Theatre Review: Improvement Club

(Daniel James Grant, 2018)

As part of The Last Great Hunt comes Fowler’s latest surrealist comedy, the Improvement Club. Described as the brainchild of Being John Malkovich and The Office, we are buried head first into the anxious sands of self-improvement, and with it, all things awkward and lonely. The leading character, Adam, embodies our very best intentions to answer the big questions: where do I belong? What is my purpose? What does it mean to succeed? Whatever the answers, his anxieties motivate him to at least try to outrun—outlive—the prowling lion of dread.

Adam assembles a club that strives for improvement: fitter bodies, larger vocabularies, more money, and better sex, but it begs the question, how much improvement does it take to equal the experience of fulfilment?  Adam attempts to make something of himself; to prove his robot-mother and elusive girlfriend wrong and that he does have what it takes to pick that wet towel offof the floor, but his demise is a string of alternative, but inevitable, failings.

The performance will certainly cause you to think reflexively about your place in society, in the universe and the role of fate—an existential reckoning—but the barrage of panic is controlled by the expertly-timed comedy. Improvement Club might pierce the human psyche at an unexpected level, but it also pokes fun at the mediocracy of our day-to-day lives; especially within the workplace.

The delightfully colourful origami set matches the bursts of comedy that ebb and flow throughout the dialogue and slapstick-action, but it also provides a functional layout that contains each scene and allows them to grow organically. Nothing about the show feels contrived and I think that is a testament to the actors and, again, Jeffery Jay Fowler’s writing.

Improvement Club runs until 7 July and is hosted by the State Theatre Centre of Western Australia. Tickets can be purchased from ptt.wa.gov.au.

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