By Stuart Moses
Day 3: Saturday 9 April
I attended Robert Anderson’s Chatting With Intent workshop. We explored the way, when performing two-person shows, we can control pacing by switching tone. We were inspired by Improvisation at the Speed of Life: The TJ and Dave Book, made sure we rested a problem so we could bring it back rather than solving it, and in my notes I wrote down, “Dave’s sullen mood is literally killing the butterflies…” but trying to describe an improv scene is like trying to describe a dream. Pretty magical at the time, but you had to be there.
I ran my Who, What, Where… When? workshop for the second time. I counted 15 people, yet we worked in pairs without the need for a group of three, which is a bit of a mystery. I was able to relax a little more, as I had a better grasp on timing and which parts people were likely to struggle with. One of the simplest, and funniest, things we did was to observe the physicality people used to represent time travel.
Next was Jonathan Pitts’ Scene Work: The Chicago Way, during which we explored slow, patient, grounded relationships, which is very much my favourite way to improvise. I loved the idea of going into ‘soft focus’ when receiving side coaching, which enabled us to take on board what the teacher was saying, without losing the connection with our scene partner. Another useful tool was the idea that when someone did something in a scene we could ask ourselves if this was the first, tenth or 100th time they had done it. The answer to that question would affect what our response would be.
Then it was time for the group photo.
I attended Neil Goulder’s Kurosawa fringe workshop. We did three person scenes, playing the same scene three times, with a different person each time addressing the audience in monologues, revealing their inner thoughts. This very nicely led to the audience’s sympathies changing as more of the backstory was revealed each time.
The evening’s entertainment consisted of an excellent short-form set by Leamington Spa Improv, a game of Greatest Hits, a demo of the Kurosawa format, the Cell Block Tango, Tom and George performing Whirlpool, followed by an Irish Drinking Song.
I was part of the Cell Block Tango, which was a little less, um, polished than it has been in previous years. Still, everyone seemed to enjoy it. I love it as a game because it combines singing (which I feel comfortable doing) with wordplay (which I find more challenging). We asked for a location, then went down the line replacing ‘Pop, Six, Squish, Uh uh, Cicero and Lipschitz’ with a word related to the suggestion. Our suggestion was Lidl. My mind went blank. So in a panic I chose the word ‘sausage’. Then, in between choruses of, ‘They had it coming…’ each of us got up to do a monologue about why we had murdered someone. I told the tale of being a vegetarian, who was continually taunted by a colleague who was always trying to get me to eat meat. I met them in a meat locker and dispatched them before concluding, ‘They would regret the day they agreed to ‘meet’ me’.
Day 4: Sunday 10 April
I attended Mastering the Monoscene with Jonathan Pitts. In the Monoscene, you play the same character for the full 30-45 minutes, in one location, in real time, with no edits. There’s no internal structure, so you need to rely on listening, give and take, ensemble focus, acting, and patience.
I thought all the scenes in this workshop were great. Perhaps the most memorable was the final one set on a submarine. It was made more immersive by a power cut, which meant the lights went out. The audience lit the scene using their phones and the lighting change was incorporated into the action.
After lunch, which was in partial darkness, it was time to say goodbye… until the next British Improv Project, which takes place on 4-6 November 2022.