Improv Corner will return next year, so to make sure that you don’t go without your weekly Improv Corner fix, we are going to be delving into the archives for a couple of months to bring you some really important topics that you may again find useful
Today’s Topic – Hypnosis and Improv
Originally posted: 15 JUL 2019
Hypnosis and Improv, How The Show Came About
Written by Michelle of Whose Mind Is It Anyway?
This show started with a conversation in ‘Cheesecake Factory’ in Honolulu many, many years ago. (Seriously!) It’s been in development for a long time, from a small conception of an idea, to bringing together the right people (our incredible cast!) in the right place at the right time…And that’s NOW. Improv is flourishing all across the UK and London has so many inspiring shows and performers that are taking improv to the next level – pushing boundaries with formats, developing new talent from a grass-root level and allowing it to flourish within mainstream theatre. It’s an exciting world to be working in and we are so lucky to have some of the best talent on the circuit in our Whose Mind Cast from shows such as Austentatious, The Showstoppers, Bumper Blyton, The Maydays, Impromptu Shakespeare and many more…
Also, stage hypnosis is due a renaissance. The days of embarrassment comedy have been and gone. We felt it was now time to really shake up the medium by revolutionising both how stage hypnosis is seen AND, more importantly, how it is used to engage with volunteers on stage. Why embarrass volunteers when you can make them feel amazingly confident? Why get them to do demeaning things? When you can make them do things they will be proud of (and never thought they could do!) Whose Mind is trying to obliterate the preconceptions of ‘dodgy’ stage hypnosis shows and instead revolutionise stage hypnosis as an entertainment tool to unlock volunteer’s creativity, eradicate their inhibitions and free them up to become absolute superstars on stage.
Improv and hypnosis have a very natural connection – using the same bit of our brain to allow us as humans to be responsive, not to monitor ourselves and for our minds to be creative and open. The only difference is improvisers train their brains to do this on a daily basis. Hypnosis kind of allows a once-in-a-lifetime chance to do that with ‘ordinary’ volunteers. Kind of ‘fast-tracking’ your mind to that state. Meaning that people who may have never stepped foot on a stage before will be singing, dancing and acting with some of the biggest and best comedic improvisers in the UK, making it all up on the spot, no preparation required, all improvised, in the moment…All thanks to hypnosis and the power it has to unlock the responsive, reactive, instinctive, creative part of our brains that until now only top improvisers have been able to train to utilise on command.
Music is incredibly evocative to hypnotised volunteers and can be used to easily evoke emotional states, stoke their imaginations and make them feel like they are really in the places our improvisers are creating. And we have two of the most talented improv Musical Directors on the planet (from The Showstoppers) on board to facilitate not only movie-style underscore to each show, but also create full-blown song and dance numbers in the moment that our volunteers can join in with. And boy do they join in. In our rehearsals and preview shows, we have experienced our hypnotised volunteers not only joining in with improvised choruses, but creating verses on the fly and even improvising entire solo songs from scratch! When we first conceived this show, we thought it would be wonderful if we could get hypnotised volunteers just to join in a chorus or a dance number or two – now we know they can do so much more, we spend lots of our rehearsal time working on how our improvisers can use their incredible improv skills to encourage hypnotised people to generate songs on the fly and develop characters and narrative from their interactions with them. It’s a whole new genre of improv AND hypnosis – and it works so delightfully well together. Our improvisers are now becoming adept at building hypnotic suggestions into their dialogue, musical lines and choreography, to encourage the best out of our hypnotic volunteers every show and make sure that they look like absolute superstars every time. It’s such a specific skill and we are very lucky to have such a talented, generous and passionate cast of improvisers who have been working so hard in our development to make this possible. It’s been a new and exciting challenge for them and an absolute delight for us to see it come to fruition.
We also wanted our Hypnotist to be so much more than just a ‘puppet master’…Just like our amazing improv musicians and technicians, we wanted to make sure that our Hypnotist was improvising along with everyone else in the team. So we created the unique and brand new role of ‘Hypnotic Director’. This means that our Hypnotist, who is highly skilled and trained in improv, is simply utilising our hypnotised volunteers as his unique improv toolbox. Meaning, with some cleverly formed hypnotic suggestions, the hypnotised volunteers can become recurring characters, protagonists, drive the plot, take us to different locations and even change the entire narrative with just one single line. (We had one volunteer who after a whole set up of narrative dismissed three perfect princesses and chose to marry the servant posing as a table! Fun right?!) Whatever feels right to them in their suggestible state at the time! This keeps our improvisers constantly on their toes and provides such an exciting environment to play in and means you can definitely expect the unexpected! Our improvisers, improv musicians, improv technicians, Hypnotic Director AND our hypnotised volunteers are all very much working together as one improv team and one cast. It’s a pretty magical combination. And the best bit, is not only do our hypnotised volunteers look amazing on stage, they feel amazing too! Our feedback from our volunteers has been incredible, not only have they loved their hypnotic Whose Mind experience, but their confidence boost, creativity and general feeling of awesomeness seems to sill stay with them after they leave the stage and take their (well deserved!) final bows.
At the very beginning of the Whose Mind creation process – the dream was to create a show where by the curtain call, both our improvisers AND our hypnotised volunteers would appear like one single cast… this is no longer a dream. By the finale number of nearly every show, if it wasn’t for our costumes, we would genuinely find it difficult to distinguish between our incredible cast and our amazing hypnotised volunteers – they are all absolute superstars! Whose Mind Is It Anyway? is a natural, yet genuinely ground-breaking coming together of a team of creative mediums that really complement, support and encourage each other. ‘Whose Mind Is It Anyway? The Improvised, HYPNOTISED Musical Movie – is finally alive…and we can’t wait for the world to experience it…