The other day I was reading social media where a friend of mine that is new to improv posted a question asking why is physicality so important in improv, especially with characters. The improviser wanted to know why you should consider physicality as an option if you have chosen a strong accent or emotion to play the character with in the first place. I found this a really interesting topic to talk about with them because it is something you do not rally think about. Whilst I may not be the wizard of improv knowledge, this is the response that I wrote, this is how I personally feel why physicality is also used within a character.
First it is representing the familiar in what we know – the little quirks and movements of the ones around us. Those little things can be brought into a character to give it a new lease of life. When people talk or react to people, they automatically create and produce a physicality – whether it is something simple as a facial expression or moving their hands when they talk.
I find that physicality is a nice way to come out of your comfort zone and try something different instead of relying on what you have. If you play the same thing in every show you become predictable and audiences thrive on new characters. It is not that normal characteristics are dull but exaggeration can really be fun to an audience. It doesn’t have to be the most obvious either you can choose a quirk that wouldn’t normal be a big deal and exaggerate it so much that it becomes the character and that can be really fun to watch (like someone always slapping their leg after every sentence etc) physicality is a wonderful thing to bring to a character have a look at whose line is it anyway doing party quirks, or blind date and you will see that physicality really heightens a character.
It is so easy to just stay still and ‘talk in a scene’ but having the physicality it forces you as well to make better use of your space and not just make it a scene where you stand in the same place having a conversation. This is such a fascinating topic and I am sure there are others that are more experienced then me that can give you more in depth but I hope that has helped.