Improv Diaries – Special Edition – My Last Rat Race

Hello – so this week I thought I would treat you with an extra article which is extra special as it is all about my last improv show in Newcastle as I am moving back down to London in the middle of August and this past Sunday was the last time I was able to participate in a show until I move back down south.

Photo Credit – Peter Johnson

My last Rat Race was actually the first of a huge step in the Improv scene in the North East. The prestigious City Hall which is a venue that has been the host of the likes of Jimmy Carr, Motorhead and Ed Sheeran is opening its Concert Bar downstairs for more local entertainment to be showcased in the area. On Sunday night, the Bar opened its doors like this for the very first time with the Rat Race being the opening night. It was very nice to think that we were part of such a grand step and it also means that it could lead to big things for the improv scene and it was very rewarding to be part of that experience.

The format of the show was different to last time (which I will not reveal as you may go and see it) but I feel it worked well and from the feedback from the audience it was also much liked as well. The last Rat Race I did was the one when I walked away feeling like i had a bad run and walked away feeling negative. This time I went in with a completely different mind set and I enjoyed it and had a really great time.

The fact that it was my last show in the North East, i wanted to sort of make it a rounded one as much as I could and wanted to go a bit back to the roots of the first show or so that I did. In one of my first shows I did a game with Peff called One scene Three emotions where you get given a mundane task like ironing etc and then put three of the audience suggestions of emotions to it.

Starting the angry scene with Peff (Photo Credit – Peter Johnson)

It is not really one of my favourites to play however because it was my last show and Peff was on my team (who is very good at physical comedy too) I felt that it would only be right to do it one last time. I went into this Rat Race wanting to do a lot more of the Physical stuff then wordy stuff so it felt right. I had the words Rik Mayall randomly in my head alot before we even started the show – no idea why I just think it is because he is such a fantastic comedy hero of mine that I wanted to think of him when I went on stage and the energy he brings.

I feel in some ways this may of worked as i tried to bring energy to every game I was in. I got forced to play a game called Chain Murder which is when you have to talk in gibberish and pass on from player to player what a location, occupation and murder weapon is. I don’t like it because I am not really a fan of the format of it. It may be fun for the audience to watch but I find it torture to play. I don’t like the concept of it, i am not really a fan of the guessing games in improv and even when I have watched Improv Troupes perform them on stage i have never liked them. It was ok to play it once but I hope i never have to play it on stage again – that is how much i despise it.

The Freeze tag that my team played in this show i think is the highest energy game of it i have seen in every Rat Race that I have been a part of. Everyone was freezing at the right time, it didn’t stay too long on a subject and we were all helping each other out. Sometimes in these games you can  see someone in desperate need of help in the game as they are struggling to keep the scene going and probably from all of the practise we have done in work shops it helped.

Freeze tag (Photo Credit Peter Johnson)

The team challenge from the other team (this is when they set your whole team a game to do) was to re-enact a story from the bible in the theme of a soap from any country. The audience suggested Australian. It was high energy, it was buzzing and actually good fun to do – even if i ended up playing an evil snake in Adam and Eve with an Australian accent that was pretty bad but it was really fun at the same time.

I had a fantastic last show and really enjoyed every single second of it. From taking advice from my mum after the last show, i ignored the points and just thought of it as a game show and the same sort of format that they do with points – they are not important and that really helped. The fact that the games were of high energy too made it very fun to be a part of and I will really miss performing improv with these fantastic people.

Winner Casey! (Photo Credit – Peter Johnson)

Case Study – Chris Pine 

Reallllyyyyyyyyy random case study for this one and it would not be a name I would usually ever think of for something like this but let me explain my reasons and then you will understand why. On Friday morning last week I went to the cinema to see the new Star Trek film with fellow improviser, Karam. I really enjoyed the new film and on the Saturday night i fancied watching the second one again with Benedict Cumberbatch as the villain as I knew it was on Netflix. Instead of flicking through films i just typed in Chris Pine into the search button (yes now i think of it i don’t know why i didn’t type in just Star Trek – because that would of been too easy…) and up came all the things that featured the actor on the online channel – your cheesy films like Just My Luck, the shows he has had a bit part in like  Wet Hot American Summer and then there was a show i didn’t recognise called Off Camera with Sam Jones.

Sam Jones

 From a little bit of research that I have just done for you, the reader, it is not just a show it is also a magazine, website and podcast too. It is hosted by Photographer Director Sam Jones who is a huge name in the industry and has done photography for things such as Q,  Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, Vanity Fair, Rolling Stone, We’re the Millers, Entertainment Weekly and Gravity. (some of his work below)



I clicked on it to see what it was and ended up watching it and that wasn’t really the plan i had but it was an interesting concept for a show and also some of the stuff that Chris Pine said actually related very strongly to improv. The show firstly (here comes in my post-production television mind i am afraid prepare for the artsy look at it) was filmed in black and white in a very mundane room with approx three cameras set up in different angles to connote the term of the conversation being off camera – to delve deeper into the person behind the actor and to talk about the person behind the mask. There are dozens of other actors and musicians on this show and I will be watching them in due course as I find that sort of thing pretty interesting and it is also one of the reasons I really enjoy the Nerdist podcasts.

I can’t remember to the word what Chris was saying but it was relevant to the improv and the performance you give to an audience. He was discussing the fact about being the face of a huge franchise like Star Trek it doesn’t matter the amount of people that work on the film behind the scenes and the huge amount of work that goes into it the main person that people will blame if it is a fail is the person they see appearing as the lead of the film. This first point does relate to improv and I suppose the show on Sunday too. Whilst the show was a success, if it hadn’t of been it may of caused a negative impact to the improv scene and may of caused a rethink in the improv and Newcastle City Hall relationship. Due to the amount of positive responses that came from the show this luckily wasn’t the case.

Another thing that he mentions is about the fact you perform for the audience (or it was something along those lines) and again i think this is 100% true in improv. No-one cares about how your feeling inside, or how your day is what you do etc all they care about is what they see when they see a show and expect to be entertained. If i take a step back for a second and look at my last Rat Race show to this one this is a perfect example. In the last one i feel from looking back i was too focussed on myself – i felt i had to prove something to myself by doing an open scene and thinking about it, that was probably a selfish thing to do for an audience. I should of been focusing on the audience needs and not myself and the new format for Rat Race really does this – it doesn’t matter how your feeling inside it does not leave space for that and you just delve right in and give the audience a performance to remember. It doesn’t allow you breathing space to choose the games you are comfortable with it challenges you in a safe and fun way but also in a way that you never thought was possible.

If I hadn’t watched this hour interview with Chris Pine the day before the show i may of walked into the Rat Race with a completely different mind set and it just goes to show that inspiration really can come from anywhere……i am still yet to re-watch Star Trek Into Darkness…..



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