All this month we are chatting to Rachel Thorn, someone that you may recognise as they have written many articles for us in the past. Rachel is heading to the Brighton Fringe this month with her team Mates which we will discuss more in depth later in the month. Today we talk about early memories of performing, styles of improv and much more.
Hello there Rachel! Tell us who you are and three random facts about yourself!
Hello! I’m Rachel E. Thorn. I’m an actor, I’m a writer and I know more about the school story genre than anyone else I’ve ever met!
How did you get into improv?
I first had improv lessons at drama school, which were taught by Oliver Senton of Showstopper. Most of the other students treated the lessons with apprehension and usually when I meet other actors they balk at the thought of performing improv regularly, but I loved it from day one.
What inspired you to start improv?
When you graduate from drama school, you’ve been trained in so many disciplines and it’s hard to know what your career is going to look like. It’s not immediately obvious which discipline will take off for you or which area of acting you should pursue. A couple of months after I graduated I went along to a playback workshop and I believe the expression is “it clicked”. I remember going out that night and saying to my friend “This!”
What troupes are you part of?
At the moment Sex, Lies & Improvisation and MATES: The Improvised ‘90s Sitcom. But in previous years CSI: Crime Scene Improvisation, Upstairs Downton, Between Us, Scriptless In Seattle, Shrimps, Chucklenuts, and I’ve guested with the Cambridge Impronauts.
Top tip for you – never ever try and perform when England are playing in the semi-final of the World CupRachel Thorn
Tell us about the styles of improv you enjoy and why?
I enjoy performing narrative best. I love that with narrative improv you get more time to create something. I find it more satisfying to spend longer with characters and develop the situation. In terms of watching improv, it’s not that I like a particular style best. What I love is when performers completely commit to their chosen style and just rip its head off. I think all formats are equal so long as the performers do some good head-ripping.
What are some of your earliest memories of your early improv performances?
I was pregnant while I was in the Upstairs Downton cast, and with each performance the bump got a little bigger! Luckily my costume was a huge wraparound character skirt, so I just wrapped it round higher and higher for each show. I look back at the photos of our Edinburgh run and give myself a mental fist bump. And then wonder if my boobs will ever rest on my waistband again.
What are some of the best bits of advice you have been given about improv and why?
I love the advice that you shouldn’t try and be funny. Being funny is awesome, obviously. It’s the trying that’s problematic.
What have been some of your favourite moments on stage?
We had some pretty good shows at Leicester Comedy Festival this year. In one of our Mates shows, Hugh played a guy whose Speedos were too tight. When he mimed bending down to pick a Band-Aid off his foot the shrieks of horrified laughter were a delight. And then Alex and I got a standing ovation for a particularly dark episode of Sex, Lies & Improvisation. Loved it!
What have been some of the worst and why?
Top tip for you – never ever try and perform when England are playing in the semi-final of the World Cup. In 2018, Alex and I were booked for Buxton Fringe months in advance, and thanks to the football we sold three tickets. But we took it on the chin and were backstage getting hyped while our house music played, when the staff said the audience had arrived but they’d be willing to go home again since it was so awkward. We were like, “No, goddammit, we’re ready to smash this! You will sit down and you will love this show!” Fortunately they did!
A couple of months after I graduated I went along to a playback workshop and I believe the expression is “it clicked”. I remember going out that night and saying to my friend “This!”Rachel Thorn
How do you warm up before a show?
We find it doesn’t matter what you do before a show, so long as you use that time to connect with the other performers. Being genuine about how you feel about that performance really helps.
How do you wind down?
I never perform without a post-show cup of tea and paleo bar waiting in the wings.
For new improvisers, what would your key bit of advice be?
Try and see loads of improv and get lessons from lots of different teachers. Improv is a many-splendoured thing.
If people want to find out more about you where can they follow you on social media?
We’re @matesimprov and @sexliesimprov on Facebook and Twitter.