It is a big year for Impromptu Shakespeare as they are heading off on tour around the UK, so it is the perfect time to chat to team! The last time I spoke to the team for quite some time and the last time was the Edinburgh Fringe 2022. This year is a big one for the team as they are going on tour and with lots of shows in the line up I wanted to find out all about it. Throughout the month I will be talking to Tom Wilkinson, Rebecca MacMillan, and Ailis Duff. Today we find out what it is like going on tour!
How did the idea of Impromptu Shakespeare come about?
Various of the OG crew had visited Chicago and seen the Improvised Shakespeare Company, and were inspired by that show. We took the show to Edinburgh’s Underbelly and had a blast. We came from various different improv companies with diverse styles but which had all played with the idea of improvising Shakespeare, or were also Shakespeare performers… and this year is our 10 year anniversary!
Tell us a little bit about each member of the team!
There’s too many of us, but you can check us all out here Impromptu Shakespeare Cast
How do you rehearse for a show like this?
We do some language and metre work, some work on character and point of view, and also status, narrative, game, staging and environment work. We also play around with themes or tropes from Shakespeare. It’s important to us that it feels Shakespearean enough, but also floats our improv boats so when we rehearse not everything is always Shakespeare flavour. There’s also lots of silly mucking about, for example we have a warm up game that’s a Shakespeare version of Yeeha! During the game we can shout ‘AVAUNT!’ to order someone to leave the room, find themselves a disguise of some sort using whatever objects they can find, and then come back wearing these things and pretending to be a ghost haunting us, until we shout ‘thou scarest me not!’. It is very silly.
How much do you rehearse?
Most months we have a day’s rehearsal. We also have some intensive weekends.
Are there any specific games that you use in rehearsal to help out?
‘Translator’ is good for getting into the vibe – we have a modern day phrase suggestion translated into ‘everyday Jacobean’, then into flowery or grand monologue with lots of metaphor, and then lastly we sometimes ‘sing it’ and create a ditty around the theme, typically with lots of ‘nonnys’ and ‘nos’ or Tallis-style harmonies. We also do a version of the pea-in-a-pod point of view exercise called ‘it’s Tuesday’ but we’ve renamed it ‘it is St. Swithin’s day’.
Around festival time, groups tend to hire more improvisers to help with the amount of shows – does this affect the way that you perform shows and how easy is it to adapt to new players in a show like this? We haven’t needed to do this so far as we’re quite a large group – we’ve currently got 13 people in our regular rotating cast.
How do you wind down after you have done a show?
We often do a ‘circle of awesome’ to remind ourselves of the golden bits, then often grab a drink or some food together. Pretty standard.
Tell us about tour life! What would a standard day look like:
There’s usually lots of travel updates on the whatsapp group. Someone will be lugging the costume bag (broken wheel) to the venue. Getting set up, practising our show’s intro with the tech, getting warmed up, in costume, performing, social time, food, air bnb. Sometimes there’s some workshop teaching and local sightseeing or walking together involved too.
You are on the road a lot with a tour – what have been some of your favourite venues to perform in?
We all tend to love the rural and country town venues – the regional arts centre scene. Our show resonates particularly well there. We have a fantastic time going to the Isle of Wight for the Ventnor Fringe, we seem to get booked a lot in the South West, and particularly love the Wardrobe Theatre in Bristol, and East Anglia loves a bit of us too.
What is your favourite thing about tour?
Getting into the flow with performing every day, and the inevitable in-jokes and general camaraderie.
And the most challenging?
It’s hard to eat healthily and be disciplined enough to stick to habits and routines.
What can you tell us about your up and coming tour?
We’ve got various performances booked in this year, a mixture of old favourites and new venues that we’ve never been to. You’ll find show dates at https://www.impromptushakespeare.com/
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