Poetry as an artform at Fringe usually sits within the realm of spoken-word performance, where the artist offers a narrative through rhythm and rhyme. Sometimes paired with other artforms like dance or puppetry, or maybe performed with the use of theatrical props or background media, the productions tend to fall under the Event, Theatre or Cabaret categories, rarely Comedy. Maybe that’s because most people see both the reading and writing of poetry as a sober undertaking. The question begs to be asked: Who on Earth except for poets would buy tickets to a poetry show?

Enter Haiku for You, comedy improvisation that smashes old and tired generalisations about poetry and takes the haiku to rib-tickling levels.

In traditional Japanese arrangement, haiku is a three-lined poem consisting of five syllables in the first line, seven in the second, and five again in the third, together extoling seasons and the natural world. It’s perhaps the first style of poetry we learn to write as schoolchildren because, in essence, it’s simple.

But nothing is simple in Haiku for You, as Alex and the Babes – made up of Alex Bassett, Andy Bassett, Kirsty Wigg, Abbey Rawson and Elja Parsons – waste no time dawdling over the characteristics of poetry. This Adelaide-based all-female improv troupe spit out the haiku definition then ask the audience to call out words, beginning with a season.

Someone yells autumn, then sunset, then beach and gazebo, and about 10 words into our group exercise, a haiku is born: Blush of sunset trees / Bus pulls up to gazebo / Marshmallows on beach.

It’s not the deepest, most lingering haiku around, but it’ll do.

Each act relates to a line of the haiku, meaning there are three separate acts, completely unrelated to one another until the quick-thinking team bring them together at the end. How does Jeremy Cameron, a lumberjack who cuts rings from his beloved’s family grove, fit in with a shih-tzu-stealing pterodactyl and a biscuit-offering tragic?

To say that he does gives nothing away of the upcoming shows because each night – each haiku – will be unique to its audience of collaborators. This creates ongoing surprise for everyone in attendance, the players included, and that – along with watching the actors smile at their own silly competence – is one of the joys of improv.

If you love poetry or if you wish you loved it, or even if you hate it, Haiku for You is for you.

Haiku for You is at the Howling Owl until March 2.

Read more 2024 Adelaide Fringe coverage here on InReview.

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