Around Town: Space, the funniest frontier

While Ridley Scott’s sci-fi epic Alien chillingly demonstrated that “in space, no one can hear you scream,” it was a different story at Victoria Event Centre on Tuesday.

In Sin City’s version of space, everyone can hear you scream with laughter — a scenario likely to repeat itself Tuesday nights until March 31.

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It’s not an insult to note that director Ian Ferguson and the cast of Broad Theatrics’ live improvised serial didn’t have a clue during the Season 5 preview.

They literally had no idea what they were doing until the lights went up on their silver-and-white set depicting a sterile spacecraft, which is all part of the fun.

In Space — “the funnier frontier” as they describe it — a crew of astronauts including Monet Mitsubishi, the starship’s concierge played by Kirsten Van Ritzen, whose wig matches her white shiny plastic coat, DeeDee Kalrisian (Katt Campbell) and Leonard Wozniak, Wes Borg’s eccentric IT expert, are about to blast through a wormhole in the year 2020.

Apart from this basic description and the introduction of their characters, the scriptless cast were on their own when it was time to create Sin City’s 100th episode.

“It’s like bungee-jumping,” said Van Ritzen. “Until we actually step onstage and interact, we have no idea what will happen. We chose names last night and people were tasked with finding a costume with a colour scheme. That’s what we’re starting from.”

The company, whose spoofy high-wire acts have made comic references to pop-culture staples from Fawlty Towers to Game of Thrones, couldn’t resist doing Space as an original story this year.

“I think we all have in our collective consciousness things from Star Wars to Interstellar, but we’re not parodying any particular movie. We’re creating one with influences from 2001 to Gravity.”

Indeed, the prospect of being put on the spot with no safety net can be as terrifying as being stuck in outer space with Sandra Bullock.

Anything can happen, as demonstrated Tuesday by Morgan Cranny’s improvised portrayal of First Officer William Frakes, whose “OK, OK, OK ...” declarations recalled an amusingly self-absorbed movie star.

“I thought he might have a Matthew McConaughey philosopher lifestyle, waxing poetic about stupid things,” said Cranny, flanked by castmates Robert Conway as EP-sil-on and Alan Penty as Capt. Tickle.

“I’m doing a children’s show to show kids that space travel can be fun,” explained Penty. “But I’m annoying, so the crew has locked me in the pod.”

As Natasha Ripleycova, the ship’s humourless Russian raygun-toting head of defence, black-haired Amanda Lisman got laughs after inexplicably blurting out the “in space no one can hear you scream” tagline.

The laughs came after she deadpanned: “That sounds like my childhood.”

Best known for her work in conventional theatre, Lisman said improv is a different skill set.

“The fun thing about this is it’s really just about being present and letting other people influence you and letting your imagination run wild,” she said.

Diehard fan Carla Mead-Robins said she loves the “anything-can-happen” dynamic.

“There’s nothing like it,” she said. “You never know what to expect. You’d think if you’ve never been here before that it was scripted. But they’re making it up as they go.”

Ruth McAllister, whose enthusiasm prompted her to become a volunteer, compared the serials to a soap opera.

“Once you get involved in the lives of these characters you want to know what they’re going to do next.”

Sin City’s Season 5 première takes place Tuesday.

For more information visit the website sincityimprovserial.com.

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