Friday, 11 March 2011

Shared Style and Group Mind


Improviser Stephen Laurence Roe here, currently reporting from my bedroom. 

Currently the actions that are happening and the things I'm learning have accelerated faster than my ability to keep track of them or write them down. Sorry if I haven't replied to your email in three weeks/months. And yes you will have a spot at The Miller, I'm still struggling time to work it out and it's not the end of March yet so nothing to worry about. 

I'm so damn busy, yah yah yah, look at me, yah yah yah, I'm so important yah. I'm like an impro yuppie. 

Just had two great workshops this week, the Saturday followed by the Thursday. In fact every workshop these days seems to have some great people and I'm learning some amazing new stuff. There seems to be so many great people I wish there were more shows and great things for them to spill into, but actually they are quite capable of spilling into stuff themselves. 

If you are one of those people (you are) please please please go to auditions, get out there, put your own stuff on, stretch yourself. Unless you just like workshops for workshops sake, which is also cool and in a way even more beautiful. 

So here's some stuff I learnt recently:

Scenes Scenes Scenes Workshop, Saturday 5th March, The Bedford, Balham

Scenes Scenes Scenes workshops work by basically getting people to improvise as many scenes as possible in a day with the minimum amount of chat from me. There is stuff you can learn in impro but it's also essential to practice loads and get stuck in. 

The scenes scenes scenes I did before though I felt a bit lost, and had no idea how to feedback at places. 

It was only afterwards that I realised that it was because I didn't really know what we were aiming for, what style we were trying to do.

So this time I started the workshop by asking people what style and things they would like to improvise. Note that this wasn't planning, more just getting an idea on style. I had a feeling that before people weren't completely going for it because one person's conception of impro is clowning, while the other is naturalism etc.
Sometimes these different ways of acting would be 'corrected', which gives the message of 'wrong', but I actually think you could do anything on stage, ANYTHING, and to some drama teacher somewhere it's a type of style. So actually in impro there is no right or wrong at all, just a question of style. If the actors share a style then the group mind activates, if not they are already battling a load of confusion or at least have to just accept the style right from the beginning. 

Playing to these styles had a very positive effect, similar to genres recently. It also allowed us to really attack the impro and push ourselves. 

There were some very contrasting pieces with completely different acting styles, and what was joyous was that some didn't 'work' straight away but we kept going and going and tinkering until we click and found the secrets of such comedic styles as Cartoon, Blackadder and League of Gentleman. It used to be said not to accept a type of comedy as a suggestion, but we did and we made it work. Whoop yeah. 

Things we did:

Greek Tragedy
Sci Fi (Pyramids of Evil and spaceship/engine negotiation)
League of Gentleman
Pingu the Penguin (It still makes sense to the penguins)
Blackadder (you can't overdo it!)
Mad Men
Detective Shows

And last but not least....Dr.Seuss. Which was amazing. On the first attempt we were hesitating with rhyming, so I lead my massive rhyming workshop (which I haven't done in about three years). I forgot how much I love rhyming! The rhyme releases stuff you wouldn't have to come up with, and the non-rhyming lines are about justifying and reincorporating. Loads of people say not to rhyme when improvising songs etc, I don't agree with them, I love it. 

Group Mind, Thursday 10th March, St. Mary's Hall, Balham

Out of no where did some totally out there games. Some inspired by Remy Bertrand's recent Friendly Fire show. Games included Machines, Machines transforming and the whole group being the same creature at the same time. It produce a tribal feeling, with chanting and drumming. It scared some members of the group, thrilled others, and others just found it funny. At the end everyone was exhausted. 

The core of this is giving up yourself to be totally at one with a group. For some people loosing themselves in a group was scary, others fun, others exciting. It entirely depends on that person, their relationship with groups previously, and their trust with the current group. For performance being intuitivly, almost telepathically, connected to the group is a good thing. For real life it's not always a good thing, so I made that distinction. I think there are lots of examples of the group mind effect being used for bad in 'real life', so I don't necessarily think that giving your ego over entirely to a group in real life is such a good plan. 

In fact this leads me to what I think about impro and whether it's helpful for real life. My brief answer is - sometimes. I mainly think impro is a performance thing, and also a bit of fun to do in the evenings, no a massive life philosophy or anything. But somethings are kinda helpful in other bits of life. So there you go.

Agent Steve out.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Why I love London

Not really about impro, but I've got to get to Morden each night and it's soooo far away on the end of the Northern line that I have to type something to keep me occupied.

So reasons why I love London:

1. It's slightly rubbish. It's grubby and there are some really shit bits. If you've ever been to a city that isn't slightly rubbish you might have found on the first day you were all like all like "wooowww, isn't this place amazing, it's like the future, whoooshh whooosh" only to spend the next day twiddling your thumbs and watching TV in your hotel bedroom. Humans are slightly rubbish, so it makes sense that cities should be too.

2. It's unplanned. Similar to above. I like it that buildings pop up like growths and that many of the streets were planned for horse and cart rather than double lane cars.

3. It's constantly changing. Every time I get off at London Bridge The Shard looms up even higher.

4. There's a critical mass of people that means that no matter what your hobby is there are enough people nearby to not only share it with you but also start a club and even have an AGM. Impro is a great example of this.

5. You can live here all your life and still be invited out to an entire borough you didn't even know about. And when you get there you find entire streets, people and things you had no clue about. It feels like London changes at a rapid enough rate (a bit like Dark City) that this sensation continues forever.

6. Richmond Park.

7. Wimbledon Common.

8. Multi level transport. I like it when I see a train going over the top of a tube that's going over a road as I come out of a subway. I feel like I'm in a Philip K Dick novel.

9. Small old human pubs. I love it that we build huge skyscrapers in Canary Wharf all glistening and clean and we basically say "fuck you, I'm going down the pub". We love a bit of soggy carpet and a brass bar to put your foot on. A whole brass bar, just to put your foot on!

10. People deliberately come here. I grew up here and went to school here. After school/uni lots of my school friends ended up back here, at first cos they were stuck. After a while though I've seen them say fuck it, might as well stay, but as a deliberate choice rather than imprisonment. It's really cool seeing mates you went to school with integrate with real adults. Real London adults! We used to see you when we were in school uniform, now we know you!

11. Its bloody massive. If you're going to live in a city, you might as well do it properly and live in a big one.

There's more but I'll end up sounding like an over positive case study in a self-help book. "Hugo left is multi million job in a city law firm to carve soap masks out of bark" etc. I've also been beaten up, dumped, burgled, fired and cheated on in London. So sometimes London can go fuck itself. But right now it's ok.

Oh yeah, and people new to London - I know nobody talks to each other on the tube. It's just a form of getting from A to B, so get over it. It's what you do at A or B that is more interesting.

Now I'm at Tooting Broadway, which gives me just long enough to attempt to read a really bad book before falling asleep at Colliers Wood.

Good night.