All this month we are talking to Multiverse Impro, a London based troupe that was founded in 2014 and has been going strong ever since. They create improv musicals in a ‘multiverse with possible outcomes’. The co-directors of the team are Lee Apsey and Lisa Lynn, Rob Carolina is the executive producer and David Rees is the MD. Today I speak to Lee about the beginnings of the troupe, other groups they are a fan of and favourite Multiverse shows.
Hello can you tell us a little bit about the improv team Multiverse?
Multiverse are a London based team that create uplifting, Sliding Doors style musicals where one choice creates two branching realities and we explore both… as a musical!
How did you guys form?
The team originally started in 2014 when Rob Carolina and Fran Reid, who had just concluded an intensive period of improv training with David Shore in Monkey Toast, decided to put together an experimental group dedicated to marrying musical improvisation with theatrical improvisation. They began with an initial team of eight people, coached by Justin Brett from Showstoppers, and during the course of three months of workshops developed the basic two timeline split narrative musical theatre show.
How did you come up with the name Multiverse Impro?
It was meant to be! We create musicals in the multiverse of possible outcomes and the word already has a “verse” for us to use.
What style of Improv do you do?
We start from the heart and we climax in harmony.
At any time we’re balancing innovation and simplification. You want to push the boundaries of what’s possible but, just like sports training, anything that’s not muscle memory or intuition will weigh you down in performance.Lee Apsey, Multiverse Impro
Recently the improv scene has been very different – how have you adapted to doing shows online?
Honestly? We haven’t. I love that people have made some very cool online specific shows or adapted their live work in a way that brings them and their audience joy. That’s fabulous but it’s also a different medium and not one that we personally wanted to create in. So we didn’t!
What other improv groups are you a fan of and why?
They’re great performers too but if you ever want to learn how to run a great short form night: Do the Right Scene really put the effort into considering the audience experience and keeping the energy flowing. They nail the often overlooked parts of a night like dynamite segues and it elevates everything. If you’re NOT interested in learning how to run a good night of comedy then just go and enjoy it anyway. I’d also mention Bear Pack always hit a perfect blend of sincerity and silliness.
Tell us about the styles of improv you enjoy and why?
Bear Pack are a good example of this but I’m really inspired by the joy of honestly caring about something objectively frivolous: cause isn’t that the human experience in a nutshell? Also, TJ and Dave, all day long.
What are some of your earliest memories of your early improv performances?
I started out in the Tokyo Comedy Store back in 2012 and was coming from a writing and directing background. Shows were very fun. Very gamey. New to improv as I was at the time I was still thinking like a writer and “trying to be good.”
I think my sharpest memories, and the easiest way to learn how to listen, are becoming excited by what other people are going to do. To this day I can’t look at a large stretch of stage without seeing Roger Sono dive across it and I can’t imagine a better energy than my friend trying to make me smile on stage.
What three things are you looking forward to about performing in an improv show?
1. Being surprised by what my cast mates do.
2. Being surprised by what the audience members do.
3. Being surprised by what I do.
What are your aims for your troupe for rest of the year?
We’ve got a show at the Bristol Improv Theatre on November 12th and in the hopes that nature is healing we’re locking down a busy festival and touring schedule for 2022!
How do you rehearse a format such as your own?
A branching timelines musical has some wild possibilities. The types of gifts it gives you in form and content, humour and character study can feel like juggling Christmas presents.
I think a lot of improv shows might relate to this but at any time we’re balancing innovation and simplification. You want to push the boundaries of what’s possible but, just like sports training, anything that’s not muscle memory or intuition will weigh you down in performance.
So we do a lot of lab testing new ideas, push daring new options to inspire ourselves and possible ways to play with the metanarrative but it always comes back to running simple scenes into song with the emotional connection that grounds everything we do.
Whatever our format, caring about the person on stage with you is what makes the show and that’s the muscle you want to keep in top shape.
What is YOUR favourite Multiverse Impro sets you have done this year and why?
The Brighton Fringe. It was a long year for everyone so being back on stage, connecting with each other and a live audience, was a big moment: even in the pouring rain.
What is the best thing about being in Multiverse Impro ?
Working with people far more talented than I am.
What is the most challenging?
It can certainly feel very challenging to be in the moment you’re in whilst also being aware of the secondary universe version of you and how these moments may reflect upon another across alternate timelines. Things like planning ahead and conscious recall aren’t that groovy for improv so there’s a lot of work done on trusting those elements will fall into place. We’re throwing balls in the air and trusting we’ll be surprised by how we catch them later.
It’s very zen in that sense. We have to not try.
What have been some of your specifically favourite scenes you have created so far in a show and why?
Sabrina Luisi once sang a showstopping solo in two universes at once: talking to her husband on their wedding day and the man she’d left behind respectively.
Both versions of her character had so much they wished they could say to the other whilst talking to someone else.
It absolutely blew my mind and really nailed that “Science fiction is how we tell personal truths” dynamic.
What have been the worst?
Honestly any time I came into a scene with an idea of how it would go.
I’d add that in the early days we were contending with what I’ve come to call narrative buckaroo. The first scene gives us the seed of a show. We can either grow that idea or add another one on top. The more ideas on top the harder it is to balance and not be overwhelmed. So we had to get better at keeping it simple, leaving our bags off stage and watering that seed to grow a big single tree together. Also making clearer metaphors.
Do the Right Scene really put the effort into considering the audience experience and keeping the energy flowing. They nail the often overlooked parts of a night like dynamite segues and it elevates everything.Lee Apsey, Multiverse Impro
Who would be your dream guest to appear and why?
Kenjiro Tsuda and I will overcome any obstacles to have his voice in the room.
What is the best piece of advice you have been given about improv and why?
“You are enough” ~ Dave Razowsky
If people want to find out more about you where can they find you on social media?
We’re on Instagram, Facebook and twitter @multiverseimpro . (or me specifically @leeapsey.)