This week was a very exciting one for me as I started my first lesson of eight with Comedy Store Player and Artistic Director of Improbable. I had been recommended to do a course with him years ago and when I saw him perform in Suki Websters Guest Speaker in 2017, I knew that it was something I had to do if it ever came up.
Right from the start Lee is highly engaging and whilst he ends up saying a lot of stuff that ends up being very funny and a punchline to a joke he didn’t realise he started, he is also a very good teacher and in the first lesson I learnt so much. I kept checking the time to make sure it hadn’t run over because it was so in depth from the get go.
We started off the lesson do one word at the time stories to focus on our inner brain and to listen to how it responds when a story is being told out and how we feel about that. For each round we had a different point to look out for and we rotated around partners to explore different areas of our thoughts we should be listening to. One round I was paired up with Lee and it was the fastest round of one word at a time I have ever played, there was no gaps to think it was word, word,word word and it was great to play it like that. It was interesting listening to you inner self when you played this game and understanding the questions that you are asking yourself about what is happening and opinions being created.
This week we focussed loosely on the theories of Chekhov and how actors use ‘Psychological gestures’. The terms that Lee used throughout was Mold, Float and Fly and told us to think of ways and motions that we will think of that we will relate to each one. Whilst these are all the technical terms, I am going to describe them in my own way below so when I refer to them next I will look at this and understand everything.
+ Mold / The Frozen – When you move throughout a space allow the area around you to become a heavy sort of element that when you naturally move through it, it feels like weight of the element around you is forcing you to slow down your movements, you do not have to slow down but all in all you start to feel ‘heavy’.
When I walked around the space I imagined that the element around me was heavy snow and that I was fighting against it. This was really interesting to see how my body reacted to this as i felt the pressure and I realised that my hands started to screw up quite a lot, I was cautious about the steps that I took and I felt the weird sensation of heavy. (Also I had Let It Go Stuck in my head in this whole exercise).
+ Float / The Magic –When you move throughout a space, this time you allow the space around you to move you but this time it is light and feels like you are being pushed about by something light like bubbles. This automatically creates a feeling of lightness and makes the movements look at lot more jolly and optimistic.
When I walked around the room my automatic thought went to magic and felt that I was being pushed around by the spell Wingardium Leviosa. I think this could be because I was listening to the podcast Potterless that day but also it was the first thing my mind went to when I thought of light.
+ Fly / The Ru Paul – The final style of movement you have to think of like a point of the end of a jet plane stick in your back pushing you forward – this means that your movements are confident and fast and very erratic. It means when you walk you have a sense of strength and a strong energy around you.
When we did this exercise I automatically thought of Ru Paul’s Drag Race runway and the confidence that the Queens have when they walk down the catwalk. I automatically felt I was trying to channel that energy.
The one important lesson about all of these types of movements is that they change the way you enter or work in a scene. To prove this, we saw a number of scenes where people would enter the scene using one of these movements and to watch what it does to a scene. We did this for quite a few times and then we focussed on what happens if you put more then one of these in a scene and it is fascinating the way it effects the scene.
I was in a scene where I was working with another improviser and we were both given different directions that were whispered to us so only we knew. When it came to the scene it was so fun to play and it deliberately forced me to amp up the movements and facial expressions. It was a really insightful lesson and I felt that I learnt a lot.
Case Study – Cheers
One thing that Lee Simpson highlighted was that in improv a lot of the time we tend to forget to focus on the way we enter the stage – usually we forget this. He said that a great example is to look at the way people enter the pub in the television show Cheers. Apparently the way that certain characters never changed because it became a huge iconic part of the show (watch the clip below for an example). The entrance into a scene can be just as important as the actual scene so the next time you enter do a Mold, Float, or Fly an see the impact you can have in the scene