Graeme Duffy and members of the cast of Throne and Games – The Last Laugh.
Graeme Duffy and members of the cast of Throne and Games – The Last Laugh.

Seems everyone is watching the final season of HBO’s Game of Thrones. Not only did its latest episode “The Long Night” break the internet with a record 7.8 million tweets, it is reported over 12 million people have already watched the Battle of Winterfell.

It has become such a cultural phenomenon that even Drake gave a shout-out while collecting one of his own record-breaking twelve statues at this year’s Billboard Music Awards.

And while millions around the world continue to be captivated by the quest for the Iron Throne, apparently so have the creators of Vancouver TheatreSports Leagues’ latest improv offering, the lightly disguised Throne and Games.

The final installment of the popular trilogy from Vancouver’s professional improv theatre company, last seen in 2016 with A Chance of Snow, this latest edition titled The Last Laugh is a fitting, and often very funny, tribute to a television show that has captured a global audience.

Hosted by “A Song of Ice and Fire” author George R.R. Martin, on which Game of Thrones is based, the set-up is relatively simple as he leads the cast towards a final conclusion to the epic battle for the throne.

The first half of Throne and Games is comprised of a series of TheatreSports games as the improvisers, taking on the persona of a character from the HBO series, battle as teams for the right to sit on the Iron Throne. As each game ends, the audience chooses a winning team and one-by-one the losers are eliminated in often gloriously funny deaths.

A standard set-up for other Vancouver TheatreSports shows, what sets this show apart is in the level of Game of Thrones knowledge and individual characterizations each of the improvisers brought to the table on opening night.

As with many Vancouver TheatreSports shows, Throne and Games will feature a rotating cast of improvisers through its run. One can only hope future performances will include cast members with sufficient insight into its source material to replicate the often hilarious results seen on opening.

Leading the way, in this reviewed performance, is Throne and Games co-creator Graeme Duffy. Hilariously decked out in fisherman’s cap, beard, and suspenders covering a substantial belly, Duffy plays George R.R. Martin.

Setting the stage for the improvisational games in the first half, and helping to steer its more narrative driven story in the second, Duffy expertly orchestrated the proceedings. And even while act two loses some of its momentum, he has enough skill and wits to help move the action along.

The opening night performance also featured Margret Nyfors as Queen Cersei, Allen Morrison as Jon Snow, Pearce Visser as Varys and the Night King, Andrew Barber as Euron Greyjoy, Scott Patey as Samwell Tarly, and Lauren McGibbon as Khaleesi.

The six improvisers were not only at the top of their improvisational game, but in also giving each role enough twisted characterizations to keep even the most rabid Game of Thrones fan satisfied. To work effectively the Throne and Games imperative is to have more than a mere understanding of its source material. It was evident, on opening night at least, the cast are as much a fan of the HBO juggernaut as the audience.

Adeptly helping the improvisers onstage were long-time TheatreSports sound improviser Laura Skelton and lighting improviser Su Scarfe.

While only a feature of opening night of Throne and Games it is difficult not to acknowledge the spectacular live performance of the “Game of Thrones Main Title Theme”. Performed by Johanna Sö on violin and Duane Keogh on the cajón, it was a chilling performance of Ramin Djawadi’s now iconic music.

With only three episodes remaining until we (hopefully) find out who will ascend the Iron Throne, the timing for this final installment of Throne and Games could not have come at a better time.

With performances Thursday through Saturday each week, it is a perfect lead-in for the legion of fans who are glued to their television sets on Sunday nights. And when the final credits role on May 19 it will definitely help with the withdrawals.

And finally, while a basic knowledge of the television series will be helpful, even the most casual of viewer will appreciate this often very funny homage to a show that will remain in our collective imaginations long after its final bloody blows.

Throne and Games created by Graeme Duffy and Denise Jones. A Vancouver TheatreSports League production. On stage at the Improv Centre on Granville Island (1502 Duranleau St, Vancouver) until June 15. Visit vtsl.com for tickets and information.