This month we are going behind the scenes of the Newcastle based improv show Let Us Make It Up To You to give you all the inside information and to give you more into this great little improv show that happens regularly up in the North East. As well as finding out more about the show we will also be talking to the Players of the house team as well. I caught up with Owen to find out all about him.
Hello Owen, how long have you been improvising?
I first did some improv as part of my National Youth Theatre course in 2002, first attended improv workshops in 2004 and first performed improv in 2008.
How did you get into improv?
I was lucky to do some improv as part of my National Youth Theatre course as a 16 year old. The group was full of talented individuals (including the wonderful Zawe Ashton) and I remember playing freeze tag most days being a joyous experience.
When I started University I was desperate to do some improv and was lucky that Paul Foxcroft was running workshops on a Saturday afternoon. The group of us going to those workshops was small, but two of us that attended them are still performing regularly (Mark Rawle and Myself).
Following those beginnings I read everything I could on improv. I was lucky enough to co-found Sticky Floor, which was successful for a number of years and then performed for the magnificent impropriety in Liverpool.
What is your favourite style of improv and why?
Most of my favourite improv memories come from performing in improvathons in Liverpool.
I love when production values are high, the barrier between theatre and comedy are broken down, but the anarchic joy of spontaneity is still there.
Who are your top 5 favourite improvisers and why?
Difficult question, but I am going to name the people I have most enjoyed sharing a stage with and watched in shows that I have been involved in.
Ed Jolly – Ed was a member of Sticky Floor and impropriety while studying at LIPA. I have been lucky to spend a lot of time improvising with Ed over the years, but absolutely love the joy he performs with.
Lewis Bray – Lewis is a one of a kind improviser. No one I have ever seen was more committed to spontaneity, he would say the first thing on his mind even if he didn’t know what it meant. At the first improvathon I attended Lewis was listing jobs around the farm at 2AM
“Feed the chickens, plough the fields…. Maim the horses”
Lewis did not understand why everyone was in tears laughing because he did not understand what he had said, but he doubled down on it.
Chris Mead – I met Chris while doing improvathons in Liverpool. Despite rarely doing any scenes with him I have been absolutely glued whenever he has been on stage. His emotional commitment is second to none and I will always remember his wonderful wedding to Mark Rawle at the end of an improvathon.
Talking of Mark Rawle… Mark is pretty inextricably linked in my improv journey. He was there at my first workshops in Liverpool, we ran Sticky Floor together for a number of years and we joined our first improvathon together, which led to us performing regularly with impropriety. I don’t get to share a stage with Mark much anymore, but I will remember him bullying my character in the 2016 improvathon for a long time, I have never failed more spectacularly, never made less sense and never had a better audience reaction.
I am going to cheat for my last improviser…
Helen Foster and Lauren Silver come as one in my mind. They are mischievous improvisers, always look like they are having fun and an absolute joy to be on stage with. Both are sensational actresses with such a wide range of talents that makes them so easy to watch. They also create the most wonderful improvised dance routines each year at the Liverpool improvathon.
What is your favourite warm up game?
Hey Fred Schneider is my favourite warm up game. Based on the singer of the B52s, taught to me at a Paul Foxcroft workshop, this game is so much fun and almost everyone seems good at it!
Favourite short form game?
Probably New Choice/Should have said. I think it is a game that can train good habits, but also provide great jokes that would not be possible in any other performance mediums.
What are the three top tips anyone has ever taught you in improv?
Make strong choices and don’t forget them
Always be interested and care
What are some of your favourite new acts you have come across this year and why?
I loved the show The Dreaming put on when they did Let Us Make It Up To You and really enjoyed Ugony Uncle the trance mask act Will did as well.
Sadly, I have not been able to see as much new improv as I would have liked in the last year.
How would you describe your personal sort of improv?
Varied, but overall energetic…. In a dirty vest.
Describe each LUMIUTY/HANG member in one word
Will – Enigmatic
Alex – Smart
Katie – Physical
Matthew – Curious
Toby – Playful