TADAM investigates at Le Petit Chapeau Rond Rouge the battle between sexes.The improv show “Ils/Elles” explores the “he/she” conditioned by our parents, the forbidden he/she and the “them” that we replicate. TADAM demonstrate how delightful an improv show can be and prove their position leading veterans of the Belgian improv scene.

A show about them-feminine and masculine, skillfully crafted by four experienced improvisers who believe in magic and make magic happen on stage

The group warns us that this is an improv show and therefore will not and cannot ever happen again. What happens tonight is in the moment and only « together with you », audience members, who through their suggestions will steer the show. Amongst intrigued murmurs a forum is started about gender tabus, gender prejudices and gender habits inherited from parents. It only takes a few prompts for the ice to break and for an initially shy audience to unite in lively chatter, laughter and sometimes banter.

The performers pin all the flying answers to the blackboard:  « I could never play Barbie as a boy » « Box as a girl », « Boys don’t cry »,  » Girls don’t need to study », « don’t go out with wet hair for fear of catching a cold », « Pretty Woman, James Bond typically male or female? »

©Halima Habil Le Petit Chapeu Rouge

The show starts and Grégory Bracco, Nicolas Baras, Naïma Ostrowski and Noémi Knecht knit together skit after skit addressing and subverting every gender stereotype mounted on the blackboard, in fluid variation. The skits include a middle aged woman rejecting advances from an older man- an all time classic, an interview scene with a tour-de-force « directrice » (female for director) scaring off an emasculated candidate, a tear-eyed breakup scene where the man cannot let go- of the furniture, a sneezing daughter and concerned mother duo riffing on wet hair superstitions, a handmodel, a club dance scene with a much too eager woman dancing much too close to a depleted man and a powerful James Bond remake of two broken up lover spies.

The audience is transfixed as the actors skillfully build the imaginary rich worlds in silent complicity. The dialogue is flowing so naturally it seems written:

« I’m not resisting your advances,  » says the middle aged woman played by Noemi,  » to resist would imply an internal struggle, but I am saying simply: no. »

The audience breaks in loud laughter as the « directrice » closes the interview scene with a compliment: « I like your shirt, it brings out your natural « gorility« –

A word Naïma admits to having invented on the spot. That is the magic of improv, she says, that it is here and now.

©Halima Habil Le Petit Chapeu Rouge

Grégory Bracco, Nicolas Baras, Naïma Ostrowski and Noémi Knecht prove to be generous performers and they demonstrate their mastery through sharp funny exchanges of lines and slick rhythm of movement. They never miss a beat. Each duo or trio appearing on stage listens to one another and knows exactly when is the time to « make an offer » for a new idea to carry the story forward or when to play along with the partner. Their play is lively, lovely and as enjoyable to watch as a well rehearsed dance.

Improv is freedom to express, discover, meet, enjoy, right here and now

Grégory Bracco

In a post show interview the performers recall that the show was created 10 years ago and is a show about people « like all of us », about the issues that we face, about sexism.

I ask the question that audience members around me whisper to one another:  » how do you come up with everything, do you use any kind of signs? »

Nicolas and Grégory agree: « No. It is all then and there. Signs would not work. »

It seems as if the performers are making some of these choices in the moment, feeling the spontaneous development of the scene. Risks are being taken. I ask the group: « How do you decide when to end the scene? »

Grégory: « The important thing is to be confident with the partner and trust them. If we trust one another you just know. In improv you accept all propositions. It’s not obvious when, but as a comedian you know. »

©Halima Habil Le Petit Chapeu Rouge

As the four performers recall their favourite moments of the show,  I notice the strong connection between them continues off stage. I ask them why they chose to perform in improv as a theatre form.

Grégory: « It’s freedom to express, discover, meet, enjoy, right here and now »

Naïma: « It’s only in improv where magic can happen like this. Improv it’s here and now. Noemi came in and was just sneezing, I instantly knew and everything came together. »

Nicolas and Noemi add « Charm d’inspiration. It’s a beautiful moment you cannot do again »

Noemi, who also performs as an actress, speaks about the difference between theatre and improv.: « Theatre is not the same pleasure, you know in improv it’s never again and that makes it unique. »

I ask the veteran improvisers what is the best way to prepare for an improv show:

Nicolas: « Before the show you have to make jokes , switch to a light warm atmosphere »

Noemi: « workshop to practice between each other, how we can tell stories. Yes practice the acting and telling stories »

The group discusses the key elements of improv: to create team spirit, to know each other better, be together and have a mutual sensibility, to have common references. And most of all you need to switch out yourself to be open to receive any message from a partner, or the universe.

They say all this while completing each other’s sentences and I realise that the trust and bond that they have built between them makes the magic happen on stage as well. Nicolas replies to the question citing Jodorovsky: To be able to put something on stage you need to live a full life. If you’re empty you won’t perform anything.

I ask the group what they consider good skills for improvising.

Grégory: « Be in the present, accept, accept to fail. Enjoy and have fun. »

Nicolas: « Being a sensible human being. Improv is about life. You always need to be feeling the stage and the public. I always have a small light somewhere, switched on for the audience. »

©Halima Habil Le Petit Chapeu Rouge

Ils/Elles is a funny, vibrant and highly enjoyable show that talks to us all about gender prejudice in a human and heartfelt way. The show will be played on May 26th and May 28th 2022 at Le petit chapeau rond rouge in Etterbeck.