Monday, 31 January 2011

Status, missing thing in impro that makes it real

We had a really great Status workshop this Saturday, many thanks to Mark Conway from Gonzo Moose Theatre for co-leading it ( 

This is the second full day workshop on Status we've had and again I was struck with how effective it is. So much so that I now regard it as one of the core impro skills, up there with listening and accepting. 

The main effect good status work has on the audience is making it real. It doesn't just look like 'people doing impro', it actually looks like real believable humans interacting, and makes the impro look more like a play. The other great effect it has is that it carries the attention over the gaps between action and laughs. The contstant status dance makes the work captivating. In fact this is probably because rather than being a gap between action, it actually provides constant action, as there is contstant change between the actors. When you don't have status, you need big laughs and big action to keep it interesting. So ideally you could aim for something with big action, big laughs AND contstant status play and interaction. 

Also with status you really can make it happen constantly, with every line being status driven, and the story will still make sense and in fact it will make more sense. 

It doesn't seem to matter what status or status game you decide to play either. You don't have to agree this with the other actor or tell anyone else. You can have two low status people competing for the same position, or two high status, or a low and high, or just above or just below, or undpredictable. It doens't seem to matter - if there is any kind of status play going on and it is commited too, then the drama and a huge amount of other impro stuff is taken care of.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Making a living from impro

Hot Baths

Lots of people are asking me at the moment “How do people make a living from impro?” Actually, that’s a complete lie. Nobody has said that to me, I just put that in to make the blog I already planned to write more relevant and to make myself look more important.

Well, imaginary person, sometimes this question comes across like the hot bath metaphor.

As in, “Wow, that was a lovely hot bath. I really enjoyed that. I want to get paid to take hot baths.”

At first I tend to think, why don’t you just relax and enjoy the lovely hot bubble bath for what it is? It’s just a bath, enjoy it momentarily, and then carry on. Also at first I can’t see how you could make money from having a hot bath.

But then again you could:

- Sell baths, set up a massive bath emporium and online bath shop.
- Build the ultimate massive communal bubble bath for people to come to.
- Charge people to watch you take a bubble bath, although that is bordering on the pornographic.

Either way you might move away from your initial love of a nice warm bath as it gets complicated by other things.

Different Ways

Anyway imaginary person, in the world of impro there are a few ways people make a living:

- Having an act. Getting a really good act and touring it around to where the audience is or sitting put and getting the audience to act. For instance Baby Wants Candy, Showstopper, Noise Next Door, Comedy Store Players.

- Running a venue/theatre. Having a set place with an audience that allows different acts to come through and perform. For instance Fringe Theatres and comedy clubs in general (not so much impro). From my experience thought this then makes you feel rather disconnected from the actual impro (hot bath) that got you interested in the first place.

- Running workshops. For instance Hoopla, Spontaneity Shop, Imprology, Second City etc etc. This is fun. I think you have to keep them fun, helpful, informative and sociable and also make sure you’re performing and learning yourself so what you say is grounded in experience.

- Corporate workshops, which if you’re doing you might as well jump whole hog into corporate training.

Where I think impro tends to get it wrong at the moment

Theatre (in UK at least) seems to work by putting together a show, rehearsing intensely for three weeks, releasing at festivals, and then either getting signed up to a national tour or if you're even bigger and better playing a set Theatre in London, and then a regional tour. When the audience demand for the show has been used up, the show stops, the cast disperses, and the production company start work on a new show (if they haven't already).

For some reason in impro though very few people think like this. They instead rehearse at a set time a week over weeks/months and then put the same show in the same venue at the same time each month/week. And then wonder where the audience has gone after a couple of months. The answer is they've already seen it thank you.

Also stand ups in UK have a very good sense of building up an act and then playing it do different venues, getting agents, getting producers on side, and touring more and more and constantly changing. Very few improvisers behave like this. Also impro troupes are bigger than a solo stand up, so they have less flexibility in taking gigs and then any income is split more ways. So they have to gig more and to more people to make the same living as a stand up, and when you add to this that there is less of an audience for impro, you can see the problem.

Also stand-ups and sketch writers work hard all year to make one great show, and then live of it for years. A top one I know off write all week and then rehearse full time all weekend. Whereas beginning impro groups seem to be stuck in a rut of fear of professionalism, and put a lot less work into their shows.

Also I think it’s important to always treat each show as special and put on the best show that you can right then; you don't know who is watching afterall.

Think of the difference between people going into work the next day and saying "it's amazing, you have to see it" to five people, or being not bothered and telling nobody. Impro sometimes spends ages thinking about marketing etc and misses the point that if you make an amazing show and perform it, people start to come along.

It’s quite easy to see if a comedy show is working or not – people laugh. If people laugh a lot, it’s working well. If they don’t, it’s not. Is it really that simple? Keith Johnstone says laughter is misleading blah blah blah. Fair enough, but if you think laughter isn’t connected to something being funny, please don’t advertise it as comedy.

Nobody goes to the Comedy Store to see exactly the same comedians each week, and yet that’s what most impro groups (me included) are asking an audience to do. An answer could be an impro circuit with a network of impro theatres. London first, then Brighton, then Manchester etc. If you had just six then you could reliably tour multiple groups with big enough gaps. Each show would have a big launch effect on the audience and Edinburgh would serve to escalate this rather than acting as a kind of financial sink hole end point.

Workshops to Shows

Best Impro is in Workshops

The best impro I see is consistently in workshops. It’s hilarious, touching, unexpected and captivating.

Not sure why that is, what happens when people get on stage in front of an audience? Why does something go?

Or is it just the way shows are put together and introduced to the audience. Perhaps we should start shows how we start workshops, and have permission to get into it gradually. But then again if I got and watch a show that does that I feel short-changed and let down.

One thing I’ve notice from almost all the impro groups I’ve seen is that once people start doing shows they stop doing the basics so much, they stop practicing blocking and accepting, what happens next etc.

Eventually this means that impro groups rehearsing together can concentrate on all the wrong things and completely forget what they learnt in workshops. They end up focussing on structure out of fear of unknown, desperately trying to control and manage stepping onto the stage, whereas stepping on stage with nothing was the thrill that initially got them interested it and the thing that impro has over everything else.

If you are doing lots of impro workshops and want to perform

Great idea, do it, the sooner the better.

Don’t wait for me or anyone else to tell you what to do and when to do it, just do it. Nobody is going to give you permission, so best to just give it to yourself.

We don’t have performance training courses and don’t put on stuff from our workshops. So come to workshops if they’re fun, or you learn something. If you want to perform then just do it.

You can try writing to various groups to see if they have gaps, they might do but this is tricky. You can also look out on Casting Call Pro and Crunchy Frog Collective for auditions.

Best of all though is putting together a group and putting together a show based on –

- who do you really like working with?
- what do you really like doing?
- what do you think the audience would really enjoy seeing you do?

You’re very welcome to get in touch with me on email ( about advice on this if you want. There are some great places around London to put on a first show. I might even be able to have it on at The Miller too if you fancy it.

What I’m looking for at The Miller

In the rawest form I’m looking for:

- Groups that are so amazing they help keep a long term audience, regardless of whether they bring in people on that actual night.
- Groups that bring their own short term audience with them, without putting off the long term audience.

If you’re not in either category then most venues will have trouble knowing what to do with you. Gosh that sounds harsh. I’ve now managed to turn impro into a series of 1s and 0s.

Things they don't put in business books

Things they don't put in business books
Posted by roezone at 6:13 pm, December 2nd 2010.
Britishness In Comedy
The London Impro Theatre plans are coming along nicely. At first I was thinking of suggesting some kind of Second City style, but then actually I back tracked a bit on this and thought a kind of corporate impro/comedy land arriving slap bang in the middle of London would be a mistake.
We love the Britishness in comedy. We love little venues hidden down back streets, we love Edinburgh shows in a cave with water dripping in, we love wobbly tables and beer in different styles of glass, and too many posters stuck all over the place for shows that have already happended.
If there is a London Impro Theatre we won't have flat screen monitors that display the impro shows with movie clips, we will have a chalk board, preferably one that we've forgotten to update and somone has drawn a cock on. And the toilets better not work and there should be a leak in the ceiling otherwsie nobody will come.
In fact part of me even thinks that we love that the tubes are on strike and the councils have forgotten to grit the road, it's just so damn British.

Do auditions
Quite a few improvisers I know recently have got onto various professional things, such as serious play tours, musicals, panto and even starring in the next British Horror Movie. Well done you guys. They weren't just improvisers by the way, but hope it helped. Casting Call Pro website is also churning out a steady stream of really interesting looking jobs, both professional and unpaid. From hosting auditions it also made think....people should do more auditions. If you don't get in it's no big deal and you learn something, if you do then you're life changes for the better and you embark on an adventure.
Miller Next Year
Going to be going to Tuesdays AND Wednesdays next year which is very exciting. It's also probably going to be gradually turning into being called something to do with the London Impro Theatre to start raising support for that, and make it a more open place.
It's going to need a MASSIVE marketing, press and pr push though to get the audience to support all that. So any volunteers please get in touch. From the high and mighty strategic plans to the front line handing out flyers outside London Bridge station in January. In fact the flyering might be fun. Yep, we'll combine it with beer and cookies in The Miller.

Scat Pack and Music Box
First off The Scat Pack are AWESOME! Go check them out. I saw them do one of their best ever shows. I think they have the exact style that I like. Very very very funny, colourful, great characters, silly while still telling a great story that makes sense. Also I hadn't actually seen Henry Lewis do the acting bit before (he was usually narrator) and he was excellent. It was really funny see someone so clever play a really stupid character with such intelligence, if that makes sense. Sort of perfecting stupidity. Kind of demonstrated when his character "Tony" ducked down when the bad guy turned around and shouted "I am dead" to avoid being found. The narrator asked him to replay this with an internal monologue, and I think everyone thought "Tony" would curse this decision as a bad idea but instead he ended the scene by thinking "Nice One Tony". Also little touches like lighting a match and then burning his fingers when he hadn't thrown it away on time. Dammit! That doesn't come across in writing does it? Trust me, they're really excellent.
The Music Box show was good but wasn't quite as full on fun and funny as the last one based in space. At least I could get some ideas why, the usual stuff like platforms, not just doing the thing we're talking about etc. So still onwards and upwards. It was great having Jon perform with us for the first time. Before going on stage with him I was fully expecting him to freeze up a bit and not initiate much, as is usual when doing a first show with a new group. So I went on and was about to initiate a mad painter intent on destroying all other art other than his, and then Jon calmly started up a Councillor scene which was tonnes better - and I had all the passion of a mad artist to channel through a Councillor instead, and he sang a great song, and basically was awesome and felt like he'd been doing it for ages.
Saw Amrstrong and Miller at Wimbledon Theatre and liked the way they kepy the connection between each other at all times even when not moving or talking much. Looking for exercises on keeping the pattern of exchange, the conection the kinetic dance going all the time
Things they don’t put in business books
I'm in the very very early stages of building up a working business that supports myself, so I don't propose to be an expert on these matters, but some observations that have popped up since I've started (I'll probably change my mind about all these again at some point, ask me in five years!):
- Business is friendly. In fact more than that, it's human, and natural, and probably more natural than other ways of working.
- Don't be a cock. The English can spot someone being a cock a mile off.
- Don’t compete. That especially seems weird. But if I spot myself competing with someone I either do the compete opposite to them (which finds a whole new world) or team up with them and work together on something.
- This is similar to the "Tottenham Court Road Effect" - as in, Tottenham Court Road has loads of elecrtical outlets all together. Are they competing, or working together, or both? The whole audience for electrical goods in the area grows. There's a similar street for jewelry near Chancery Lane. This is how I see the future London Impro Theatre.
- If it's a new and growing market, it makes more sense to work together to grow the market than to compete over a silly little portion of it. This has lead to me this week already talking to John Cremer (Maydays), Jules Munns (London Impro Theatre) and Remy Bertrand (Imprology) to see how we could help each other out.
- Ideas are easy. It's quite easy to say "have you ever thought about doing...." and the constant pub brainwaves come all the time. It's making things actually happen and become reality that adds value to things.
- Loads of people give you really bad uninformed spontaneous advice really early on in a business, and actually only really support the idea once it's working already and really obvious.
- Some people give you really good advice.
- It's time consuming. The Penny Dreadfuls said that they thought any of the leading comedians and comedy groups at Edinburgh were also the hardest working. All of them. The best groups rehearse for weeks full-time before their shows. The worse groups don't. If you've read 'Outliers' you'll also know about this. I actually think comedy is more about hard work than natural talent, especially when it comes to the final icing on the cake.
- Make it good. I know this sounds obvious but if you've got a rubbish product it's not going to go anywhere, but if it's really good it will eventually do well. Of all the things I do the things I'm most proud off are the workshops I put together, so it's not a surprise that these are the things that take off by word of mouth.
- Business is human.
- Marketting is most of it. When you're in 'a job' the marketting depeartment gets looked down at as an annoyance, but actually it's the core of a business working.
- People who work by themselves tend to organise hugely inefficient meetings in completely different parts of London with other people who work by themselves, probably just to combat lonliness. But I think it's important. I've just three days or more redesigning bits of the Hoopla website and now I'd quite like to be punched in the face just to check I'm still part of the human race.
- It's a living breathing thing, as it's made up of people, it never sleeps. This is the weirdest thing to comprehend. At first you think people just hear about stuff when you actually directly email them or whatever, but actually there's constant changes of information going on.
More uneducated ill-informed and unproved opinions to follow!

Acting's First Purpose?

Acting's First Purpose?
Posted by roezone at 12:00 am, November 22nd 2010.
I'm currently reading "Commedia dell'Arte, An Actor's Handbook" by John Rudlin in preparation for one of my Saturday workshops and I'm finding it really interesting. What's really exciting about the book is that it contains more of a call to action to actually just get up and do things than most other acting books. For instance:
"In the end, or rather the beginning, the only way to learn to play Commedia is to go outside, stand on a box, and give it a try. Many of an actor's normal preoccupations will immediately be found to be irrelevant. Even if you are only playing in a park to two drunks and a barking dog you will learn more about the necessary scale and clarity, immediacy and impetus of Commedia from fifteen mintutes of 'having a go' than from fifteen days of self-doubt in a rehearsal room."
This sort of attitude is very 'Hoopla', so much so that I might have to track down the author and give him some kind of honourary membership.
The early part of the book also contains a really interesting bit on the early uses of acting, masks and character:
"One of the earliest pieces of evidence for the use of masks dates back to prehistoric times, to the walls of the cave 'des deux freres on the French side of the Pyrennes. The painting, a hunting scene, has been drawn with astonishing skill and depicts a herd of wild goats grazing in a field. The group appears, at first sight, quite homogenous, but, on close inspection, it becomes clear that one of the goats has, instead of a cloven hoof, a man's legs and feet. And not four, but only two. The creature is evidentally a man, a hunter in disguise. On his face he has a goat's mask with horns and a beard."

So there you go, if you can't act like a goat, you don't eat.
From way back when in 2009 with our weekly shows at The Round Table we had a rule then that if you had an impulse to do something you had to do it. That's quite a big rule. So it wasn't questioned, should I do that thing I feel like doing from off stage? Should I walk out of the room for no reason? Should I kiss that person? Yes you should! Our rule was that if you had that impulse you had to do it. And if we had a show that didn't come to life, we'd have a chat, and we'd always founds that early on there had bee some impulses that hadn't been actioned.
Furthermore we went on to say that if you didn't go with your impulse you were letting the show down. So now not only was your idea something that wasn't questioned as being good or bad, but it had to happen!
This still comes in to play now when I find myself acting with people who were around at the same time like Dylan Buckle, Maria, Andrew G, Matt A, George, Edgar, Becca etc. I suddenly find that I'm freed up to do anything, because they all respond impulsively and suddenly the show is alive and breathing rather than pre-meditated and ticking boxes.
Sometimes folk ask should you go with your impulse? But if you don't go with your impulse, what the bloody hell else are you going to do? If you don't go with what you've got, what else are you going to do? You haven't got anything else. That impulse is far more intelligent than you are. While you're busy sat there trying to think up something, your subconcious is calmly grabbing things and then 'wham' a gift, don't worry why it's given you that, just do it and then everything else will come to life.

Do it now

I've been running loads of impro workshops recently and my favourite side coaching things to shout out include:

Do it now
Do something
Someone does something to someone else
Make it worse
Get in more trouble
This sound really vague but in the way that's the point, as I don't want to make up content for anyone and they usually act as a catlyst for people.

Music Box
Awesome show. Really good fun as although it has a rough structure we actually know that enough now that we can drop it and have more fun with it all.
Also I realised that although we practice some song types (duets, solos, opening numbers) there are about twice as many songs that are completely improvised in structure on the night.
The plot might have even made sense too, so much so that my Dad was talking about it over lunch as if it was a film he'd seen, which is a good sign.
Nick Thomas had his first show with them and was so awesome. Also it's great as yet again worlds are meeting as lots of people who usually go to Hoopla were at The Shotgun show and also Sarah Ann Masse who is going out with Nick is now in Music Box too so that's becoming a great big impro family tree.
Freezing Up
I completely froze up in my first Maydays show at The New Diorama Theatre, seemed to be unable to make any offers at all or even yes and. Felt like a result of me trying to get it 'right' or give them what they want. Win some loose some!
Inflatables Rehearsal
Was one of the funniest things I've done in a long time, no matter how the shows go the rehearsal was worth it!
Edgar's Thursday Workshop
Based on 'having a reaction' and really helpful as I found myself in a scene and just when I was about to think my way out of a situation I instead had a reaction that got bigger and got myself in more trouble until I had electrodes put on my balls and retiliated with an electrode wielding robot which seemd to go down well. So thanks Edgar!
Forming Groups
There are waves of amazing people around who've done impro at various other places (Shrimps, Durham, Oxford) but aren't in performance groups. I'd form some but am already tied up with all the other stuff, but really think they should be performing more as they're awesome. If you're reading this, do it!
Also if you've never performed impro before then forming your own group is by far the best way of doing it as you learn loads and loads, similarly to the quote at the top of this.
Holding Back in Class
I've been realising recently that there aren't many drop-in impro groups in London at the moment so we're finding ourselves in the odd position of being one of the few 'voices of impro' to people new to it all. I've found that this pressure is actually holding me back in teaching workshops, like I'm worried people are going to get too excited and run away to join the circus.
But I now think this is silly. They're all grown-ups so if you want a weird fun experience in a workshop that's completely different from 'real' life then I can definitely give it to you!
You'd be a bit pissed off if you went to one yoga class a week and the yoga teacher said they were going to half-stretch you, just in case you quite your job and moved to India. So with impro now I'm going to go 100% with the workshops and the shows. Sometimes with the workshops I just want to grab people and shake them until their knees wobble and they giggle, so in the future I'm going to do that.
but if only time of moth really need as much 'weird' as possible. Your responsibility what you do with it.

Having a sense of humour
Funny how many impro workshops, shows and rehearsals I've been in where everyone (me included) was treating it really really seriously. It's not serious. So there.

Carny Life

Carny Life
Posted by roezone at 12:00 am, November 11th 2010.

I've just finished a great book called 'Memoirs of a Sword Swallower' by Daniel P Mannix about the true stories a sword swallower touring with a sideshow/freakshow in a carnival around America back in the day. Really excellent. Here's the closing conversation between him and the Fat Lady (Jolly Daisy) at the end of their summer season:
"Everyone with a carny isn't a freak, Daisy"
"Oh yes they are. Maybe it don't show on the outside like it does with me, but everyone 'with it' is some kind of freak. They ain't none of them normal. Look at May, crazy in love with her snakes, and Captain Billy having himself covered with tattooing trying to be an out-and-out freak like me, and even you - a college graduate swallowing swords and eating fire when you knew all along it was liable to kill you. I'm a freak because I gotta be, but somebody like you is making a freak out of himself because deep down inside you've got a craving for it. And the longer you're 'with it', the more of a freak you'll get unil pretty soon you can't be happy anywhere except in the carny where there're other freaks for you to be with."
"Although the fat woman was speaking in a dull, monotous voice I felt my flesh crawl as though se were delivering a curse."
I’ve currently found that I'm now rehearsing and performing with The Maydays, rehearsing and performing with Shotgun, producing, rehearsing and performing with Music Box, running Hoopla Tuesday shows, Thursday workshops , Saturday workshops and working with John Cremer on corporate workshops. Miraculously nothing clashes with each other.

Doesn't quite seem real. Some people might say "don't too much". But if you spend the entire week watching X factor and checking facebook nobody says "don't too much". Actually that’s not even true anyway, nobody has said that to me, I think because I’ve ended up being entirely surrounded by improvisers all week.

Also the great thing about doing the Shotgun and Maydays auditions is that there was a bit of doubt before about performing, like maybe I was only doing it because I also happened to be running the groups that I performed with. But getting through auditions is a bit of a green light with all that stuff.

In other news we had a great Character workshop and Scenes Scenes workshop recently. So much so I’ve decided to squeeze in some more Saturday workshops before Christmas and use them to try out some stuff I’ve always wanted to do but haven’t had the space before – impressions, accents, Commedia etc.
We had a Horror show too, which was fun but I think I was guilty of putting way too much energy on props etc and not enough on enjoying myself.
The Couch was this week and it was a great show, they’ve got a really good vibe among that group that you can feel on and off stage. A real carefree light touch attitude.
Also we ran the Music Box auditions recently which was an amazing experience. Loads of incredibly talented improvisers and actors were there, so much so that if I had time I’d really like to set up more shows with them. We had our top four but there was another definite wave of people who we all thought would be awesome to have in the show too if there was space.
It taught me a few things about auditions that were really helpful. Looking at people in that light you could see that audition decisions and feedback really aren’t personal. There was just some people where we thought “could do with improving this little tiny bit of impro and such and such” and you just knew if they did those things they’d be great, it was really clear. It made me decide not to shy away from auditions in the future, you learn lots and it gets you out there.
One of the chaps who got in had a certain ‘spark’ about him. So much so that afterwards I asked him what this was. He suggested I read ‘Presence’ by Patsy Rodenburg, so I’ve been reading that too. It’s already mentioned a few things I’ve spotted in workshops, like the weird need to be relaxed at the knees, and even mentions why so many people ask me for directions the day after a show (I got asked three times in one day last week). Also, and this is important, you know that pre-impro exercise of reaching up to touch the ceiling and then dropping down with head hanging before rolling up again?? It comes from this book! At last the source. Now I just need to find the ancient rule that states all impro shows should start with Storyteller Die.

Variety, Casting, Negativity

Variety, Casting, Negativity
Posted by roezone at 8:33 pm, October 6th 2010.
Another busy couple of weeks.
One Friday we performed with Music Box as part of Theatre Delicatessen's Theatre Souk - an entire abandoned office turned into a variety of performance spaces where the audience pay to see each show. Next Friday was Hoopla and The Scat Pack at The Nursery Festival - a space underneath a Southwark railway arch turned into a very stylish theatre. Both a very different way of theatre running itself and both very entrepreneurial endeavors that inspire me to try out more things, especially putting on bigger one off events and festivals. In fact I think the theatre brain and the entrepreneur brain are pretty similar - both excel at spotting gaps and patterns and then creating something out of nothing.
Fat Kitten vs Hoopla was last night, which is why this entry is short cos I'm knackered. Really really good fun, another packed and lively night and about time we worked together so glad it happened.

Also started casting for a horror coming up. Interesting way of doing it. Previously I've been trying to get shows organised by getting the actors I want and then find a date people can rehearse. This always leads to spending ages and ages trying to find the best rehearsal dates, or even worse doing rehearsals without people there. I've been getting a little frustrated that I'm not actually directing any shows at the moment. So I decided to spin it around and set the rehearsal dates instead and see who could make it. Got loads of replies and enthusiasm, which is great - writing back soon, and this way I get to spend the amount of time on a show that I want to and really do something special.
Another thing that's popped out of this new phase of Hoopla, especially with website and blog, is that apparently everyone (girlfriend and a few friends anyway) perceived me as being very lucky and on a massive wave of impro success. I found this really surprising, and wondered why they couldn't see the huge amounts of time spent in insecurity, doubt, doubt, timid behaviour and hesistancy. Then I realised I don't tell anyone about that, you generally only put organised successful things on a public website. But this also has the effect that people see you a bit different as a person. So for a while I was seriously considering adding a 'insecurity', 'doubt' and 'failures' tab to the Hoopla website to give a more balanced view. I'm also beginning to see why PR people push singers into having a drug problem to make them more 'human'. So from now on Hoopla is known to have a slight secret drug problem, and occassionally gets in fights in Soho bars. Hoopla is sorry about this though, deep down it's still a nice Hoopla, but Hoopla is still a Hoopla after all. You can read more about the dark side of Hoopla on the soon to be installed 'insecurity' tab - featuring a constant twitter feed with such things as 'no idea who is in next weeks show', 'forgot to get front of house again', 'need to put more than Elvis on my ipod', 'why the fuck am I temping you muppet' and 'don't know why I'm doing this, I did Engineering for Christ Sake'.

Stand Up For The First Time

Stand Up For The First Time
Posted by roezone at 11:01 pm, September 29th 2010.
Stand up for the first time. Last night at The Miller. 20 people doing stand up for the first time or almost first time, including me.

I don't quite know where to start with this one. It was completely mental. Apparently also I was completely mental, although actually I thought I was just being myself - which makes me wonder what the hell I'm up to the rest of the time.

So there was my experience of my own performance, and also the experience of the evening.

My own actually felt really good and I loved it. I've been compering impro shows with Edgar for a couple of years now and we've always really enjoyed interacting with the crowd. In fact that's a lie, I used to hate it, until I realised it was just impro with more offers and 50 actors who haven't done any impro (the audience). But in impro compering I always reign it in a bit and have to make it about the show not me. But in stand up it was completly unreigned in and about me, so was very liberating. In fact the more personal the better - as I had a bit about Dunkirk that I thought would go well but didn't, but whenever I made it more personal (my face, my Dad) this went down well.

I decided to take the approach of being low status about myself but happy. I also decided it was best to try and learn the set but then jump into it with energy and make mistakes and have fun with them - which is a very impro thing to do. The impro helped loads with looking at the audience and also with the physicality on stage. 

Afterwards it became apparent that I'd been a total mentalist, and loads of people said they'd never seen me with so much crazy energy. This was surprising to me, because I thought I was like that with impro. But actually I think that was just how I was at the start of doing impro - I was always giving about a thousand offers a minute and talking too quick, and probably changed after a while and forgot that the people I know now probably didn't know me then. But this energy seems to be good for stand up, so I'm glad they both have a place.

Also some people seemed to think I'd done it in character, and said "you're so calm and placcid (or something)" normally. Again I was surprised, as far as I was concerned I'd done it as myself. Which makes me wonder who 'myself' is, as there seemed to be a large gap between how I perceived myself and how others did.

I think the best way of explaining it is the rest of the time I'm behaving "myself" and fitting in. So my stand up persona seems to be what happens when you remove the "behaving" bit, and he's very naughty. This is again very similar to the impro concept of an internal judge.

I don't actually think there is a right or wrong 'myself', I think they are both 'myself', although it did reveal a few things about me when I thought about it.

I haven't stayed in a job for longer than about 4 months for the last five years. At about this time I usually want to get up and shout "ARE YOU ALL F***ING MAD? WHAT THE HELL IS THIS ALL ABOUT?". Which isn't the best thing to do for your career, although I actually wonder what would happen if I was this honest all the time.

So for a while I thought I was actually mad, and then I found drama and this gave me an outlet where this sort of expression and honesty was actually encouraged and celebrated - amazing!

And then I found with jobs I could always say I was "contracting" - a great cover up for occassional madness - hurrah! Actually I'm incapable of long-term jobs, but in this new world I can sell myself as 'dyaminc' instead - ha ha ha ha.

And now I'm naturally drawn to unpredictable things like theatre, comedy, TV and business in varying combinations. These are all very silly things to get involved in, and I approach them with caution. And actually the only reason I now put so much energy into them is I'm completly incapable of anything else and have exhausted my other efforts.

So I'd say my stand up persona appears to be the person 'in the gaps' and the person 'in my head' that I think is me but nobody else knows as it's not the socially presented version of me. It's that little voice that is constantly commenting on things whether I like it or not.
So my observations from the evening:

I was honoured to be in the lighting/music booth for the evening. This is a great place to be - you look like someone mildly important but you're actually doing bugger all while getting the best seat in the house with your own personal choice of music. It's like being an usher at a wedding.

It was an amazing evening - considering everyone knew each other there was great variety in personalities, topics, performance styles and general approach.

And there was no set thing that "worked" - what worked for one person might not work for others, everyone had to find their own style. For instance me and Edgar are best chums and for him everyone loved his characters, especially his "yoot". The sooner he brought his characters in the better, and you could see him doing more. For me my character bits got the least laughs, and the bits where I was just me talking about myself worked best.

One general observation was how important efficiency was in stand up.  I think Jimmy Carr talks about this a lot, and will spend ages making the "platforms" to his jokes as efficent as possible.
Nobody looked nervous, which was amazing, in fact that was very amazing. I think that was the advantage of having first time stand ups who happened to have loads of performance experience.

The standard was really high, amazing, from everyone. It felt really special seeing so many varied acts in one place. Really special.

There were no hecklers, I think they were being too nice, NEXT TIME I WANT SOME HECKLERS! You know who you are, you scoundrels. The only place I got heckled was at the bar when I paid for a bottle of Cava with loose change, and I'd quite like that spirit on stage. I have the key to a cupboard in The Miller and would like to lock naughty hecklers in it.

I was amazed by the people who actually wrote short succint jokes, I didn't manage that as mine was more a string of embarressing things about me.

Having a point of view/meaning/argument - this really came across in George's piece about rubbish men and gave her a set a lovely thread.

Good team spirit, which was the point - the impro team spirit applied to stand up. Could be a powerful thing that.

The Miller - amazing. What lovely staff. Please say thanks to them if you see them. They're really behind us and working really hard. 

Will we do it again? Yes. Interested? Email me, go on!


Posted by roezone at 6:57 pm, September 22nd 2010.
Bit of a buzz at The Miller last night.

We had a full venue, a chap coming all the way from Wales to see the show, and the one and only Tim Sniffen from Baby Wants Candy in the audience and Jules from The Nursery.

Well done Marbles (Dave Waller & Ryan Millar) and Katy and Rach (Katy Schutte & Rachel Blackman) for pulling off a great evening of two headed shows. It definitely had the feel of an event rather than 'just another show', which is how it should be. Quite a few people told me they like the atmosphere at The Miller and it's got a warm buzz about it. It felt great to be watching things in our venue that you don't get to see anywhere else.

I don't quite now how you define 'buzz' for an evening, but if definetly had it and I hope we continue to grow it.

Three Shows in Three Days

Three Shows in Three Days
Posted by roezone at 10:43 am, September 16th 2010.
I've just had the good fortune of performing in three completely different shows in three days, featuring four different groups. A couple of years ago performing in three shows would have taken about 4 months, and performing in completely different shows wouldn't have happened at all, so I feel very honoured. This means that whereas previously lessons learnt from a show would lurk around in my sock drawer for a month just before being forgotten in time for the next one, I could actually take them into the next place and do something with it.

Shows done:

Monday 13th September, Music Box, The Troubadour, Earl's Court
Tuesday 14th September, Hoopla and The Maydays, The Miller, London Bridge
Wednesday 15th September, Shotgun Impro, The Miller, London Bridge, with Jane Colenutt, Kath Martin, Nick Murphy and Rosalind Blessed.

At the moment I'm fresh out of the Shotgun show, which was completly awesome. I was a guest performer and had only met them all briefly at an audition last year sometime, so it's slightly nervy walking in, although actually I'm probably just saying that out of Englishness - actually I wasn't nervous at all and was very excited. They were exceptionally friendly and welcoming, I was greeted by the lovely Jane Colenutt and we talked through the show together in a calm and fun way. The show was a mix of games in the first half, and then scenes in the second half. In fact it was remarkably similar to a Hoopla show so I felt right at home. The Shotgunners were very calm and organised with setting things up before the show, which meant I could actually concentrate on the acting for a change - and I loved it! They were a very professional yes-anding bunch so everything got picked up on and some really funny scenes happened.

Lessons Learnt

At Music Box my exectation, or more importantly my 'minimum requirement for happiness' was the room packed to standing room only with 150 people, a perfect set from us, followed by a standing ovation. I'm not joking, that's what I secretly wanted/needed from the evening. In fact the audience was no where near this, and so the whole evening I was having to cope with my mild disappointment. However with Shotgun I really didn't expect anything at all, as I hadn't been involved in organising, my expectations were low and so when we opened the doors to the audience and found a group of American drama students patiently waiting to come in I was thrilled to bits. All night I couldn't believe these people were coming to see us, it was amazing.
Only after the show did I realise that it had been exactly the same amount of people at Music Box and Shotgun. Except one I acted with mild disappointment, and the other I treated them like I was thrilled they were there.
Lesson: By all means do all you can with your organisation, but on the night drop all this, expect nothing, and be grateful, humble and joyous for everything.

Differentiating Roles
At Music Box I ended up doing front of house right up until the time I went on stage, so my warm up was basically '£7 please'. At Hoopla and The Maydays I was setting room, then welcoming audience, then moving actors around in a bossy fashion, then compering, then directing, then audience, then acting, then compering. At Shotgun I was just acting - what a difference! I really felt 'out of my head' and able to just concentrate on all the fun stuff on stage.
Lesson: Err, get someone else to do all the other stuff? Sign up to an experience agent and producer? Failing that I suppose it's just to be aware that this happens and to be concious that you are moving from one mode to the other - front of house mode to acting mode. If you're on stage in a scene and you're worried that the door has been left open and the air conditioner is set 2 degress too cold, then you're in trouble.

Audiences Come From Lots of Different Places
Sometimes we're under the delusion that there is a magic Nirvana where you put your show in Time Out and thousands of people turn up. The only person this worked for was Michael Jackson at the O2, and he died before the show anyway. Actually audiences come from all over the place - you might end up with 5 who know one cast member, 6 you've met at a workshop, 3 who read about it on Time Out Website, four from facebook, 1 from a flyer, 3 from the pub downstairs, 8 on a student outing they learnt about from a website I'm too old to know about, 1 in the wrong place etc etc. Theatres don't just put on 'a play' and then badaboombadabing loads of people turn up - they have complex marketing strategies and large teams getting the word out there and getting people along.
Lesson: The audience arrive fragmented from different places, it's your job to unite them in a common experience. If you want an audience, work at it. Everyone who comes is special.

The 'Simple' Impro Exercises are the Most Important Ones
I say this all the time in workshops but if you're in a performance group and you're not playing games like 'Word at a Time', 'Yes And', 'What Happens Next', 'Where Who What', 'Blocking/Not Blocking' then you're in trouble. If you think "I learnt all that yes-and stuff three years ago" then you're in even more trouble. It's always these simple things that make a massive difference, and they do work. Just before Hoopla and The Maydays I got Hoopla playing the present game, then word at a time story, then what happens next in quick succession. I told them to only concentrate on building a platform and saying yes in the show, and I was really proud of how they performed. At Shotgun they played a big circle of word at a time story before the show, and a simple game like this can get everyone in the right frame of mind.
Lesson: Do these games a lot.

Just be in a good mood, it's fun
This was reminded to me by the lovely Jane Colenutt at Shotgun. They were all in a very good mood right from the start, no stress and no worrying. 'We might not have an audience at all' - 'Oh well, we'll have some fun anyway, can't wait' - 'Actually, there's a lovely audience, they've just been waiting on the stairs' - 'Even better then, show them in'. At Music Box and Hoopla & The Maydays I was the stress head but everyone around me was uplifting and happy. As Jane said all you've really got in a show is some people on stage interacting, and all that really matters is whether they're in good mood and supporting each other or not. Otherwise the audience do pick up on bad feelings, you're under the microscope.
Lesson: Make sure you sort out and address issues within a group beforehand so that on the night you can turn up in a good mood and have some fun.

Get Some Acting Lessons
Shotgun were interesting because they are all professional actors and do lots of other acting and have done various serious acting training. It's hard to quantify exactly what difference this makes, but it does make a big difference. I think if anything it carries the show, especially the gaps between the scenes, as the audience have faith they are seeing 'something'. I think things like being heard, not fidgetting and being open to the audience and confident on stage make a massive difference.
Lesson: Get some acting lessons, not just impro.

Say Yes, even when you're not sure why.
In the Music Box show I got really confused by the plot. I started as a small time toy factory owner in Swansea but found myself caught up in an invasion of the underworld featuring a tardis and mutliple Dr. Who's and a character who was a Baked Bean. Come to think of it, confusion was probably the perfect emotion for my character. At one point the offer came of 'look, there's a tardis full of baked beans'. I initially didn't react as I felt I still hadn't worked out where we were in the story. Then I though sod it, say yes, and picked up a chair to represent the tardis. This then span around to music, emptied beans on the bad guy, prompted me to do a rap (with the line "yeah motherf***** yo weren't expecting a tardis full of beans), which then ramped into the end closing number.
Lesson: Even when you don't know what's going on, say yes to offers. Especially when you don't know what's going on, say yes to offers.

Flyering in Earl's Court

Flyering in Earl's Court
Posted by roezone at 10:23 am, September 9th 2010.
I was under the impression that everyone in England was doing impro at the moment, and that everyone had a show to sell. I was even under the impression that most of the UK were in an improvised musical.

After spending the morning flyering for Music Box at Earl's Court station I've decided that this is not the case. It's actually a very unusual thing to do impro, in fact it's a bit weird. Most people don't do it or know about it, contary to popular belief. In fact going to a comedy club is still pretty unusual and a one off event. These are the people I want to get along to shows (along with everyone else).

I also discovered that nobody really wants a flyer with 'Pretend your happy' written on it at 7am outside Earl's Court underground. Can't say I blame them. Although by 8:15am the people of Earl's Court are a cheery bunch, and by 8:45am they can't get enough of them and Music Box flyers were being handed out like hot cakes. By 9:30am it was all over and the people left were either running really late for work or didn't have a job. So I left. I'm going back tomorrow morning and Friday evening too, I'm actually getting to enjoy it.

So overall I realised that performers and 'people that do drama/impro/comedy' are not the mainstream at all and are still a very small minority. It just feels like there are a lot of us because we move in the same circles. But from the outside world we probably look a bit odd, which might actually be helpful anyway. It's funny how little communities like this become self-growing living organisms. It's evident in the difference between asking 'I want to do a one man show where I climb out of a suitcase in the middle of Waterloo and play the gazoo to a techno dance track' to your work colleagues and a bunch of performers. To the first group this is a very stupid thing to do and they might not talk to you again, to the second group this is probably a good idea or at least you'll be told to 'do it and see how it goes', and so these ridiculous things continue to grow, and thank god for ridiculous things because we need more of them.

Fingers on Buzzards

Fingers on Buzzards
Posted by roezone at 10:24 am, September 8th 2010.
It was the first night at The Miller last night and it opened with Fingers on Buzzards - it was so awesome!

For a start the bar staff are really friendly and helpful and very encouraging of what we're doing there. There are now posters and flyers all over the place and it's all on their website, so it looks like the kind of venue to bring people in which is excellent news for us and all the groups performing there.

Fingers on Buzzards was excellent, it's a great cocept because it effectively does impro inside out in places. Rather than the audience giving a suggestion and the actors acting it out, and the actors improvise and the audience have to work out the suggestion. Also there are questions on the scenes afterwards, Krypton Factor style, this means that even if scenes get confusing it becomes part of the game. Our team in the audience ended up writing lines down as they said - you don't usually get that much audience focus! The hosts are great characters too.

Currently thinking of Saturday workshop, going to be going whole hog with preparation to become the definitive one day narrative workshop!

Lot's of stuff happening at once

Lot's of stuff happening at once
Posted by roezone at 10:52 pm, September 6th 2010.

Lot's of things going on at the same time at the moment which is very exciting.

We've got the shows at The Miller starting tomorrow with Fingers on Buzzards, and then we also have The Maydays performing with us next Tuesday which is awesome. I currently have two massive boxes of flyers sat in the hallway ready for distribution so I really really hope it takes it off. I'm excited, just hope that spreads.

Also Music Box which I'm part of have been meeting up and rehearsing. We've got our first show in ages next week at The Troubadour so looking forward to that. Also there is a chance we might be performing some nights at something called Theatre Delicattessen, or a better spelt version of that anyway. Then going onto some bigger things next year. Becca ran an excellent workshop tonight on being truthful, and some serious scenes came out including someone reading a letter that they had got over their cancer scare, and me reading a letter that I hadn't got into Brits school and the other players dealing with this seriously. I don't think I could do this with another bunch of actors as there is a huge amount of trust going on in the group.

Also...I'm finding some really helpful and suitable pubs this week that are really suitable for ongoing workshop and show venues. So I think the Saturday workshops are going to come weekly events. I just feel like there is so much I want to do in classes that they have to happen otherwise I might pop.

Again left with overwhelming feelings of what a beautiful thing it is we do. We aim to make the audience laugh and enjoy themselves, enjoy ourselves, get on with each other and create something from nothing. Slightly sentimental I know but there you go it's important to me.

Have I don't my big screen rant on this blog? I can't remember, well I'll do it again anyway - DO YOU KNOW HOW MUCH TIME WE SPEND LOOKING AT SCREENS PER DAY? It's shocking. I know that's so hypocritical to say that in a blog, but it's shocking.

The Times reported back in January 2009 that children are spending twice as much time in front of a TV or computer screen as in the classroom. On average British children spend five hours and 18 minutes watching television, playing computer games or online each day. The total of 2,000 hours a year compares with 900 hours in class and 1,270 hours with their parents. They spend longer looking at crap made by morons (like me) than they do looking at their own parents.

Have you read 4 Arguments for the Elimination of Television? I really suggest reading it.

I honestly and genuinely think drama is incredibly important, and not just because I do it. Where everyone is looking at screens for most of their concious hours I think having a period of time where you have to look at another person and converse with them for no reason is incredibly important. I actually think it should be up there on school curriculums alongside maths and english, not a kind of bastard offspring.

Don't start me on my alcohol industry/loud music rant by the way.

First Thursday in new venue

First Thursday in new venue
Posted by roezone at 11:00 pm, September 2nd 2010.
That was awesome!

We had our first Thursday workshop in the new venue last night and it went really well. Thanks to everyone for coming and making it special. It was great to actually see everyone's faces with actual real lights! Hurrah. Also there is a kitchen so I'm going to bring tea and milk and biscuits next week.

We did a fun session around the theme of Yes And. I've written up the notes and they are doing on the downloads area of the resources section of this website. Feel free to use them how you will. I won't write about them here as it's too long.

I'm really happy with what Thursday offers, and think it will hook in well with what I'm going to try and do at some Saturday sessions. I'm going to really go in depth on stuff with the Saturday sessions, I've built up loads of ideas over the years at Thursdays so can't wait to share them.

Also some people said they are reading this blog, which is fun because I thought it was just me in my pants at a laptop. I'm going to try and make it actually useful as it goes. The workshop notes I think would be good for this too.

Back in London

Back in London
Posted by roezone at 2:05 pm, September 1st 2010.
The title Back in London, at a post-Edinburgh date, would usually spark a negative blog about returning to real life.

But actually I'm feeling more positive about things than ever right now, probably so much so it's slightly sickening to the outside world. Well outside world, I'm going to sicken you. I've had enough negative days in my life, so here's a positive day:

Tuesday 31st August 2010 - a positive day

Morning - met up with Patricia who works for The Parish that runs St. Mary's Hall in Balham. A Parish Administrator might give the impression of a lovely, but incapable and very slow beaurocrat, but Pat was the most swithced on church worker in the country. Everything was databased and internet enabled and she really knew her stuff and was very good at showing me round and very supportive of what we do. The new Thursday venue hall is actually:

- Clean!
- Quiet!
- Has Lights!
- Spacious!
- Clean!
- Just for us!

I know they sound like simple things but it's about time Hoopla Thursdays came out of the shadows and started being in proper venues. Also when I was explaing things to her I started to realise what a good thing impro and drama is. I always thought of us as a bit of a bastard child, but actually when you look at the evidence we're quite community focussed:

- What do you do?
- Run impro and drama workshops?
- Who can come?
- Anyone.
- What about people who haven't acted before?
- Yep, anyone. Anyone can come.
- Great. What's it for?
- Fun. Just to have fun with other people you wouldn't usually meet and not worry about anything else in your life for a couple of hours.
- Sounds good. Here's the key.
- Thanks.

Lunch - Met up with Andrew Gentilli from Cannonball to pad out a plan we can up with at 1am while drunk in the Spiegeltent in Edinburgh a couple of days ago. Good news is that the plan stood up to the sober test, and the notes from our phones still made sense. Bad news is I can't yet tell you the plan as we haven't officially released it yet. It's good though, and obvious. We had lunch at 12pm in a cafe and ended up staying until 3pm, the waitress seemed a bit confused by our prolonged presence so we brought extra coffees we didn't really need.

4pm - The Miller. I can't believe it! Two killer impro venues in one day, this one for shows. I met with The Manager and he's really on side with us and was really helpful. Also more good news is that they've recently invested in more chairs upstairs and better sound. So now have a venue space with:

- Proper stage!
- Proper lights!
- Proper sound!
- Proper blacked out room!
- Proper seats!
- Proper poster space!
- Proper ongoing marketing!

I was so happy I could have kissed him, but this was our first meeting.

5pm - Guy Fletcher. Some of you may know Guy, but for those who don't he was previously a New York City Ballet professional dancer who tragically broke his leg and could no longer dance, so turned to impro and also to the world of dating coaching. He now lives halfway between those two worlds, and there are some very strong connections. We had a drink and a chat and then we ended up in the flat of a bloke who was writing a novel just so Guy could check google maps. We then went to a pod cast of a dating company called and I ended up being interviewed about impro, which I actually loved and now I want to start a pod cast and do that more. I don't like being on camera, but I decided that I love being on radio, as long as I don't have to hear my stupid lispy middle class south london school boy voice.

8pm - Edgar. A meeting in Hyde Park in the dark on a park bench about the wide world of impro and Hoopla. I still think Edgar is an impro genius and everyone doing shows should employ him to come on board and stop them taking it to seriously. We planned some cool stuff, wish we had more time.  This was followed by a Hoopla team social in Marble Arch KFC.

No I don't have a day job yet, where do you think this blog keeps coming from?

Edinburgh TV Festival

Edinburgh TV Festival
Posted by roezone at 11:00 pm, August 29th 2010.
Just got back from the Edinburgh International Television Festival and my head is still spinning. So much happened over 4 days that I can't possible write it all so there's going to be some more general impressions from me.

I was lucky enough to get on the Fast Track scheme for the Festival, which meant a group of 45 of us or so had separate lectures for the first couple of days from leading channel controllers, production company executives and producers. They spent an hour each telling us about where they got to where they were, their tips for the future, and concentrated on certain areas of TV. After these we were then free to join the main festival where there was a constant series of lectures and workshops and network drinks drinks drinks. There were a lot of drinks.

We were staying in halls of residence too, so I had four days of waking up in my clothes with a hangover and stumbling into lectures. It was very similar to uni, except this time I actually made the lectures.

I'm sure lots of people got very different things from this experience but for there were two seperate threads through the festival: Not Managing Creativity, and 3D is coming.

Not Managing Creativity

From all the speakers at the festival and all the people I met there were three I particularly admired and striked a chord with me - Andy Harries, Chief Executive of Leftbank Pictures (The Queen, Wallander, The Damned United), Tim Hincks, CEO, Endemol UK, and Jimmy Mulville, Managing Director, Hat Trick Productions (Father Ted, Have I Got New for You).

All these men are incredibly successful and at the top of the game. But what they all had in common is that they were very playful, loved what they were doing, and didn't seem to like rules very much.

Andy Harries said that he came up for the entire idea for the film The Queen when Helen Mirren walked into a party he was at and everyone looked round at her like she was the queen. He walked up to her immediately (he didn't know her), told her she looked like The Queen, phoned a director, and put together the film there and then.

Both Tim Hincks and Jimmy Mulville were incredibly scathing of trying to manage creative at all. Tim Hincks talked about Endemol producers being very naughty and making programmes when they were actually told not to (Deal or No Deal) and this rebellious streak was essential to them. Jimmy especially was making a massive and very passionate stand that creative talents should not be managed at all and just be left to get on with it. He seemed to be fed up with 'creative' briefs coming from channel controllers, executives, strategists and even bank managers and wanted to keep the art alive. This was very encouraging.

For instance Jimmy Mulville did an impression of a proper creative producer explaining his 'creative strategy':
"Errmmm, we like, er, think of a programme we like, and we make it."

And Tim Hincks explained the festival as a collection of 95% of the people talking about why programmes didn't work over the last year, and that anybody could do that. But the magic 5% are the people who might actually come up with something new, and that comes out of playing not analysing.

They also both pointed out that over the last ten years none of the most successful programmes have come out of the creative briefs of channel controllers. They've always come out of an individual or team from left field in a weird and unpredictable way, not when people deliberately tried to give what they though people wanted. No wonder the financial side of TV despairs at managing at creativity and basing millions of pounds on these people - creativity is by its nature unpredictable and unmannagable, and that's why it's fun.

Oh, and news just in - I had a chat with a company called Ignite and Hoopla are now going to be providing improvisation and role play based training for them with some industry wide training. If we had such a thing as a share price, that announcement would make it go through the roof.


Really unexpected for this one. I always thought 3D TV was going to be a gimmick that would come out and then fade away. But the technology I saw with the BBC Research and Development team made me think this is going to be the standard TV within about 15 years. It's now very lifelike and actually at some points felt like looking out of a window rather than at a TV. Also they will be available without glasses soon.

All the 3D programmes I've seen previously tend to be whizz-bang-look at me-in your face-3D 3D 3D, but the ones I liked best at the workshop were more subtle than this. When you're able to just show it as lifelike you don't have to be so in your face with it.

I can really seeing it working at first with nature and geography documentaries. I can also see it working with Theatre as it goes. For many reasons in 2D TV just bunging a camera on a play doesn't work and you loose 'something'. But with life like 3D this could change. I could see the National Theatre setting up 3D theatres across the country to broadcast plays or other theatre's stuff to. Perhaps 3D rooms with theatre style seats, curtains, ice creams and with these life like images theatre could finally work from a distance. A bit of a cross between theatre, cinema and TV.

Edinburgh Festival 2

Edinburgh Festival 2
Posted by roezone at 11:00 pm, August 24th 2010.

Just had another couple of exciting days in Edinburgh and some great chats with some amazing people so feeling inspired.

There was an impro symposium organised by The Maydays with loads of the improvisers attending, thanks Heather from The Maydays for doing such a grand job of putting that together!
Following on from that I had a massive chat with Dylan Emery from Showstopper and Crunchy Frog, very inspiring. Showstopper are doing amazingly well here - they're playing to a massive sold out venue every night in The Gilded Balloon and the crowd loved it. But he's still got time to have a chat and support all the other groups. We always try to work with the Crunchy Frog so we talked about how we could do that better when we get back to London, I think doing Hoopla and CFC is quite a good mix. I also got some really helpful advice about Music Box.

Also a great meeting with Chris Mead about Music Box coming here next year - grand plans! And also with Matt Andrews about Fingers on Buzzards - grand plans, hurrah!

I've also been on a number of workshops including 'touring after the fringe' and 'meet the producers' which have been really helpful in how to gain identity for a group.


A beatboxing kung fu breakdance comedy from Korea. I'm now in love with comedy from the Far East, it made me chuckle loads and was very silly while also being incredibly impressive.

No Shoes Theatre - The Improvised Musical
I really loved this show and I didn't even know anything about it before I came here. They are based in York but the actors come from across the UK. They perform an improvised musical without any set structure or director. Very brave and a very dynamic sparky cast who could sing, do charachters and were really funny. They never broke charachter and were really refreshing. Genuine impro for an hour. I went for a drink with them in The C Venues bar afterwards and found out more about the group. Apparently they meet up just before the festival and rehearse together 10 hours a day every day for two weeks. This commitment really showed in their performance as they were very intuitive with each other and really good create a great story without a pre-decided structure.

The Couch
I can't believe how well this is doing! Many of the performers had never performed impro performer and here they are in Edinburgh - awesome! It's a really strong format and basing the games and scenes on genuine audience stories adds and extra interesting dimension. Geoff was excellent with interacting with an audience volunteer, very friendly and welcoming. I was lucky enough to see them backstage after and was struck by how well the cast get on together - very good spirits among the team and lots of warmth. I left with a packet of love hearts too which makes me happy.

Edinburgh Festival 1

Edinburgh Festival 1
Posted by roezone at 11:00 pm, August 22nd 2010.
I've been here about 4 days now and have seen lots of shows. I'm not performing but I'm doing lots of courses and show watching in preparation for next year. Some of the shows I've seen are below, I don't want to turn into a reviewer so I'm only mentioning the good bits of the festival:

The Trinity - A really cool Japanese comedy that made use of masks, acrobatics, juggling and mime all done in a mix of Japanese and gibberish. I got to be the audience volunteer too after a Japanese version of Georgina Bream launched herself onto the front row. I'm now a big fan of Japanese comedy, it's nice to see something different, and I'm going to try and use bits of it in some shows I've got planned.

Pappy's Fun Club - A sketch group, quite established at the Edinburgh Fringe. I really, really enjoyed this and don't think there was a single dull moment through the show. Lots of laugh out loud moments and it's very, very, very silly. Very silly, which I like. They seemed much slicker than previous years too. The script is really funny, one of the few scripts that would still be funny if you just read it and didn't see it performed.

The Penny Dreadfuls - I'm really glad they've managed to move into modern sketch comedy, away from their Victorian narratives, without loosing the audience or respect of reviewers. It must have been a really tough choice to leave behind the thing they've become well known for. I think they're some of the best comedy performers on the fringe. They get laughs lots of the times where you can't quite work out what's funny, they just make it funny with excellent performance. Lovely show. Lovely chaps too, got to get them back to run a workshop.

Delete The Banjax - A sketch group performing for the first time on the paid fringe after being on the free for a couple of years. First thing you are met by is them dancing to Elvis and welcoming the audience. This feeling continues throughout the show, they are so likeable! You want to hang out with them and drink beer or watch DVDs on a rainy afternoon. They also had the single most funny thing on the fringe - the smoke alarm sketch. So weird but very funny.

Skinny Bitch Jesus Meeting - Oh my god is this free? Yes. Really? Yes. This is one of my favourite shows on the fringe regardless of whether it's free or not. They've come all the way from New York to perform, two girls with deeply dark sense of humour. They are so full on that I can't help but get carried along. I'm going to watch them again as it goes. They were here last year too, and have a completely different one hour set.

Cannonball Impro - So much fun I've seen it twice. I know them all from Hoopla, many of them performed with us in 2009, but actually when you go and watch as an audience member you see them in a whole new light as if you're seeing them for the first time. And what I see is a load of lovely people being really friendly to an audience and making me laugh. I even know all the games, but they still catch me by surprise, which is lovely. A deranged man in an art gallery scene made me laugh out of my bum, and the second show ending in opera was a favourite. Dylan was awesome directing on both times, especially when he went from formal front of house man to high energy front man in a blink of an eye. I stayed behind after to eavesdrop on the audience and what was awesome was that many of them hadn't seen any impro before and really enjoyed it. This is what the Free Fringe is all about.

Andrew and the Slides of Chaos - Oh my god is this free? Yes. Really? Yes. I was just talking to another TV friend of mine who has just seen it and he pointed out that we've worked on TV programmes with a staff of nearly a hundred and budgets of thousands, and yet Andrew and the Slides of Chaos has higher production values. That's what happens when talented people are free and empowered to work on what they're passionate about. It's awesome.

Abandoman - Rob Broderick coming in and rapping to 'what's in your pocket?' as the audience held aloft random things from their pockets has been my favourite start to a show so far. Need to get him to do another workshop.

Hoopla and The Maydays

Hoopla and The Maydays
Posted by roezone at 11:00 pm, August 17th 2010.
Hoopla Cast: Steve, Edgar, Maria, Becca, Georgina
Maydays Cast: John Cremer, Alexis Gallagher, Jason Delplanque and Liz Peters with Joe on piano.
The Black Horse, 18th August 2010

I initially started out with my typical pre-show stresses of 'are enough people going to come?' and 'is the room looking okay?'. These were somewhat added to by the roof then leaking with water from a flood of the pub the previous night. The Black Horse is still more pub than venue, something I'm hoping to fix come Autumn. I was also then a bit worried about how the two groups would mingle and get on.

But these worries soon vanished. A lovely audience of warm friendly people turned up including a forward thinking family who had decided to go and watch some impro instead of the usual Phamtom of Les Chicago shows in London.

Hoopla started with 30 minutes of short form games including Storyteller Die, Sounds like a Song (Edgar was hilarious just naming credit cards), Boris after a long forgotten absence, Chorus Line and World's Worse. The highlight had to be Boris with Edgar taking an amazingly long time to work out that he'd killed his own Mother. I absolutely loved it. Short form gets a bad press in the impro community sometimes for some reason but we love it and can't see why you can't do everything. It's silly, funny, energetic and a great start to an evening.

After that The Maydays presented their show Guest Who show. Their scenes were based around monologues given by their special guest, media expert and professional speaker, Mike Dodd. Mike was a lovely warm Australian man who really got the hang of sharing stories with us from his actual life. Some of them, like 'pavlova' then inspired memories for him from growing up in Oz like having massive barbecues with friends and family. The word 'helmet' inspired a great story about a neighbour he had when he was a child who had a cool motorbike unlike all the other Dads. The Maydays then improvised scenes based on these stories - not following them by the letter, but using them as inspiration. I particularly liked the scene about a Father telling his son to keep him as a Dad but to get a different role model, and two competing Australians comparing size of prawn, shrimp, langoustine and lobster.

After an interval came my favourite part of the show, where all The Maydays and Hoopla were on stage together and John got suggestions from the audience based on their real life. It was nice that the suggestions had more weight than normal impro suggestions and the audience were incredibly supportive of this, with real stories including a lovely lady who worked in a Turkey gutting factory for three weeks, a chap who missed the smell of London when he moved to LA, and a computer whizz who made a database to make the numbers go sideways.

The groups then used these stories to inspire scenes that rapidly escalated. It very much felt like an evening of minds combining rather than competing, as the scenes rapidly escalated into totally unplanned places. I particularly liked the entire cast being dragged into The Matrix when they read a piece of paper the wrong way round.

Overall what I loved about the evening is that it went from short form games to singing to scenes to long form without missing a beat, showing that all in all it's all the same - fun!