Chris Mead Narrative drop in
This week was a bumper week for Improv! I decided to go to a day intensive course on the day of our show because I didn’t have anything else to do and thought it would be better spent going to an intensive course on an area of improv that I haven’t really done a course on – Narrative. Now, the reason I haven’t really done an intensive or an eight week course on this is because I am a short former and narrative is important but not as important as it is in long form. Also, I am a Video Editor and part of my life is working with building a narrative so i haven’t really explored it a lot in improv because it is what I do as a job normally.
The lesson started by doing something that I have done a lot in the early months of improv, one word at a time games. We did this as a group in two different ways, the first version of the game was going round the circles saying one word at a time to make up a slogan. When we got to a part that we thought was the ending of that slogan we would all go ‘hmmm interesting.’
We then went on to tell a one word story where the main aim of the game was to make sure that the story has a beginning, middle and end. After doing this we then went away and got into pairs and talked to someone about our life story and then had to say it all back to them – the main part of narrative improv is to make sure that you listen.
We then formed a circle again and looked at a different sort of narrative format that is used in Asia, I think it is a Japanese format but I hope I haven’t got that wrong. The whole idea of their narrative concept is to set up the narrative using descriptions and then at some point go to a different description of something else that is completely unrelated to the original topic and then in the conclusion you bring both of the objects together.
We then went on to focus on talking about structure when you both believe in the scene something is true. So we did this in pairs first but the easiest way to describe this is if you think about a talk show sort of situation. A group of people appear on the sofa talking about an experience of an event they have all had together – sharing the narrative between the group of people developing the scene as well as the story along the way. The reason why this works well as a narrative structure is because it makes the scene more colloquial and it makes the audience laugh because everyone in the scene believes that the thing is truth and they are building upon the made up story.
We then did a scene where the game of it was to endow each other to become the protagonist in the scene. This was a fun game to play as you were always trying to up the other person and make them sound like their life story is a lot better then your own. I felt it was a fun game to play and definitely one that could work well in front of an audience.
The final thing that we focussed on was scenes where the music is used to create a drama or effect on a scene. There is a game called Oscar Moment where ever so often one of the people in the scene will be given some sort of indication that they have to then do a monologue about their character. In Chris Mead’s course we did this with music being played into the scene and dictating when this happened! It was really good fun as you never knew what sort of music will be played and it really helped the scene create humour.
Show with Punderstandably
This week we had another set at the Hoopla Pre-Party at London Bridge. As well as being part of the Punderstandably set, I was also hosting the night so it was all really good fun! This week was all about trying out new games and experimenting, to see how we felt about putting some of these games into the actual shows.
The first game that we tried out was one called Three Monkeys this is one where one person can’t see, another person cannot talk and another person cannot hear. A member of the audience tells the host an activity and then the person who cannot talk will do it and the others have to participate in the scene trying to guess what the activity is. It worked ok but it is a game that needs a lot of time to develop and nurture it into a game we can play at a different time.
We then played a game that is a development of the game four corners – instead of having a genre in different areas of the stage we instead decided to have an accent instead. This was our strongest game of the night because it relied on failure for humour. We put Mike in this game because he is very good at doing accents, but we also put me in it as well because I am absolutely awful. The humour came from the good juxtaposition next to the bad. It was good fun to play and actually really hilarious.
The final game of the night was a developed version of the game where you are only allowed to talk in limited words. We made it so one James could only talk in only 5 words, the other in 3 words and I could only talk in lyrics. The game went quite well and worked in a show environment and is one that we are going to use in future shows.
This week at Musical Improv it was all about the group songs and opening numbers. We started with a few warm up games to get us in the mood to do singing including the games Two Aubergines and the Babies lullaby.
The whole idea of this week was to try and use all of the skills that we used last week in opening numbers. This included trying to focus on song structures and how to incorporate them into an opening number.
We did a variety of group songs in different locations to get used to the concept and how they work well in a show including symmetrical movements, arm poses which are used to connote you are starting a chorus and much more.
Case Study – Chris Mead
One of the reasons that I particularly decided to do a day course on Narrative is because I had heard really good things about the Improviser Chris Mead. His name has come out and about a lot in the past and I have written about him before but I had never officially met him or been taught by him and when the opportunity arose to have a lesson with him I decided to leap at the chance.
Now, i didn’t walk away from Chris’ Lesson feeling that I had learnt loads and loads because I am a Short Form / News Video Editor – my whole career is built on creating narratives in a short period of time. Saying that, I really liked Chris as a teacher.
Firstly, Chris is very approachable – he is a very down to earth guy who you instantly gain a liking to because he makes you feel both welcome and part of the team straight away. He is very good at teaching you new areas and he does not shy away from any questions you may have.
Whilst I don’t think I will be doing that many courses with Chris, not because I don’t like him but because a lot of his training is focussed at long form, I would jump at the opportunity to be taught by him again. He really knows his stuff about improv and he comes across as a sort of Wizard in the realm as he has his hands in so many pies in the improv scene he really knows his stuff.
I walked away from The Narrative Intensive happy that I had done it something very productive with my day. Whilst it was everything I sort of do in my day job, I still feel that the skills learnt in Chris’ course will help be both professionally and in my social improv life.