I'm proud to be a member of Sprout.
We perform comedy improvisation shows in London. Our shows are a mix of short comedy sketches, games and entire musicals all improvised on the spot from audience suggestions.
During 2020 and 2021 we created an improvised news show which we presented online. Previous show videos are below!
Improv is the time I feel most alive, feel most connected with the Earth, with others, and with something else out there or within. It is freedom.
One of the most beautiful things about improv is that everyone is on the same side. If one of the group seems stuck, another member will jump in and help them out. We create a show and a scene together. Even when standing on stage alone, we have the support of each other at the sides.
When I say improv here, I'm talking about doing a performance with a group, where the audience offer suggestions and we make up the entire content of the show on the spot. However improv is much more than that. Much, much more. Improv is what living is. How much of your life is planned out exactly? Or scripted? How much is rehearsed? There may be one off occasions, eg. a wedding or proposal or job pitch. Or there may be a long term plan in one's mind. But even the best laid plans have unexpected things turn up. And day by day, we do not know every beat of our time before we arrive at it. In the moment we come up with what we say, what we do. We experience and respond to the world around us and the shifting landscape of feelings inside. We improvise, we are always improvising.
Improv isn't only a happenstance, nor merely a choice for a performance style, there are moments when it becomes completely vital. NASA in the seventies were meticulous with their plans. Every contingency was thought out, every switch and its function was known, every operation was rehearsed and had a book and checklist written for how to do it. But when the Apollo Thirteen service module exploded mid journey, the event was one that had not been considered even possible, and no checklists, no rehearsals, no plan was in place to deal with it. So surprising was it, that some of mission control disbelieved what the sensors were telling them. Yet this situation was real and they had to deal with it. So what did they do? They improvised.
They looked at the tools they had, the knowledge, the skill, the people and the resources and they put teams together to solve various parts of the problem. Each team had to invent new ways of doing things, that had never been done before. But the goal was clear, get these three humans home, alive. And they did it.
The mission wasn't intended to be improvised. Most of it was planned and rehearsed, and rehearsed and rehearsed. But when it came to this event, they used their knowledge and creativity to surmount unthinkable obstacles and bring three fragile bodies in a tiny metal tube back to Earth.
I mentioned all the plans NASA had, but they didn't always exist, they had to come from somewhere. They had to be dreamed up, invented, created. The well rehearsed missions at some point were something a group of people were making up on the spot.
Improv also helps in the world of scripted acting. Someone may drop a line, or miss an entrance, or a light may go out, or a firework go off outside. The actors on stage can use a certain flexibility of mind to allow for these instances, to improvise, to fill the gaps, or plug the holes or steer the show so that it all goes the way it was intended in the end.
I could liken scripted acting and improv to flying in a plane and parachuting. With scripted acting, there is a known destination, one is in a vehicle (script plus rehearsals) and there's a pilot (director) at the helm. It's exciting, but it's a well known route, from take off to landing. Improv on the other hand is like leaping from that plane mid journey, uncertain of where we will land! It's exhilarating, can be terrifying, but we have a parachute. The parachute is the other members of the team (like the mission control and ground staff of NASA). The strings of the chute are the formats, rules, games we have planned and practiced. And together with the team we make a new landing site, from the dark mists of nothingness to something tangible we can be on, walk on. It is pure creation.
There is a space and need for both, scripted acting and improvised acting. Just as there's a space for passenger flights and sky diving. And each actor, just like each plane user, may have their own preferences or ratios in which they use these tools.
I am blessed to do improv with some remarkable, fun, wonderful people. They are joyful company as friends, and extraordinary crafstpeople and teammates on stage and on screen.
Improv is the time I feel most alive, feel most connected with the Earth, with others, and with something else out there or within. It is freedom. Freedom within form.
The guidelines used in improv, like the rules of a game, give us a framework to play within.