I’m taking Between Us to Edinburgh Fringe for the first time this year, so I wanted to hear from other seasoned improvisers about their Edinburgh experiences. I caught up with Sam André-Paul who’s co-directing the University of Nottingham’s Hard Truths.
Rachel: Alex and I had a great time running a dramatic improv workshop at the UoN’s inaugural improv festival – which you organised! We can’t wait to see your Edinburgh show. Tell us about it.
Sam: It’s super loose, and very narrative. We take a difficult question directed towards personal experiences (maybe it’s just complex to answer or maybe it’s heavily emotional or very personal and normally not answered) and we answer it truthfully, nothing left out. Our experiences and stories then fuel the rest of the hour-ish narrative. Recently we’ve been sneaking some proper emotional stuff into our shows, alongside our classic funny ha-has.
Rachel: That sounds cool. How do you keep it fresh every night?
Sam: A big troupe definitely helps. We also set little challenges for each other before a show. It’s a nice morale booster. We call them Improv Wishes but they’re definitely Improv Dares. We also do a quick round of Eight Things, a bit of a Mind Meld, count to 21 as a group, then we tend to just dance in the space until it’s performance time!
Rachel: What do you enjoy about performing at Edinburgh?
Sam: I think it really makes rehearsal feel worth it. For us to go from non-improvisers to Edinburgh-ready in around eight months means around six hours of rehearsal a week during term time, and a whole lot of intensive sessions after exams. Performing to a full audience and actually that people enjoyed it at the end makes that effort feel justified.
It’s also a great place to get my favourite thing about performing in general, sort of like a muted gasp or shocked noise when you pull a plot twist at the end of a show. I cannot get enough of that.
I also think just being at the festival in general is such a major confidence boost for a performer. The way the crowd is during the festival, the atmosphere, it makes you feel like you’ve “made it”. I’m not sure if “made it” really exists but I felt like I had for those three weeks!
Rachel: And what can be tough?
Sam: Last year I could not, no matter how hard I tried, jump over a bollard that was on my way home from the venue. I tried pretty much every night on the walk back. Some nights I spent 40 minutes trying.
Rachel: Have you got any tips for newbies?
Sam: I would absolutely recommend flyering with a friend because flyering Cowgate at 6pm was truly soul crushing and I have never been more thankful to have someone opposite me across the road to make vague gestures at indicating my frustration.
Lastly, and I cannot stress how valuable this was for me, take something to throw yourself into when you’re frustrated or exhausted. Take a thick-ass book to try and get through. Take some coursework. Anything that takes you out of the festival for a minute and gives you a task to get on with.
Rachel: How about money tips?
Sam: Absolutely not. My dad started paying for some of my food so I wouldn’t starve. Thanks for the ice-cream, Dad. You’re a real one.
Rachel: I’ve been talking to Katy Schutte about having a clear idea of what you want to achieve at Edinburgh. Do you have an objective this year?
Sam: I will jump that bollard if it kills me.
Rachel: A noble mission! And where can we see Hard Truths, assuming the bollard doesn’t kill you?
Sam: Greenside@Nicolson Square at 10:05pm from 2nd to 17th August.