Heather Urquhart and Joe Samuel discuss the use of Rock and Pop music in musical improv comedy.
Heather Urquhart and Joe Samuel don't always get it right. Here are some of our favourite Outtakes.
Heather Urquhart and Joe Samuel discuss the role of World Music in comedy musical improvisation.
Heather Urquhart and Joe Samuel look at some of the feedback from previous shows.
Heather Urquhart and Joe Samuel discuss the role of Jazz in comedy musical improvisation.
Heather Urquhart and Joe Samuel examine the Verse and why it is so important to comedy musical improvisation.
Heather Urquhart and Joe Samuel discuss the role of the Chorus in comedy musical improvisation
Last night's rehearsal was the first in living memory with ALL the Maydays present. Not only did this involve recent Fathers, and commuters from London, but also ex-members, sub-musicians and yet-to-be members. Daunting and exciting. We ran a series of 15-min confession style shows that involve reading a confession from the audience, then improvising sketches and songs from it.
There were numerous highlights to the evening, one in particular that evolved into a full 12 minute film thriller with plot twists, deception, assassination and intrigue. This is the type of scene that only tends to show its face in the rehearsal space. It seems to evolve from a sense of freedom, and lack of judgement from a paying audience. Perhaps it is the lack of pressure to make people laugh, or the sense that you can take more risks, but the best scenes seem to come out of rehearsal.
So how are we supposed to capture that sense of freedom and take it onto the stage? I am reaching the conclusion that either we dont know, or it is not possible by its very nature. Quantum physics tells us that we change the nature of something by observing it. Philosophy asks us if anything exists if it is not observed. Improvisation tells us that an observer can influence a scene simply by the improvisers being aware of them.
Is there any need to try to bring rehearsal freedom into a show? Why should we not just accept that the two spaces are different, and as such provide different environments to work in with different results? Taking risks on stage often comes with that exact feeling, that we are taking risks. Taking risks in rehearsal feels more like experimentation, like we are exploring possibilities rather than going out on a limb.
I guess we need to trust that our audience will join us on the journey, and that they are not judging us, rather willing us on. There have been countless scenes in rehearsal that have fallen flat, often as a result of experimentation, but it is more difficult to experiment and fail on stage. Perhaps though it is worth it as the highs are higher in my view. I think that shows naturally fall into a safer zone, but that rehearsal can push the boundaries of what we can do, so that our comfort zone becomes more adventurous and exciting.
It was a welcome return of “Tonight’s Top Story” on
Friday at the Komedia Studio Bar in Brighton for the Maydays.
This is the improvised show where we ask the audience to tear articles
from “The Argus”, which is our local paper. The articles are placed in a bucket on
the stage, and at regular intervals, an article is drawn and read out. Then The Maydays act out scenes and
songs inspired by the article.
Last Friday was one of those joyful shows which hits
its stride and just keeps that magical momentum and energy going, right through
to the last song. It is that last
song that has been the sticking point, the last sigh of so many improvised
shows, whether The Maydays or anyone else. I have seen everything tried, in fact
we once performed our improvised heavy metal thrash number about a
handbag...well you’ve got to try these things!
The final song of Tonight’s Top Story was a sad tale
about a second-hand car trying to date another car, but being rejected for being
old and used (and rear-ended too many times). It was a real pece of musical theatre as
Jason Blackwater turned to the audience and began to plaintively mourn in
song. The style was
classical/musical theatre ballad, and it was a joy for me (the musician) to
follow his twists and turns. One
minute grief, the next a swelling joy, then remorse and hope.
The chorus (“no one loves a second hand car” I think) came in behind
Jason, but then he sang over it as the emotion could not be
It was a moving, funny and dramatic end to the show and
justified our current thinking, which is that a show should end organically,
not through a preordained structured song. But why should this last song prove to
be so troublesome? I think that it
is the pressure of wanting to leave the audience on a high.
Trying to pull off some ridiculous, over the top showstopper is all very
well until you find that there is no emotional content, no real connection with
the scene just gone, or no real reason for singing in a high-energy style. I guess there is no way of telling
where the cast, the scene, the audience will be when the show is coming to an
end, so the safest bet is to play the song that best fits the mood at the
time. And this is what happened on
Friday. We never would have
planned a plaintive classical lament to close the show, but it left us all with
a feeling of completion and satisfaction, something that has too often been
Keep an eye and an ear out for that moment near the end
of an improvised show, when furtive glances as watches and forced eye contact
begins to flicker across the stage.
When scenes can end abruptly, and songs begin with no warning. When the energy levels can be
artificially changed and silly songs rear their silly
As for us, no more use of this crowbar.
Te show ends when the time runs out, and we have to leave you on a sad
note, at least be reassured that it is a grounded, real sad note, and not just a
preconception slapped on to the end.
Heather Urquhart and Joe Samuel have over 15 years experience performing, teaching and writing about Musical Improv. Based in the UK they have facilitated workshops and graced stages around the world.