Wednesday, 17 November 2010

two can play at that game

today i sail on waves of a thrilling age. as ripples of mirth clear in my wake, i gaze at the horizon with a chorizo in one hand and an old copy of The Beano in the other.

i am in two improv groups. the joy this brings my face is effing sweet, and the result is a barrel of win.

8bit is the first. 8bit is a seven person troupe who do American style long-form improvisation. you may not know what these words mean, so I will tell you in the next paragraph.

here we are! American style long-form improv is a thing where a group of improvisers take a single suggestion at the beginning of the show, then create an entire story from it. you could almost call it a 'play' if you like. if it goes perfectly you will have multiple characters who all go on their own journey and are changed by it in some way, an underlying theme, an over-all story arc, believable locations, interweaving things and relationships and stuff, and constant hilarity throughout (more of that in a later post). 8bit operate on a harold. that's an odd sentence.

a 'harold' is called such after the first time one was ever performed, one of the improvisers suggested the name as a joke in tribute to a george harrison gag in the film "a hard days night." later the improviser (Bill Mathieu) said he wished he'd picked a better name.


8bit have sort of grown organically out of The Ministry, my first impro group. we had been doing a bit of short-form, but there are a lot of groups doing amazing short-form stuff in this country and we wanted to find a thing that made us different. after a flirtatious brush with long-form at the edinburgh fringe festival this year we all got excited and dedicated ourselves to learning how to do it. it was like learning to walk again.
the group grew from the four original members of the ministry to seven of eight bit. it was really exciting. it happened as numbers add to themselves. it happened as nature grows in the wild, and without realising it we had a small group of people that felt 'right.' we could sit round a table, looking at our fellows and think 'yup, this works in my head. this makes sense.' it was joyous.

for all the joy, it also bought a fair amount of pain. we work with some brilliant brilliant people, and there was a big want to try and include everyone we love working with in the group; and we knew that some of these people would want to join in the goodness. improv is an inherently inclusive thing, but we had to say that the line had been drawn. we had a group that had 'happened' and it felt good. seven was a good number. it made me have a warm tingly feeling in my breeches.
any more would feel messy, any less would feel sparse.

8bit are seven. and it is nice.

(although i kinda think of 8bit as eight people, because i include our coach in our number. our coach was the beautiful and generous tim sniffen, then he went home to the US&A and his mantle was taken up by the inordinately talented katy schutte. they are both fundamental in our show and they are both included in my love-reach)

music box is a whole different kettle of fishes. actually, no it's not. it's a slightly different kettle with some of the same fish swimming around inside. and a whole bunch of new fish. and all the fish are singing.

music box do a long-form musical. they (we) take a couple of suggestions from the audience at the beginning, then before the audience's very eyes a musical appears. a whole musical. characters have needs and dreams, relationships have trials and tribulations, aliens have guns and funny voices... and the whole thing is accompanied by music and song. over an hour, a musical - a real life musical - rises from nothing. and it is wonderful.

andrew lloyd-webber spent months writing Love Never Dies, and all that he came out with was a bunch of shit that's having to be re-written as we speak because audiences hate it so much (i saw it last week because my friend was standing in for the main part. she was great, the show was awful).

music box create a musical in an hour, and it as fucking great.
i auditioned for music box. i auditioned in a big workshop audition-thing, and i got in. it was crushingly flattering and it was three tonnes of affirmation on my abilities as an improviser. i'm incredibly grateful to be in the group and it feels like all the hours of workshopping, rehearsing and accepting-the-criticism-of-all-the-teachers-who've-been-doing-it-longer-than-me, have paid off. which is good, because if i add up all the money i've spent on learning this stuff i'd probably cry a bit.

anyway, i'm in two groups. they are both brilliant and i love them. there are ridiculously fun times ahead and doing shows with them is a pool of cream i will swim.

i'm also going to write more about improvisation in the future because it is good and it will enrich your lives. watch this space.

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