Multiverse Month – INTERVIEW – Vocals, Lego and Cauldron Explosions…

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 rehearsing for a show.

Tell us about the sort of rehearsals you do to get ready for a show?

 Preparing for improv is like preparing for sport. We drill technique, lab test some wild new strategies, keep on top of the fundamentals and above all else remind ourselves that we’re here because we love it.

You are an act on the London Improv scene that is well known – when you first start performing shows, what is your key advice to new troupes to finding the stage time and getting key slots?

Don’t be afraid to carve out your own space.

 London is filled with super cool people willing to help and you should absolutely reach out to them. The generosity of groups like Hoopla and the community hubs they build are beautiful, but remember that they have a lot of people relying on them and they can only give opportunities, not permission.

 So be grateful to the existing nights and awesome folk who’ll add you to their bill but it might be entirely within your power to find some pub theatre with suitable clientele and talk them into letting you use the space on a box office split without upfront hire costs. Sometimes you can uncover a weird upstairs room you can use for free because the 8 people you’ll bring in at first will buy coffee.

 If it goes well you can start expanding into bigger theatres and festivals.

 Promotion is a lot of work but that’s what people do on the nights you hop onto as a guest.

 My other hack would be to team up with a social supernova like Lisa Lynn, who is far better at getting stage time on existing nights than I am.

Do you have any pre show rituals – if so what are they?

 I go to the bathroom twice.

Describe the feeling you have when you host a show and people specifically turn up to see your troupe?

 I feel really happy for them.

We’ve played in spaces that are larger, grander and further away but I have a soft spot for our week long theatrical run at the Camden People’s Theatre

Lee Apsey

You do some regular nights – tell us about them?

We’re shaking things up for 2022, by which I mean we don’t have a regular night since the pandemic but we’d love one if anyone has a venue they want filling.

We all know that improv is not scripted but do you have some sort of ‘skeleton script ‘ or format in place that you work towards whilst getting ready for a show? Tell us about it?

My background is screenwriting, and I love a deep story analysis, but I think it’s very easy to forget that ideas like the Hero’s Journey and story circles should be held more as observations than prescriptions. We’re not writing on stage and we can’t go back and forth to edit so you have to be careful how you apply or think about those patterns we organically find so satisfying. You want them to feel effortless.

 For that reason we keep it simple across all the variations of the multiverse format. 90% of it boils down to “care about each other in scene one.”

 If two people care about each other, and any story will inevitably mean at least one of them changes, then that has also changed the relationship we cared about. That tension pulls us towards addressing the new situation and deciding what to do now with the new “us.” If you care about each other at the start it’s hard to avoid. That’s stakes, tension, whiff of death, the return, thesis/antithesis/synthesis and a whole host of other stuff taken care of just by caring.

 Even Lord of the Rings is ultimately driven by the question “are Sam and Frodo still friends?”

How do you warm up for a show?

 Full vocal and physical warm up for safety and we riff a few songs. We also love to do a round of Your Love is Like whilst David goes wild with genre and style.

How do you wind down from a show?

We do a cauldron of joy, which has delightfully shameless theatre kid energy and was introduced to me by Steve Bond. You join hands in a circle (thumbs up, turn sideways, hold the thumb to the left of yours) and each throw in anything you enjoyed about the show. Then that cauldron explodes into butterflies and disperses into the night.

Do you remember your first show you did with  Multiverse Impro  ? How were you feeling beforehand and how did the show go?

My personal first show with Multiverse was a musical about Lego and we went on a stage too small to fit the cast on, behind schedule and very late in a bar of people who did not wish to see a musical or improv. I think someone shouted “give up” during the set.

 Before the show I felt grateful that I had been invited to play and afterwards I just felt glad that we didn’t give up.

You have managed to perform at some fantastic locations – what have been some of your favourite shows you have done and why?

 We’ve played in spaces that are larger, grander and further away but I have a soft spot for our week long theatrical run at the Camden People’s Theatre. It’s a very different experience to come in day after day. The best part of the Edinburgh Fringe is seeing the growth from consecutive daily shows and we brought some of that closer to home.

We’re shaking things up for 2022, by which I mean we don’t have a regular night since the pandemic but we’d love one if anyone has a venue they want filling.

Lee Apsey

What has been some of the best advice you have ever been given about improv and comedy?

“You are enough” and “dare to be lovely”, both Dave Razowsky.
 Sophie Pumphrey telling me to “sit in the shit!”

What would you like to see happen to comedy over the next ten years?

 That it keeps moving!
 The increasing new voices in improv as well as global connectivity is opening some very exciting doors. 
 I hope that continues. That we keep learning from multiple and unexpected sources. That we get to see more people develop their own deeply personal versions of improv and comedy ’cause the rules are just made up.

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