Yesterday saw the return of the Improv classes and it was so great to return after such a longish (well not that long, like a month) break. It was so nice to have Improv back in my life and like all new improv classes meeting and working with both new faces as well as familiar ones. This week was different from past lessons as we had a special guest that was there to teach us some more skills…but more about that later…
The one thing about returning to improv after a break is that you worry that all the skills and stuff you learnt last time will pop out of your head or that you will walk into the lesson and do something uber silly and there will be a stunned silence and you will hear the noise of the traffic outside slowly purring in the traffic. Luckily this didn’t happen and fell right back into it, so much so that I have asked to perform live at an event called the Rat Race at the end of the month (help!).
In the lesson, we did the regular warm up games so we can get to know each other’s names, get used to each other etc. After the warm up games we did a few partner exercises to help us to understand that telling a story in improv is more effective if it is told slowly and built up to gain impact and understanding to the audience. There is a game called the camera (or something similar) in this game you sit in pairs and think you have a camera lens and that you are looking through it. Each time you talk you imagine you have pulled the lens closer away from an image, for example, you start with looking at a pebble
and then you pull out to see that it’s on some sand,
then you pull out again and it’s near a shell etc.
With this idea put into play we were then introduced to our guest improv pro for the night which was none other than Niall Ashdown from the improv group based in London called..
Niall is a good friend of our trainer Ian and they used to work side by side together at the Comedy Store in London. Niall is a regular guest at The Comedy Store Players in London as well as being part of Improbable’s Lifegame and Animo. As well as improv he has also appeared on television on Live At The Electric, Whose Line Is It Anyway? Parents, Outnumbered Angel Cake and Barking.
It felt like a great honour to have him teaching us as he taught us some vital information to think about when we were on the stage. The first one and actually really important (and something that I am definitely going to think about in the future) is thinking of the stage and where you walk on it like the Union Jack Flag. Look at the diagram below, all the areas in red are the only areas you are allowed to walk on the stage – this will give the audience perspective and also give depth to the scene instead of just walking into it.
Another thing that Niall taught us was don’t talk and walk – talk when you are not walking. Now, this is something that we all do but when you don’t talk and walk at the same time you can have a lot of impact on the audience and create more depth to the performance. Also after you say something, with the same facial expression, look to the audience – it will create great humour and will also again put another level into the performance. These were all fantastic skills to have learnt from such a talented man and it is really going to help my future performance.
Now before I finish up, here is a bit more about Impropera and why you should be checking them out when they are next in your area. Formed of six members, this group are based on creating a musical production in opera completely improvised each and every night. Just like any improv, the audience make suggestions and they will perform something related to it. In a recent interview with The Guardian Impropera have described that their work combines ‘two of the least enjoyed art forms in the country’ Improvisation and opera. They predominantly perform in London but do play the fringe too. Why not check out some videos below!