Arts & Culture

Extra Relish anxious to share their laughter

By Don Fennell

Published 1:48 PDT, Tue March 17, 2020

Last Updated: 2:13 PDT, Wed May 12, 2021

The importance of laughter dates back to the beginning of time, often seen as a means to relieve stress or sorrow.

In the 1300s, Henri de Mondeville, a professor of surgery, propagated post-operative therapy with humour. More recently, American publisher and humour writer Bennet Cerf coined the phrase “Laughter is the best medicine.”

On March 19, Tickle Me Pickle—the Richmond-based theatre sports improv society—had planned to bring live humour to the local stage in the form of Extra Relish, one of their groups.

But the show at Richmond Culture Centre has been cancelled because of the global corona virus pandemic.

While the young improv troup is disappointed not to be able to share their unique stylings at this time, they eagerly look forward to when the opportunity presents itself.

“We only started as a group about a year ago,” explains Jennifer Tong, one of the members of Extra Relish. The group also features Bennett Taylor, Nikki West, Aidan Wright, Noah Sturton, Brad Critch, Liam McCulley, Maddy Caroline, Matt Beaver and Sharon Lo Luistro.

Putting the wrap on a Thursday night rehearsal at Thompson Community Centre, the cast shared their thoughts about improv, acting and their future ambitions.

The upcoming show, supported by the City of Richmond, is a mixture of short and long form improv, says Caroline. “With the shorter scenes, there’s usually a game attached. For example, we’ll do a scene with a no ’S’ game where we can’t use the letter in any of what we’re doing. It’s a bit crazy and fun to see fellow actors struggling. It’s one of the things about improv. Failure is almost inevitable.”

West says improv broke her out of her shell.

“I started improv in the eighth or ninth grade. It gives you a chance to be in the moment because there’s no time to second guess or doubt yourself,” she says. “I apply it to my everyday life. It’s who I am.”

Described by his castmates as the team captain, Wright says actors are drawn to improv because it’s a format that can be practiced anywhere.

“Universally, improv kinds of bites its teeth into a story and narrative that really relates to people,” he says. “People in improv are focused on the interaction.”

Ranging in age from 22 to 27, the Extra Relish team is also proud of its diversity, and the balance between male and female members. 

“Some went to university for theatre, and others just fell into it, or they are working as an accountant, in a bike shop or in the Downtown Eastside,” Wright says. “I think that diversity lends itself to create stories that reach a greater audience.”

He says one of the appealing aspects of improv is it allows actors to be kids again, to tell silly stores, and to live in a fantasy world.

“It’s a really broad world of imagination we get to live in,” says Wright.

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