It is healthy to be reminded why we do what we do sometimes. Last night was a prime example of this. The quiet village of Poynings nestles snugly behind the South Downs, safely shielded from the brashness of Brighton, guarding the lower entrance to Devil's Dyke. The Maydays were playing in the Village Church as part of their fundraising efforts for some new heating. The need for this was all too apparent as I sat and watched Rebecca shivering with her entire body as she waiting on the wings. We were performing our new show, "All about you" which takes anecdotes from the audience and turns them into sketches and songs. It is a lovely format in an intimate community like Poynings as most people know each other, so te anecdotes are meaningful to all. However, nobody was expecting the acrimonious break-up of a teanage couple to dominate the evening, with anecdotes from both parties!
The atmosphere was far warmer than the temperature, and we soon warmed to our task, the homemade mulled wine and mince pies keeping the audience alive. Highlights were surely the death of a clown, foxes against humans and the expensive crisp blues. On a personal level, the chance to play the church organ for our final Gospel number was a unique experience for me. Admittedly, the song itself still needs a bit of work, but as for new experiences, that one is hard to beat.
After the show we were approached by so many members of the village whose friendliness and genuine curiosity in improvisation was heartening and heartfelt. We found ourselves in the local pub soon afterwards and continued to be chatted to and welcomed into what felt like a close-knit and vibrant community.
THe discussion amongst the Maydays turned to the value of doing gigs in communities. It does say something that we had a bigger, more appreciative audience than at some of our Komedia shows in Brighton. Also, we all left feeling that we had not only entertained the village, but had contributed to their much needed cause also. Thank you to the wonderful people of Poynings!
Find out more about what we do at themaydays.co.uk
This week saw the start of two Maydays courses, the first of 2011. Last night I was lucky enough to be teaching the first session of our longform course and what a great group they are. I’ve worked with everyone before with the exception of Jo, but having seen her shortform showcase last year felt like I already knew her and was a bit starstruck. We also have three musical improv veterans on the course.
Having taught a fair bit of longform now, I always feel the need to explain to groups right form the start how challenging the leap from short to longform can be. Without set structures there isn’t the feeling of a safety net the way there is in a pre-ordained game like those made famous by “Whose Line…?” On the flip-side though, Longform brings with it great freedom, and a chance to find your own artistic expression, “singing your own song” as UB40 would say.
Having been thinking about musical improv quite a lot recently, it’s interesting to start thinking about scenes and collections of scenes as having rhythm much like a piece of music. We talked a lot last night about group responsibility. I was suggesting that perhaps in a longform piece the place with the least responsibility is in the scene, since all you can do really in be in it and keep committing to where you are and what you are doing. On the side-lines however, you are responsible for everything; colouring the scene, tag-outs, walk ons, walk ins and most importantly Editing.
I’m a big believer in serendipity and following an email I got this morning, was led to the website of Oslo based troupe Crumbs. Here’s what they had to say on Editing:
”When is a scene over? When does a scene start? How do I get out of a scene that is over? How do I change what is happening in a scene when I don't like it? How do I affectively use editing to tell the story? What does the editing tell me about the story? How do we tap into the natural rhythm of the scene to realize when we should be making our transitions and what transitions best fit the moment?”
They suggested that good editing is about “feeling the moment and creating opportunities to create new ways to transition. Timing isn't something you are taught, it is something you feel.”
I very much like this last sentence. So I will not be teaching timing for the next few weeks but feeling it. I was desperately hoping to find the clip from dirty dancing where he says “the steps aren’t enough, you have to feel the music,” to illustrate this point, alas I could not. Found this instead; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N0lOwj88TrQ
Ah, the joys of youtube.
Heather Urquhart and Joe Samuel are professional musical comedy improvisers. Find out more at themaydays.co.uk