This week we head up to Newcastle for the Show that you must go to – The Improv Night Let Us Make It Up To You, run by Open Heart Theatre has only been running for this year and it is already making a strong name for itself in the Toon.
On the Saturday this week (5th May) Let Us Make It Up To You returns to the Alphabettir Theatre with special guests The Dreaming. I caught up with Alex and Owen of Open Heart Theatre to find out more about the night!
Hello guys! Tell us about Open Heart Theatre who you all are and a little bit about yourselves?
Alex: Open Heart Theatre is a theatre company passionate about improvisation and high on emotion and honesty, where the players unlock their natural creativity and inspire their stage partners to soar to unexpected places. We want to put work onstage that’s heartfelt and open, and want those feelings to stay with our players and students as much as possible!
The theatre is a collab between Will Steele, who’s born and bred here, and myself, who came up north recently. Open Heart then teamed up with Owen Scrivens, who we knew by reputation as a really experienced improviser and showmaker in Liverpool, now in Newcastle again.
Owen: I was looking to flex my improv muscles after moving back to the North East (After 12 years in Liverpool) and was very lucky to be introduced to Alex and Will. We found immediately that our views on improv matched up well and set about setting up the show that became Let Us Make It Up To You.
#How did you come up with the name of the show Let us Make It Up To You?
Owen: The name Let Us Make It Up To You was down to me. I came up with it a few years back when I was considering an improvised cabaret night in Liverpool that would have been a combination of improviser and artists that do not normally improvise.
As well as being a fun improv pun, I like the fact that it focuses on the connection between the performers and the audience. That is what I love about improv shows, that we all discover everything together.
Tell us a little bit about the shows that are happening this week?
The next Let Us Make It Up To You is on May 5th at Alphabetti Theatre in Newcastle. Like all Let Us Make It Up To You shows we will have guest acts and our house act The Hang.
Alphabetti is the perfect venue for improvised comedy because it is very intimate, and this makes the audience eager to get involved. We also love the opportunity to use the stage and tech at the theatre to really push our production values.
What sort of style of improv can people expect?
A bit of everything. One of the reasons for starting this night was to bring a whole variety of different voices to the Newcastle improvisation scene.
Tell us about some of the acts that people can expect to see this month’s show?
For the first time in Newcastle, we will bringing The Dreaming, London’s premier avant-garde post-improv performance-art collective. They “channel the Jungian skein” to “organically develop a perspective from several mouths and bodies”. This is apparently only “the beginning of a fluid journey”, a “reverie”, in which “the audience is complicit”.
No, we’ve no idea what they mean either. They’re very earnest, but maybe not as serious as they imagine. Expect tongue-in-cheek pretension and crazy associations.
This month we will also be doing something a little bit different! We are going to create one big improv team out of The Hang, The Dreaming and a few other guest performers – The Let Us Make It Up To You all stars if you will and we will be bringing our twist on short form improv.
Since we last spoke you now have a House Team called The Hang – tell us all about them?
We have been working on The Hang since last year because we loved the idea of having a house team at Let Us Make It Up To You. It has allowed us to get together a group of improvisers that were in Newcastle, but not performing and work together to create something.
The Hang format uses theatrical scenes that indulge in the joys of everyday conversation. These hang scenes have a pre-decided location so that we can have a simple set and costumes; these production values help us (even if just a little) to bridge that gap between theatre and improv.
We then use the hang scenes to inspire a quickfire run of scenes, stories and songs.
It is therefore quite like the “Living Room” format, but we feel it is increasingly creating a unique voice of its own.
What’s the highlights of some of your previous shows that you have happened at The Alphabetti?
We have been delighted about all the different acts we have had on. Clones, a twoprov group from Nottingham were the headline act at our first show and delivered a great slow-burn theatrical set with compelling characters.
Local act Spontaneous Wrecks has been a real highlight. Their format “Picture this” uses audience drawings to create a selection of interlinking, fast paced scenes and we love seeing the creativity of the crowd being brought to life on stage.
Another great example of the audience getting involved was during a one man improvised musical where the audience became a musical chorus of dogs and cats attacking a sadistic group of human animal torturers.
A lot of people at the moment are trying to transition improv into video to post on social media channels – do you think this works for improv or do you think the art form is lost in the transition?
Owen: I like a lot of people, loved “Who’s Line Is It Anyway?” when I was younger and therefore think you can communicate some of the joy of spontaneity on film. I do think you lose some of the wonderful experience of discovering something together; the relationship between an audience and live performance.
I think it is something we are going to have to learn to best implement; it is not going away. I think similar to my view that good stage production adds something to an improv show, when we get to the point of shows being filmed in better quality with good editing we may start to see better filmed improv.
What have been some of the most unique and different improv sets you have seen this year and why?
Owen: I really liked Sonder’s show at the Nursery last year. The show was a mix improvised folk tales and then scenes inspired by those stories.
I love storytelling, so for a group to really double down on making that a focal point was a joy. It was also staged with great costumes, a good set and a commitment to high quality theatricality. Hopefully with more dedicated improv spaces we can continue to see better stages, sets and costumes while not losing the spontaneity and humour.
Alex: I really enjoyed seeing The Suggestibles for the first time. They did a really spirited short-form show with loads of good games played brilliantly. Their second half musical was loads of fun and you could see the trust between players as they really thrived on the mischief and playfulness.
If people want to find out more about you where can they follow you on social media?
And Finally in three words – Why should people come and see the show?
Fun. Varied. Exciting.
QUICK FIRE ROUND
We put Owen to the test in our Quick Fire Round to find out a little bit more about him!
If you could buy any type of food (right now) what would you buy?
This second, I would like a good burger
What is one of the things you would put on your “bucket” list?
Regularly teach healthcare professionals communication skills using improv and theatrical techniques.
Who do you admire the most and why?
Someone I really admired growing up was Harold Pinter. I loved how he would explain that his writing process as allowing the characters to live through him and not to overthink the reasons behind what he wrote.
He was also such a strong voice in the anti-war movement, I think it is important to forge the links between art and the wider world. Although improvised comedy is not exactly the first place you may look for hard hitting political satire, it is important that if you have a voice you are aware of the things you say and do.
Describe yourself in 3 words.
Small, restless, silly
When I dance, I look like…?
Ian Curtis from Joy division.
What is your favourite T.V. channel?
BBC4 or Sky Arts (I like a good arts documentary)
If you could get a yacht what would you call it?
The Scrivvleby (a combination of my surname and my wife’s surname)
What TV sitcom family would you be a member of?
The Bluth’s from Arrested Development
Last item you purchased?
I bought a loop pedal for my guitar.
If you could win any award what would it be, why?
The thing I would most like to win an award for would be for would be my communication in my real-life job as a doctor.
The award I am likely to win is… Most consistent use of a vest as an Improv costume to play low status characters.