Showing posts with label basingstoke. Show all posts
Showing posts with label basingstoke. Show all posts

Sunday 13 January 2019

Guest blog: Why Improv?


Having discovered improv comedy a year ago and having fallen under its spell, I find myself trying to explain what compels me to return again and again to what feels like its magic.

Having dived deep into another weekend course this one called “Efficiency in Scenework” with Nathan Keates. I find myself already missing its end, even though I’m only half way through.

So the word magic seems apt.  This is the best way I can explain what occurs in improv. But don’t get me wrong it’s not that all that happens is magic, it’s just that sometimes magic happens.

And what is this magic I hear you ask? Well I don’t know what it is, but except it brings a feeling of joy. A place where you are in a world of imagination, on the cusp of discovery and where you sometimes find gold.

Perhaps we should call it fools gold, because once you discover it, it has gone again and that can never be repeated in the same way, but it then it does return in another, later place, often in one you are least expecting. And at that moment its like you’ve been kissed with delight and often a response of laughter. One more note about improv is that the magic it can be found in watching others find their own gold and also it is often found in collaboration with others.

One area I have had a similar experience is working with clay, in which out of something formless something emerges and often almost without intention and impersonally. It's as if we are responding to the clay in some symbiotic dance between creator and potential where on some occasions there is some magical conclusion, and also sometimes not.

So there is something more generally to be said about being in touch with this creative edge and being in the moment and it being impersonal.

Improv is one place I can find this, but creativity in any form can be the edge we need. To be present, playful and enquiring allows us to drop the fa├žade that we are in charge of this manifesting present, we are a part of the play but not in charge of the script, as it is continually unfolding before us. At this edge perhaps we feel most in touch with the creative spirit within us and creativity around us, and it feels right and we feel good and we want more.

So why improv?  
I think it’s about the creative magic, of how you lose yourself in the present, and sometimes out of it comes a real present. For which I say thank you please come again. And I do.

By Chris 

Thursday 3 January 2019

Top 5 Improv Moments of 2018

It is the end of 2018, so what has been a delight of the year? Here are 5 of the great moments of my year in improv.

1. North coast residual energy

I like musical improv, but something has been missing for a number of years. I was seeking something and wished to explore. However, I had not the time or the people. Thus, I was left in the same zone, but definitely missed it. This year saw me give into wanting musical improv in my life again and I grabbed the given opportunity by Piotr to engage in North Coast. I have written this before, but I shall repeat; I wanted to take all their classes a few years ago: freestyle rap, looping and beatboxing. Therefore, this opportunity was something I had to jump at, regardless of my own qualms with musical improv. 

Freestyle rapping is fun, but I tripped a lot in the weekend with North Coast. Failing led me to thinking about my limitations, the results of which can be read on this blog (link). I spent a weekend with wonderful, lovely people and engaged in something I had wanted to for a number of years. 

Since the class, I have made housemates do freestyle on three social media platforms in one drink-fuelled night (for me). It was meant to be frivolous and fun, even if just for me. It was. We shared both the success and failure of freestyling for an audience. There will be more freestyle, but perhaps designed with less of the ‘failure’ and more stupidity in flow - we shall see. 

2. Clown session in Greece

It was immense, the pleasure that comes from clown. I taught three workshops in the Mount Olymprov festival this year, which, in its own right, was a great experience. It is a fantastic festival. So many wonderful humans in the festival that I could connect with and through the happenstance of improv. The clowns developed through my touring class: ‘Clown for your Improv’. 

There were plenty of beautiful, hilarious moments in the day. However, something that highlights the clear connection of clown is the times when a ridiculous thing creates consistent laughs: A simple, yet somehow silly, leg move gained so much laughter! 

Overall, the session was splendid, as with teaching clown, I got to see people getting into who they are, playing and working through their personal blocks. During this year, I have had the opportunity to explore different capabilities and skills with students of mine. They all point out what is fundamental in using clown in your improv: give in to it all. 

In the session in Greece, we explored pathetic clown too. It was a great insight into theatre. By removing the laughs and not the clown, we get a deeper emotional connection to the scene being created in the moment. Clowns can offer us connection, emotionally intense realities, and those simple clown laughs. 

3. London chat with improv loves 

I went to a improv networking event. It was the summer picnic, but it rained. I arrived at Hyde Park, then walked about getting more wet per step. I was a little early, so basically played the game of guess what pub we were going to. I was wrong a number of times. However, the location was put online and I dashed over as quick as I could.

The bar was spotted with only improvisers. As the event went on, there were so many people of the improv scene in London that I adore. We began with some board games that I had not heard of before. The crazy simple card game that is 1-20 with cards and added, extra complications. Awesome game. Eventually, as we would, we added in someone being blind to their own cards. Then I played it with a small collection blind by myself. I got 4 out of the 5 cards correct! I think. 

Seeing people on such sparse occasions makes you think about the past and into nostalgia; however, this whole blog post is nostalgic. In summary, I loved to chat to the new people, those with similar mindsets, and those that have podcasts. 

A lot of improv love goes to all those I chatted to on that night. 

4. ‘Triptych’ in Basingstoke improv weekend class was a phenomenal output 

If you want to know what can come from improv, then seeing these two sets would have opened your mind. In a weekend class I ran in Basingstoke this year, I got the participants to perform two sets of what retrospectively has been called ‘Triptych’. I first used the structure of this format in Helsinki, Finland. I wished for the performers to explore their own capacity. It was great then, as they loved doing dramatic improv. However, in my local classes, it is useful to use it (if it seems advisable) in my level two course, ‘Efficiency in Scenework’. 

The outcome of the sets in Basingstoke was theatre that had depth and purpose. As any ‘correct’ theatre-maker can tell you, we create with meaning and purpose. Why are you asking someone to watch this? Why is it important to put on? Whether or not you are putting up Theatresports or this Triptych form, we still use the time and space to offer something of value to our audiences. Whatever we make, we seek theatre, comedic or not (the disclaimer must be that it may not always be hugely poignant). 

In the class, in ‘Triptych’, the proposal of structure is so little when you have actors present such magic before your eyes. They truly explored the greater possibilities of creating live theatre before an audience using themselves fully. 

5. Improvised Shakespeare Company at Soho Theatre 

I'm glad to have gone to see this company. The likelihood of seeing them is less so when living in the UK. I trained in the late-improv venue in Hollywood, so did not see them when in the States. Prior to that, I was in Chicago in 2007, so with limited time and know-how back then, I missed the opportunity. I couldn’t tell you who I saw when there then, anyway. I believe the set I almost recall in iO ended very meta - but I loved that. I think I must have seen Mike O’Brien in Second City foyer with a miserable expression, ignoring me; I was aimlessly excited and smiling at him. I went to the University of Chicago - Compass link - and looked up where I should go on their computers. Anyway, I saw Improvised Shakespeare Company many many years later: this year. 

Soho theatre is a wonderful venue, especially for seeing great names in improv. If you are an American improv company with decades to your name and a level of improv fame, then Soho Theatre is your venue. You get to charge four times as much as usual (dependent on who you compare the cost to) and a good run in a lovely space. 

Their production was fun and Shakespearean. There isn’t much to say about it, except I just liked the experience; I like going to that theatre, I like being able to see these acts, and I liked what they did. It made me laugh, which doesn’t happen so much with improv nowadays. 

Sunday 7 October 2018

Culture of the city

There is improv comedy and theatre in many towns and cities across the United Kingdom. The few that shall be included in this discussion are ones that have a personal connection. We can question how much the culture of the city affects the art, the theatre and how we improvise. The ever-growing community in these local areas bring themselves, there background and their surroundings. There shall be four towns or cities that shall be investigated.



In Canterbury, Kent, improv comedy began many years ago. It has had a lot of comedy and improv, specifically, historically. Noise Next Door, who tour the UK stand-up comedy venues performing hilarious improv, started their careers in Canterbury. There has been improv in schools in Kent due to the work of such people as Lucy Fennell. Similarly, there has been some in the universities too. 

Students still have improv comedy. Nowadays, it is solely focused on doing improv. The growth in the group has developed splendidly. Not only do they perform, or have done, long-form (30 minute non-linear, thematic productions or improvised plays), but they have been a member of Theatresports (iTi; short-form competitive full-scale evening of a myriad of emotional theatre that is very funny). 

What is the impact on the theatre created from the culture of Canterbury? It would be thought that what people must want from their art is improvised Chaucer or other literary-based creation. However, with a student population in the improv community, there are younger politics involved, as well as their sensibilities. Nonetheless, that relatability and human nature is still at the core of the comedy in Canterbury. From the funny of love to the hysterics behind rivalry in the office, Kent seems to offer a wide variety of laughter.  

The local community can once more engage in improv comedy with the Canterbury Improv classes. There are weekly drop-in classes and weekend intensive courses. 



In Basingstoke, Hampshire, the arts world is quite small, and yet the improv comedy community is growing. There are two theatres that are now one organisation, and one company that have their own arts venue near the top of town. Nonetheless, this does not affect the desire for comedy in Basingstoke. 

Hampshire, in general, has had some fantastic improv. In Havant, near Portsmouth, there was a theatre company that ran improv productions and classes. Unfortunately, they have stopped now. The wonderful and aforementioned lady, now working in Southampton, has been teaching improv in a school that has performed recently. Also in Southampton, the students there run comedy events that include improv. So Hampshire seems fertile for more improv. 

Basingstoke is a commuter town, so it can be believed. There is a lot of business and computer-related occupations, and holistic therapy too. The impact of this on the comedy and theatre created seems to be fairly minimal. It could be the teaching that has been provided, but there is silliness, with physical comedy, and once more a human connectedness to what drives people to laugh. 

The local community in Hampshire can take advantage of the Basingstoke Improv weekend intensive classes that occur. Likewise, the improv comedy nights that happen may continue, so you can see performances and chuckle thoroughly.  



In Cardiff, Wales, the history of improv has a fair amount of lineage. Rob Brydon, for example, although he should be mentioned in the next city - due to it being group in Bath. There have been a number of groups in the past, anyway. Cardiff loves its comedy. There is a strong focus on stand-up comedy, with some sketch. 

There is not a lot of improv comedy in Wales, overall, but the reoccurrence of it says a lot. Wales lusts for more. It is a great principality for wonderful theatre. Amazing circus, clown and musical productions. Specifically in Cardiff, this description still works, as it has NoFit State circus and Hijinx Theatre - and many more. 

Cardiff loves its weekends and rugby. The impact on improv is more likely, however, to come from the theatre practices. The prospective faster-pace of stand-up seems to drive those that dabble to short-form games - not that long-form cannot be fast (it can be faster, more often). 

The wider community, and the local, can benefit from the Cardiff Impro weekend classes that are run in the capital city of Wales: Cardiff. The potential for monthly improv comedy nights with a variety of productions is available. Hopefully, Chapter Arts centre shall host these when all the puzzle pieces are aligned. 



Lastly, Bristol has a vast amount of improv comedy and theatre now. This is many thanks to the graduates of the university there. Specifically, it is thanks to one man: Andy Yeoh. He is a remarkable guy and has formed the foundations of the community there so that the growth can be exponential. Every few years, the boom happens and there are more possibilities. There has been improv there for many years, not just from the university, as there are theatre companies that do improvise and nearby, in Bath, there was the group with Rob Brydon and Ruth Jones. That was lead by Paul Z Jackson (from the Applied Improvisation Network, these days).

Bristol has a lot of arts. The glorious dancers, circus, clown, fools, magicians, musicians... The weekly events that no one can keep up with is why Bristol is an amazing city to live in. The impact on the improv there must be true. Nonetheless, the funny does come from the human qualities; whether they are presented through a more clown perspective or emotional theatricality, they are accessible. 

The local community have the weekend intensive classes to support their development and drive the improv comedy and theatre scene into a wider range of production styles. We seek to connect, we wish to play. 



Let’s find the funny together!



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