A hazardous road, littered with discoveries

In association with The BIT, Lucy Fennell (Impromptu Shakespeare, Bumper Blyton) is working on a new show "Is It Improvised? Does It Matter? exploring the relationship between improv, theatre and its audience. The show is this Friday (15th Feb) and is currently in its RnD week. In this blog, Lucy will be updating us daily on how the process is going, and her thoughts and feelings about the new show!

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Today we managed to devise, draft and script one of the pieces that will be performed on Friday night, nestled away amongst other scripted and also completely improvised scenes.

The temptation with a challenge like this is to consider adding pauses, mistakes and unjustified amounts of incongruity and interruption to a scripted piece, in a bid to fool the audience and make the scene seem less polished and more improvised. This tactic has never been my intention with the project.

My aim is to take the best parts of improv, use them to devise scripted scenes and polish and perfect those scenes. Resulting in the ambitious challenge of raising the quality of the improvised scenes so that they sit alongside the scripted work and are hopefully, tricky to differentiate.

2 days in and I can tell you it's no mean feat. Myself and the cast are firmly stuck in a 'provhole' falling deeper into a vortex of 'what if's' and 'perhaps we should's. It's absolutely as complex as I expected. What have I got myself (and others) into? It's a hazardous road, littered with discoveries.

For example, we have played out several improv scenes with serious dramatic content in which players have shied away from the revelations, the tragic, shocking or surprising thing. The specific thing that is so specific it feels like it might reveal something about the actor. The sort of stuff that makes one feel exposed and vulnerable in the saying of it. But then we wrote some of these shocking revelations into the written scenes and once it was written all the power of owning it went away. We all owned it and the tragedy of it.

The act of writing it down meant that subsequent improvised scenes went to those places with less fear.

In all the scripted scenes we have tried to raise the game and do the things that don't happen so much in improv scenes; careful blocking, unusual stylistic elements, elevated and poetic language, subtext and increased ambiguity, amongst other things. The result has been that we have to ensure these things occur in our improvised scenes as well. It has made us play differently, more daringly.

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Is It Improvised? Does It Matter? is on Friday 15th February, 8pm. Doors and bar open from 7.15pm. Tickets are £7 and can be bought HERE.