I led a one day character workshop on Saturday and came up with two new character exercises that might be helpful for anyone out there running similar things. Here they are....
That's Great, New Character
Two actors - A and B.
A starts talking about a topic from their real life they know lots about (a holiday they went on, what they've been up to since school etc). They initially start talking as themselves.
B says "that's great, new character".
A carries on but as a different character.
B says "that's great, new character".
And so on.
Encourage B to vary the speed and intervals of when they say "that's great, new character". Also encourage them to spot things that are interesting and to encourage them in A. For example, "That's great, more licking of lips, new character". Also encourage them to sometimes overload A and then pick up on the things A does accidentally and make a character out of this. For example if A runs out of characters and sighs/feels like giving up, get A to play a character that sighs and feels like giving up.
Encourage A to experiment with different ways of finding character - different physicality, voice, emotion, attitude, point of view, genre etc.
Make sure they keep including the "that's great" statement so it stays positive.
Opposite of You
Actors get into pairs with a pen and paper each.
They discuss who they actually are and then write down their individual character traits, so that if someone else came along they could play them accurately.
It's easier if you go through in categories so that they have something to focus on. E.g - walk, posture, accent, shape, how you talk to others, beliefs, attitudes, emotion etc etc.
I've often found when actors do personal stuff like this it sometimes ends up negative so I encouraged a positive attitude by mentioning this, playing nice music as they discussed things, and not letting them stay on any topic for too long.
After about a while of this they had a list of character rules about themselves. I then got them to individually write down the opposite thing for each rule. For instance:
Quiet in groups ---> Centre of attention and noisy
Straight back ---> Hunched
Long strides ---> Shuffling steps
They then took it in turns in their pairs to play these opposite characters, with their partner encouraging them and shouting out the rules similar to the That's Great New Character game. It's important to encourage the positivity so it remains a fun way of finding a new character rather than a negative dwelling in the person's shadow.
For each person there seemed to be a few 'trigger' rules that snapped them out of themselves and their default characterizations and really let them become someone else. All the characters that resulted were fascinating, inhabited and far removed the person's normal characteristics. The actors all seemed to be capable of staying in these characters.
It was interesting that many of the characters didn't appear as the direct opposite of the actual person, more a tangent. This is probably people interpret themselves differently in the first round than we do as casual outside observers.
Monday, 13 June 2011
Remember I'm totally biased towards improv and sketch comedy, as I don't know an awful lot about stand up, children's shows, dance or plays. Some of them are also booked to play at The Miller on our Tuesday night shows, so I'm bound to think they're good.
Also this just based on my first sweep through the programme, I'll have a proper look again later.Sorry if I've missed something really obvious.
I'm going to make this an ever changing list of stuff, so please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you can recommend something. Ideally not just recommending your own show.
I've also left off the really big obvious names, and have tried to focus on new things or acts I think will be making a breakthrough this year.
Also when I actually see them there I'll write some notes on the shows, I'm not a reviewer though so I won't be doing star systems and such.
First off....what no Pappy's Fun Club? What no Penny Dreadfuls? Nope, they're not there this summer, they are bringing various solo shows instead, which could leave things wide open for up and coming sketch groups. More of that to follow though.
So, here we go, page numbers refer to the Edinburgh Fringe programme which you can download from edfringe.com....
Acts going big or bigger this year
Cariad Lloyd: Lady Cariad's Characters. 15:55, The Vodoo Rooms, Free Fringe. Page 54.
The improvisers favourite. I've only seen her improvise in group shows and workshops, and she's always awesome. Amazing characters and very funny. At time of writing I haven't seen her solo show but I've had an all round good feeling about it ever since I heard about it. She brings a huge amount of professional performance skills to all the shows she's in, so I reckon this will be a corker. Also it's on the PBH Free Fringe which is a fantastic move, as every year there seems to be a show that gains super awareness from being the "must-see" show of the free fringe, like Pappy's, Delete the Banjax and Beta Males previously. Also the free fringe opens up the show to a larger and more diverse audience.
She's also doing an Edinburgh preview at The Miller.
Cabaret Whore: More! More! More! Sarah-Louise Young. Underbelly, 16:55, Page 9.
Sarah-Louise has been packing out venues on the Edinburgh free fringe for years and become one of the must-see shows of the fringe. 5 star reviews, awards and massive love from the audience. And now she's got James Seabright as a producer, which is going to make her bigger than ever.
Humphrey Ker is Dymock Watson: Nazi Smasher! 19:15, Pleasance Courtyard, Page 89.
Yes, it's Humphrey Ker from The Penny Dreadfuls, the tall one. The Penny Dreadfuls aren't performing as a group this year, they are doing solo shows instead. Since last Edinburgh he was also a regular performer on BBC2's Fast and Loose, and seemed to be building up a strong fan base based on the twitter comments at the time. He's funny, and tall and women think he's 'fit'. This is the perfect show for him as he's really in to military history. Got a good feeling about this one.
Thom Tuck Goes Straight to DVD
Another one of The Penny Dreadfuls team, the little one. Disney based shows. Again for some reason this topic makes perfect sense from watching him perform in The Penny Dreadfuls. Can't wait.
Jessica Fostekew: Luxury Tramp. 19:00, Gilded Balloon Teviot, Page 97.
Similar to Cariad Lloyd I haven't actually seen Jessica Fostekew's solo act but from seeing her improvise in workshops I've got a feeling it will be really good, as I thought she was a very strong, confident and funny performer. Again, just a feeling this will be a good one.
Josh Widdicombe: If this show saves one life. 19:15, Pleasance Courtyard, Page 102.
From the 100s of stand ups listed in the programme this is the one with the programme entry that actually made me want to see him. I hadn't actually heard of him before, but now I want to see him. I'm going to do more stand up from the Autumn onwards so I'll be taking notes.
The Battle of Improvised Musicals
Music Box. 14:45, C soco, Chambers Street, Page 123.
Baby Wants Candy. 20:15, Assemble George Square, Page 42.
The Improvised Musical, No Shoes Theatre. C Venues, 18:00, Page 226.Showstopper! The Improvised Musical, Gilded Balloon Teviot, 22:50, Page 233.
Ohhhhhh, a clump of improvised musicals. I'm performing in Music Box.
Showstopper are made from musical actors trained in improv. Music Box are made from improvisers trained to sing. Baby Wants Candy are American, the others are British. Showstopper have a narrator, Music Box have a loose narrative structure, Baby Wants Candy and No Shoes have no narrative structure pre-imposed. Music Box are on early, the others are in the evening. Showstopper are a massive Edinburgh show now, so are Baby Wants Candy, No Shoes are pretty big and Music Box are the unknown underdogs for now. Bring it on! La la la la.
Music Box are performing lots at The Miller at the moment.
Music Box are performing lots at The Miller at the moment.
Phil Kay - Free Hash! 20:15, Laughing Horse @ The Hive, Nidry Street, Page 13.
My favourite stand up comedian. Fast, funny, hugely improvised and completly mad. For the impro geeks out there he seems to perform the Big Mouth exercise to its upper limits. Playing at The Miller in September too with our stand up night.
The Noise Next Door - Their Finest Hour. 16:30, The Pleasance Courtyard, Page 127.
I love the Noise Next Door, and am probably slightly jealous of them. Back when most impro groups were shuffling around the stage in jeans and un-matching T-shirts like they'd just walked out of the pub, The Noise Next Door burst onto the Edinburgh scene in shirts and ties looking young and sexy, and then delivered an incredibly slick and funny show that deservedly launched their professional comedy careers. Really cool show, and most impro groups could learn a lot from watching them.
Couch Impro, Buffs Club, Free, 22:00, Page 61.
I love it when something sticks out the Fringe Programme, and then you realise you know them. Strong image, strong angle, perfect free fringe show. Impro based on your relationship problems, laughter and therapy in one! Great positive group of actors too, with great directing from Geoff Marshall.
Fat Kitten vs. The World. 16:15, The Vodoo Rooms, Page 73.
Another show that I know personally and yet was drawn to their programme entry as a normal punter, they are also playing at The Miller a few times before they head up there. What's not to like about this show? A great group, Fat Kitten, very funny with games that are perfect for the free fringe, with a different guest impro group each night. So you get to see a different impro group each night. And it's free (but please make a donation). Also they are very professional at flyering which leads to a busy atmospheric and lively audience each night. Some Miller favourites performing with them too. Check them out.
Fingers on Buzzards: The Improvised Pub Quiz. 19:50, Dragonfly, Page 74.
Great Free Fringe Show, interesting idea and well written programme entry that gives a twist on the usual impro show. Everyone loves a pub quiz, so I reckon this will be attracting the free fringe crowd this year. They also have some shows at The Miller.
Another show I know from The Miller lots of other stuff that actually looks really strong in the programme even if I didn't know them. Only there for the first week so catch em while they are hot.
The Inflatables. 17:00, Ryan's Cellar Bar, Page 92.
The Inflatables are built to deliberately bring improvised comedy to people who haven't seen improvised comedy before, which makes them the perfect free fringe show. I love the way Andrew Gentilli is so passionate about the audience experience, he's completely geared up to making it a fun show for the free fringe audience and giving them what they want. Dylan Buckle is also an awesome director/compere for this show. Combined with some great new performers too you're in safe comedy hands.
Jingo and Butterfield's Tales of Empire/Sophie Buchan's Broadmoor Karaoke. 16:15, The Vodoo Rooms, Page 98.
Another James Ross creation, a man built to command an Edinburgh crowd. They add a huge amount of professionalism to the free fringe and I love the Jingo and Butterfield act. Also Sophie is a great improviser whenever I've seen her, and when I heard she was going into stand up I thought "that'll work" as she kinda looks like she's already famous.
Lights! Camera! Improvise! The Scat Pack. C Venues, 19:15, Page 109.
Lovely chaps, great performers. Improvisers who actually go to drama school and look good on stage and move like actors and sound like singers and make shows you want to wrap up in bed with you on a Sunday and serve breakfast while it rains outside. Yes, I'd happily watch DVDs in bed with The Scat Pack. Also doing a preview at The Miller.
The Beta Males: The Train Job. 16:20, Pleasance Dome, Page 48.
They were the must see act on the free fringe last year. In fact by the time I'd made it from station to youth hostel three people had told me about them. They are also one of the hardest working sketch groups out there, with lots of rehearsals and loads of gigs, so they totally deserve it. With Pappy's and The Penny Dreadfuls taking a year of this could be the year The Beta Males establish themselves as one of the main Edinburgh sketch groups.
They also have a preview coming up at The Miller.
Delete The Banjax, Pleasance Courtyard, 18:20, Page 66.
This is one of a bunch of sketch groups who seem to be religiously playing Edinburgh each year and gradually rising up the ranks with more and more great reviews and higher profile venues. Very funny and different from the other sketch groups. My girlfriend's favourite act, so there you go, what higher praise could you need?
Four Screws Loose Present Screwed Over Again. 16:15, Bannermans, Page 77.
Don't know much about them but they seemed to pick up some good reviews last year and they are on the free fringe so I reckon they are worth a look. Remember if you go to the Free Fringe please make a donation.
Other Shows to See
Amateur Transplants. 19.00 Pleasance Courtyard, Page 38.
I haven't actually seen them yet but they play regular gigs at The Bedford in Balham and my South London friends have been raving about them.
Amused Moose Comedy Awards Final. 14.05 21st August, The Bongo club, Page 38.
There are lots of comedy competitions around but the Amused Moose courses and competition seems to have grown into a rite of passage for successful young comedians.
The Boy with Tape on his Face. 21:10, Pleasance Courtyard, Page 51.
Bloke puts gaffa tape over his gob. Does comedy. I like it, can't believe I haven't got round to seeing it yet. Great reviews last year and growing reputation, with a clearly unique selling point.
EastEnd Cabaret. Laughing Horse, 21:55, Free, Page 10.
Oh my gosh, are they free? Yes! And late too. This must be one of the best free shows going. Every time I get invited to an event on facebook EastEnd Cabaret seem to be on the list, they must be gigging more than sleeping. I finally saw them at the Time Out alternative eurovision at the udderbelly and thought they were excellent. Go see them, and donate cash at the end.
How I Invented Hip Hop. Mr B The Gentleman Rhymer. The Vodoo Rooms, 23:00, page 11.
Impossible not to like this act. Victorian gentleman in straw boater does hip hop with a banjo. Positive, upbeat, feel good and very funny. Currently trying to book him for a cabaret night at The Miller but I wasn't sure who to contact. Mr. B, if you're reading this, please write to me sir.
I know I said I wouldn't bother listing the obvious big names but I think he's really stood out on Mock The Week recently as being a different comedian, he's like a breathe of fresh air with his positive, surreal sense of humour. You don't have to be nasty to be funny. I want to watch him and take notes and absorb him.
Spank, Underbelly, Page 153.
I love this show as it's the best way to see a selection of things that are on at The Fringe and see some great acts that you haven't heard of. I really trust their booking skills as last time I thought all the acts were excellent. Great value too, the classic late night Edinburgh experience. I'm going to be going lots and making lots of stand up notes.
The Top Secret Comedy Club
Looks like a good choice for PBH Free Fringe selection of stand up comedy.
Vinegar Knickers: Sketchy Beast
Haven't seen them yet but just got a feeling they are worth watching.