Last night’s Maydays show at the Komedia was a fine example of how an audience can make a show take off. The studio bar was bulging not only with people, but with a warm excitement, a radiant benevolence for the show they were about to witness. 30 paying customers were turned away at the door and it was standing room only for those lucky enough to get in at the last minute.
With the help of Adam Kidd’s booming voice over, and my typically over the top musical entrance music, The Maydays arrived on stage in a storm of almost American style applause and whooping. I am very happy to say that the show lived up to its reception as the Maydays took articles from The Argus (Brighton’s local newspaper) and transformed them into magical, comical and downright surreal scenes (I still don’t know what an “ash-pumper” is!).
The second half flew past in a flurry of articles, quick-fire gags and longer, 5-person scenes (examples of both on the videos). The descent into crudity as we reached the climax of the show was fortunately approved by the audience and we ended on the line, “So you found the cream then?”. If you were not there...use your imagination!
It was gratifying to live up to the Saturday night slot we have managed to fill at the Komedia Studio Bar, and I am sure that this contributed to the large amount of people that were coming to see us for the first time. It really does feel like the wave of improvisation is building, and that I for one feel very excited and privileged to be paddling on my surfboard ready to catch it.
To come and see us in action, check out the Maydays website.
This week saw the start of two Maydays courses, the first of 2011. Last night I was lucky enough to be teaching the first session of our longform course and what a great group they are. I’ve worked with everyone before with the exception of Jo, but having seen her shortform showcase last year felt like I already knew her and was a bit starstruck. We also have three musical improv veterans on the course.
Having taught a fair bit of longform now, I always feel the need to explain to groups right form the start how challenging the leap from short to longform can be. Without set structures there isn’t the feeling of a safety net the way there is in a pre-ordained game like those made famous by “Whose Line…?” On the flip-side though, Longform brings with it great freedom, and a chance to find your own artistic expression, “singing your own song” as UB40 would say.
Having been thinking about musical improv quite a lot recently, it’s interesting to start thinking about scenes and collections of scenes as having rhythm much like a piece of music. We talked a lot last night about group responsibility. I was suggesting that perhaps in a longform piece the place with the least responsibility is in the scene, since all you can do really in be in it and keep committing to where you are and what you are doing. On the side-lines however, you are responsible for everything; colouring the scene, tag-outs, walk ons, walk ins and most importantly Editing.
I’m a big believer in serendipity and following an email I got this morning, was led to the website of Oslo based troupe Crumbs. Here’s what they had to say on Editing:
”When is a scene over? When does a scene start? How do I get out of a scene that is over? How do I change what is happening in a scene when I don't like it? How do I affectively use editing to tell the story? What does the editing tell me about the story? How do we tap into the natural rhythm of the scene to realize when we should be making our transitions and what transitions best fit the moment?”
They suggested that good editing is about “feeling the moment and creating opportunities to create new ways to transition. Timing isn't something you are taught, it is something you feel.”
I very much like this last sentence. So I will not be teaching timing for the next few weeks but feeling it. I was desperately hoping to find the clip from dirty dancing where he says “the steps aren’t enough, you have to feel the music,” to illustrate this point, alas I could not. Found this instead; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N0lOwj88TrQ
Ah, the joys of youtube.
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.