This week are Show of the Week is actually happening next monday in Clapham at the Ominibus Theatre, so it is technically a in the next seven days. It is a monthly event but this week Vera and Adrian are joined by special guests Somewhat Theatre, a six-person improv supergroup who play with new approaches to improvising theatre, blending experimentation with downright silliness. I caught up with Vera and Adrian to find out all about it.
Vera & Adrian Improvise Things
Date: Monday 9th March
Location: Omnibus Theatre in Clapham
Ticket Link: click here for tickets
Hello tell us all about who you all are and three unknown facts about your troupe!
Individually, we are Vera Chok and Charles Adrian. Together, we’re Vera & Adrian. We’re operating a kind of improv lab where we can investigate new ways of using improv and share that with other improv artists and the world.
1) In private life, Charles Adrian usually goes by his second name but not always.
2) Vera prefers lumps of deep fried fat to chocolate.
3) We’re both suckers for a good, moderately problematic romcom.
How did your troupe form?
Adrian: We met at University a million years ago when Vera directed me in a play and we’ve been friends more or less ever since. We’ve made all kinds of things together over the years – including plays, short films, podcasts, writing projects and cabaret nights – and we’ve recently been getting more and more interested in improv in its many forms.
Vera: I keep finding ways of working with Adrian because it’s really one of the best uses of my time on earth. And I love improv – I was happiest when I first discovered long form non-narrative improv via David Shore and so I have dragged Adrian towards that. Conversely, Adrian introduced me to Andrew Morrish’s approach. So we are interested in the same kind of performance styles and we ask the same-ish kinds of questions about improv.
How did you come up with the name of your troupe? Was it difficult?
Adrian: We’ve used the name Vera and Adrian for our film projects before now and it just feels like the easiest way to describe ourselves. Vera is older than me by nearly two and a half years so her name comes first.
Vera: Wait, WHAT? First of all, I like how literal and clear our name is. In the words of David Shore who probably got it from another improviser, it’s Super Fucking Clear. Also, Vera & Adrian reminds me of the V&A museum, which is indicative of our friendship, you white English gentleman, you. By the way, if you need to get me a gift, the V&A gift shop is great.
Adrian: I don’t but thanks.
How did the show come about?
Adrian: Before Christmas, Vera started working with the very wonderful Marie McCarthy, who is Artistic Director of the Omnibus Theatre in Clapham, and persuaded her to let us have some space once a month to play around with improvisation.
Vera: I am a sneaky, adorable, hustler. Also, Marie, like us, is interested in the liveness of improv, and the danger, risk and sexy discoveries which spring up whenever I’m around. Also, not only do we push the boundaries of what we are afraid of doing each month, we also invite guest improv artists to share their kind of improv with us – we want them to feel free to try out stuff that would be too weird/too uncommercial/not “funny” enough.
How did you get into improv?
Vera: By mistake.
Adrian: 1. Adrian introduced Vera to Andrew Morrish, who teaches a gentle and profound form of performance improvisation that comes out of Al Wunder’s Theatre Of The Ordinary. 2. Vera got Adrian to follow her into comedy improv.
Vera: Annie Sertich and David Shore changed my life.
Tell us a little bit about the show that are happening this week?
Adrian: This month, we’re joined by special guests Somewhat Theatre, a six-person improv supergroup who play with new approaches to improvising theatre, blending experimentation with downright silliness.
Vera: That’s what they said, anyway. I hope they push the boat out and go HARD into unknown territory. “Strong but wrong” is not what I wish upon anyone who is afraid of being in the shit on stage but I do find it exhilarating when artists embrace or seek being in the shit on stage.
What three things are you looking forward to about performing in this show?
Adrian: That we get to play together, that we get to meet other improvisers doing things that we haven’t seen before and that we get to share all this with whoever comes to watch
Vera: For me, this is not about friendship or networking, ok? This is about having my mind blown. I want to laugh or cry or dance or whatever so much that it hurts. Every meeting with another person or group is a chance to have my world expanded in a good way. Also, I love hanging out and chatting with the audience and performers post show. I love it when people go, “What the fuck was that?” in the best possible way. AND I love being in the actual physical space that is the Omnibus. Improv, for me, needs to take place in a safe and loving space and the entire building, because of its history and its current staff, make it a loving venue.
Adrian: That’s three things.
It is the month of March! Spring is just around the corner, what is the way you keep a spring in your step with improv to make it fresh for you?
Vera: I try to give myself a specific challenge each time I have a chance to perform. I also spend time grounding myself before each set because if I am in my body, in my shoes, in the moment, I don’t need to do any work to keep improv fresh – we’re a team and my team mate is inherently naughty and disruptive and again, because we are so comfortable around each other, we keep pushing each other in new ways.
It is a new decade – what would you like to see happen to improv in the next 10 years?
Adrian: Venues need to become more accessible. The rooms, especially in London, are usually upstairs or downstairs and either difficult or impossible to access for performers and audience members with mobility issues. The solution is not going to be easy or cheap but we need to start changing this.
Vera: Eh, I’m not sure the world as we know it is going to be around for another 10 years. So really, I wonder if improv could be informed by that? How would we respond? Feverishly or calmly? Would our content or approaches change in any way?
How do you warm up before a show?
Vera: Wriggling, shouting, pop music.
Adrian: We usually catch up and then do some short, low-stakes improv just for ourselves.
What have been some of the best suggestions that you have been given in a show and why?
Adrian: We don’t use suggestions but recently there was a beautiful comment from an audience member after one of our shows. While we were warming up, we’d been having problems with the app we use to time our performances and, when the alarm didn’t go off during the show, I just said to Vera: “I don’t think it’s working.” In the bar afterwards, one of people who’d been in the audience said she’d assumed it was a comment on Vera’s performance. She thought it was incredible that we could just tell each other in front of a paying audience that what we were doing was no good.
If people want to find out more about you where can they follow you on social media?
And Finally in three words – Why should people come and see the show?
VERA AND ADRIAN!!!
QUICK FIRE ROUND
If you could have any three people (dead or alive) over for dinner – who would they be?
Adrian: Vera would invite Brené Brown, Elizabeth Gilbert and Chelsea Handler.
Vera: I like blonde women with small eyes. If we could cheat, and I am big on breaking the rules, I think we would also invite our existing friends because we don’t see them enough and the world might end tomorrow.
What’s the best piece advice you’ve received?
Adrian: Learn how to sit with the feelings.
Vera: Stay in your shoes.
Do you have any pets?
Adrian: Vera has a new puppy!!!!
Vera: I think I would like to be someone’s pet. Someone nice, though.
If you could be from any other decade (or era), which would it be??
Adrian: Not to be a spoil-sport but life would be harder for both of us in almost any era. Better the devil you know, right?
Vera: I am a small young-looking, Chinese woman and Adrian’s gay so. What Adrian said.
If you had to have a tattoo to represent improv what would you have and why?
Adrian: I’d have to let the tattoo artist freestyle that.
Vera: I think I already have tattoos representing my world view which thus includes improv: a long sword, a gender queer person holding a long sword, and a chicken bone (which was dropped at my feet by a witchy crow).
What’s on your music playlists right now?
Peter Andre’s Mysterious Girl (Vera) and Sufjan Steven’s Carrie & Lowell (Adrian)
Who would play you in the movie of your life?
If we couldn’t play ourselves then what would even be the point?
If you had one superpower, what would it be?
Adrian: Something food-related.
Vera: I already have several superpowers but it would be nice to be able to run faster and jump better.