Most actors live in mortal fear of the thought of getting up on stage and finding that they have completely blanked, that they have no idea of their lines or the plot or anything other than the fact that they are standing alone on the stage with a crowd staring at them. Dave Morris does this for a living. Dave Morris is an improv artist whose current show at Uno Fest, Photobooth, has already had a very successful run at the Fringe Festival last year. He starts off the play with absolutely no idea how the show will work out. All he knows is that he needs to find ways to work in three specific postures and that he needs to fill about an hour with improv.

Reviewing improv is rather different from reviewing more traditional, scripted theatre. Many of the usual aspects – directing, plot, script, sets, production value – are basically nonexistent. What is left to criticize is much more personal: the quality of the idea behind the show and the ability of the performer. This is perhaps why many seasoned actors get nervous when it comes to improv. There is not a lot to hide behind.

The idea for this show is a little lighter than the concept-improv shows Dave Morris has done with Paper Street Theatre, where the shows were organized around genres or authors. Here, he has based the show on the concept of an old-school photobooth. He laments the fact that modern photobooths are digital, allowing you to choose which photos you want printed out. Dave prefers the older booths where you had to live with whatever shots the camera took. He finds in that concept a link to improv, where you get what you get whether it is good, bad, or otherwise. Having explained this, he then calls three random audience members onto the stage to stand frozen in a posture or attitude that reminds them of an important moment in their life. These become the three photobooth images that he uses to weave a story for the next forty five to fifty minutes.

In last night’s show, Dave Morris told the tale of Herman (or Spit-take as he was known to his fellow sailors). Herman is a former sailor who has retired to whittle on a dock that he has built on the ocean. Herman reminisces about his life and his reasonably rocky relationship with Esmerelda, a woman he met in a mountain-climbing class who ran away to the sea. He followed her and tried to win her back before she finally betrayed him in a fight on the high-seas. Along the way there was an epic pirate battle, a surprise gay make-out, and a human cannon-ball. Keep in mind that this is a one-person show, making all of this remarkable. What was particularly brilliant about this show – and about Dave Morris’ improv in general – is that he is able to find genuine moments in this incredible and rather silly story. He also has a fantastic talent for knitting together very disparate story-elements into a final, satisfying ending.

This show really works because of Morris himself and his completely relaxed manner on a stage. Rather than trying to maintain a fourth wall once he starts the actual improvisation, Morris instead presents this show almost like a man telling a tall tale. He will occasionally cast a self-mocking smile at the audience, ask for help remembering what he has said before, or even step back and do something again. It is this charming comfort on stage that puts the audience at ease and makes this such an enjoyable show.

- Thomas Stuart