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