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.
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.