Steen Raskopoulos: You Know the Drill
An astonishing tour de force of sketch comedy and inspired improv
From the opening salvo of Steen Raskopoulos going all Full Metal Jacket on his front row, there was little doubt that this would be a very different kind of sketch show. By the end of his 60 minutes, the Australian had achieved the near-impossible on several counts: making an audience care wholeheartedly for a recurring character teetering on the edge of despair; crafting one fleshed-out individual after another; and eliciting audience participation which occasionally relied on serious heavy lifting from those enticed up on stage. The real beauty of his crowd work is that everyone left that stage with a powerful feeling of having been involved in something rather special.
As part of Australia's version of Whose Line is it Anyway? and in town for the rest of the month with another Underbelly improv show, The Bear Pack, Raskopoulos is clearly au fait with the rules and structures inherent in off-the-cuff comedy. Each person who was dragged up tonight may have brought their A game to proceedings, but you sense that Raskopoulos has cultivated such a tight structure for each participatory section that he could find a scene's sweet spot even if the assistance to hand was not wholly in tune with his thinking.
As for the characters, it's impossible not to be impressed by his film reviewer in the style of a Greek Orthodox minister, the heart surgeon trying to leave his medical past behind, and a boy desperately clinging on to his mother's love. Even when a scene initially feels as though it could have been culled from the big book of hackneyed sketch scenarios (the over-enthusiastic young educator trying to be down with the kids, for example), Raskopoulos takes it off into wholly unexpected terrain. In this technically astonishing and emotionally fulfilling hour, there's not a single bum note played or a scene that falls flat.
Underbelly Cowgate, until 28 Aug, 7.40pm, £11.50–£12.50 (£10.50–£11.50).