Even by the standards of the Edinburgh Fringe, A Series of Increasingly Impossible Acts is pretty out-there. There isn’t a plot as such, and during each (devised) performance the focus is on a different actor, with the whole show centring on their improvised responses to questions asked by other cast members. By rotating the focus each time, the show aims to be spontaneous and different. And there’s dancing, fighting and some singing along the way.
With the lights on as the audience filed into the venue, it felt like we were interrupting a rehearsal rather than a piece of theatre; certainly a brave choice. For the show I saw it was the turn of Matti, who managed to maintain an enthusiastic energy throughout what must have been an exhausting performance. It began with her having to complete bizarre tasks such as fitting into a suitcase, eating a lemon and bending a metal bar. This process was repeated at different intervals of the performance, although each time the atmosphere of the room was different. Other happenings included Matti wrestling different people on stage, and telling the audience what she was afraid of (her parents dying and being unable to get work acting, since you ask).
It has to be said that Matti really threw herself into the swing of the performance, and there were times when lesser mortals would have crumbled – downing a beer in one followed by a lively dance routine for example. She managed to come across as thoroughly likable but human, without which the whole performance would have foundered. There were also some funny yet touching moments, including Matti talking about her sister.
However, at points it felt like it was trying too hard to be poignant. The questions which were asked included clichés such as ‘are you a good person’ and ‘how easy is it for you to say what you mean’, which meant that some light navel-gazing was inevitable. And whilst I thought the wrestling was a clever metaphor it sometimes went on too long.
So it’s certainly quirky, but may be a little too zany for many, and at the end I was left feeling that it was somehow lacking in substance. But it was entertaining to watch, and the actors clearly loved being involved with the project. For originality and promise this will certainly win fans – and I’m intrigued enough to look out for future productions by the Secret Theatre Company.