It’s been a fantastic run of gigs and general improv life this week. Maydays were at the Miller (pub near London Bridge that is fast becoming the London home of improv) on Tuesday, trying out our new Confessions! Show. The idea is to get down and dirty with the audience and extract some juicy anecdotes about love, life, triumph and despair. Then we turn these into magical improv scenes before their very eyes. A disappointing turnout at the Miller, but disheartened we were not, and gave one of our best shows so far this year.
Highlights? Probably the surgeon who had to sing in order to keep a steady hand, and the finest example of a “push the button” scene I have ever witnessed. A “push the button” scene is where you find something funny in a scene and you just keep doing it! In this case it was simply that Katie was to do a marathon tomorrow, but Steve was trying to point out that you have to do some training. After about 20 repetitions of, “You have to train to do a marathon”, “Yes but it’s tomorrow”, and various elaborations on this theme, my jaw ached from laughing and the audience were beyond salvation.
Last night I did a Music Box gig also at the Miller. The room was packed with people which was very gratifying and Fat Kitten improv supplied a riotous first half of Victorian short form. In the second half, Music box improvised an entire musical from a location, an object and a song title. Last night we were on the ski slopes with aubergines, reminded that “What goes up, must come down”. From a musical director point of view, this is very liberating to be in charge of the entire music that runs through a show. I find that I am beginning to ascribe musical themes to different characters so that when they come on, I can give a little musical ident.
<WARNING-the following paragraph contains strongly pseudo-intellectual and slightly patronising language>
I believe that Wagner (not X-factor but Richard) was the prime extemporiser of the leitmotif in opera. In his famous ring cycle he repeatedly used musical themes to represent the different characters, weaving the themes together as the characters interact on stage.
All in all, it was improv that won in the end. I was not quite sure if the characters had realised their dreams, requited their love, or acted out their epiphanies, but the journey was thrilling and magical. Long live improv. Amen
To find out more, visit themaydays.co.uk or www.hooplaimpro.com/
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.