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.