Improv Diaries – Let’s Get Physical with Carrots, Kangeroo’s and Bubblewrap [Case Study: Nigel Havers and Denis Lawson]

This week in rehearsals we were all about getting ‘physical’ and really getting used to using the stage more and focussing on our character work. JBB was in charge of leading the lesson this week and I can honestly say it was SO much fun and made my rubbish week a hell of a lot better.

To start off the lesson we did a lot of different warm ups to get us in the mood to be moving around a lot.  The first game we played we had to find a spot where you can see each everyone and with a sign one person walks and when they stop only one can continue. It is a good game to get you in the mood to be in each other’s space and feel comfortable around everyone.

The next warm up was to really get the body warmed up and sort of like the nursery rhyme head shoulder knees and toes. We defined 4 gestures, and each of them got a number. For example:

  • One: touch your forehead with your hands
  • Two: touch your shoulders with both hands
  • Three: touch your hips with both hands
  • Touch one foot with one hand (lift your foot)

You then have to do these in different orders and then at different speeds. The next warm up was all about chasing! Two players chase each other about the room. The player that is being chased mimes obstacles for the other, who then has to overcome these obstacles. This was a fun game to play to see how people reacted to both sides.

I am never a fan of being blindfolded in improv but here we are, it always seems to happen at some point or other. One player becomes a sculpture, standing still, while his partner closes her eyes. She needs to explore the statue, with her eyes closed, and then tries to become the same statue. It weirdly worked really, really well and each shape was identical.

We then did a round of two person scenes to get into the world of an improv mindset. To make the Who, What, Where scenes more physical we had to pretend that we were walking into the scene with the floor being sticky with something and react to the texture to create a scene. So things such as honey, tar, cement etc. It was really fun and also interesting to see just how much physicality can be brought by someone if they think in the mindset that they are walking in different elements.

The next game that we played was an excellent exercise for building environments and object work. There is on player the stage and they are put into a random location by the audience / other improvisers. They then start miming out movements that  somehow defines (broadly) a location. . The other players then become the other objects in the environment. The player who started the scene then has to guess what object everyone was meant to be.

After doing some really interesting and thought provoking warm ups we then went on to play a few games. In the first game we played, players are is only allowed to speak if one player touches the other. The person who makes the touch is allowed to speak. It was again a really interesting concept and it worked really well and also i suppose failed – as we found a lot of issues with this game but it was good to have that insight.

The next game that we played was all about creating a world and then letting people inside of it. Two players start a scene and build up the objects in that world around them. Then when they have spent around 30 seconds / 1 minute building and creating a world two other players come in and make a scene in that world. The original players mime everything so it is for the new players to guess what the objects are in the scene.

The last game that we played that sort of brought everything together was a game where each person in the scene could only say one word the entire time. This meant that object work, physicality and even emotion were important to convey a scene and to make something good.

It was a really interesting week and I feel that I have learnt a lot of stuff and feel that it was a really fun lesson.

Case Study: Nigel Havers and Denis Lawson 

This week is a very random case study but I came across something and I felt that it was really relevant to this weeks lesson. I was watching Good Morning Britain and both Nigel Havers and Denis Lawson were on the show to promote their theatre production they are touring called Art, which is about three friends who fall out when one buys a painting

I feel like I am currently surrounded by Nigel Havers at the moment because I am also reading Jack Whitehall’s book and he is the Godfather of the comedian. It did not click right away and then I realised who he was after a few minutes.

In their interview they were discussing the opening of the show where Nigel and Denis are looking at a painting and the audience laugh at the silence and then one of them says the word ‘expensive’ whilst the other one is trying to find something to say.

I found that this was a really interesting  conversation because yet again one word and silence creates humour in comedy. This is one of the key things that we learnt this week – it doesn’t matter what you say it is all about the silence and the physical and the world you build that creates the humour and not necessarily the words that you say.

The one thing that we did learn from this week was that even when you can only say one word in a scene it can create a lot of humour and sometimes one word it all you really need!

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