After their shows, I talk in the bar to some of the School of Night performers. Two of them tell weirdly similar stories of getting out of bad relationships and finding improv. ‘Impro changed my life,’ says one, and the rest agree. ‘We live in a very “no” culture,’ says another of the troupe. ‘If you really work on that central discipline of improvisation – the “yes and . . .” – it can’t help affect how you live the rest of your life too.’
‘Look at children: up to a certain age they want to try things,’ he continues. ‘Then at a certain point they get scared. They only want to do things they know they can do well. And because of that, they don’t learn.’
Saturday at 6pm and my friend Will Adamsdale is doing an unpublicised ‘word of mouth’ performance in the Macready Room.
It’s a work in progress: a sort of mock lecture, though, as with his show, Jackson’s Way, it’s not entirely clear how mock.
Will presents himself as a man who hates improvisation. It disgusts him; it makes him feel sick. This ever since a catastrophic misimprovisation at the ‘School of Improvisational Science’, which Will was stripped of the epaulettes awarded to high-level improvisers like himself.
Will’s ponders the fuzzy areas between scripted and improvised performance: like this show, for instance, which is made up, but also loosely planned. (I have myself been a little involved in the planning.) It’s what they used to call at the SoIS a skimprovisation.
Will raises a question I’ve already touched upon in these blogs: surely all live performance has such an element of change and unpredictability in it. How different is that from improvisation?
His performance ends with myself as writer in residence interviewing Will. Also not entirely serious.
I ask him what he thinks of those improvisers who say ‘Impro changed my life’. He angrily refuses to answer the question. He can’t believe I could ask him that. Not given what happened – the disaster.
I ask him if we’re interested in improvisation because there’s something inadequate about the liveness of scripted shows. He sort of agrees. He says the only rule is: don’t be boring. He says the different kinds of performance don’t need to fight.
Saturday morning and I am in a comedy workshop given by Simon Munnery. In the Q&A, someone asks Simon if he improvises in performance.
‘I do make stuff up,’ he says. ‘But it’s stuff I’ve made up before.’