshed out with enough quirks and personality to make them a joy to watch. Each was embraced with an unabashed and enthusiastic sincerity that almost immediately made them feel familiar.
A few standouts were an insecure yet blow-hardy doctor, a dissatisfied janitor who’s tired of being ignored, a sassy secretary with a penchant for dishing out loads of terrifying forms, and a new age doctor who’s love of feng shui is accompanied by her utter lunacy. Special mention should be made of the technical director, whose spontaneous addition of music and lighting effects—which probably surprised the actors as well as the audience—resulted in some very funny moments.
For those of you who consider yourselves connoisseurs of improv, Superhospital is a fantastic show, and its few awkward moments are more than made up for with great jokes and stellar performances from a group of very funny people. For those of you who have never experienced an improv show before, it is a blast and a great way to get into a fun new style of performance. So grab a bunch of friends, fork over eight bucks, and prepare for your life to get significantly more awesome.
Superhospital is performed on the third Thursday of every month at the Montreal Improv Theatre (3697 St. Laurent). Tickets are $8.