300! Improvisation on an Impressive Scale
81 Renshaw Street, Liverpool
Johanna Roberts | Thursday, March 5, 2015
Q: What can be better than a night out at the theatre? A: A night out at the theatre where you not only have a total blast, but you also help raise funds for North West Cancer Research.
And that’s what the lucky people of Liverpool – and anyone else who’d like to make the journey to 81 Renshaw Street on 7th of March 2015 – have lined up for them, thanks to an actor called Trev Fleming.
Trev is a member of the group Impropriety, who have been a stalwart of the improvisation scene in Liverpool for several years now, taking part in Improvageddon – an improvisation duelling contest (think Harry Potter/Draco Malfoy with fewer wands but more wit) – and staging Improvathon, first established in 2008 with the 6th Annual Liverpool 33.5hr event on the 21st & 22nd March 2015 at The Kazimier.
As someone who has to script answer phone messages, I couldn’t even begin to contemplate what seems to be thespian bungee jumping with a dodgy harness
However, when I met up with Trev at the bar in the Playhouse, it was to discuss something completely new, utterly innovative, and never before attempted, which goes by the name of 300! First, though, I was interested to know how Trev got involved in improvisation, as it was something I’d not come across except as an element of drama classes. And, indeed, that’s how it all began for Trev, with compulsory drama classes while at school (please take note, Messrs Milliband and Cameron), which led to involvement with Ken Campbell’s ‘Farting Around in Disguises’ at the Everyman in 2004, followed by Clash of the Frightened in 2005, and Metafex Festival in 2008, in tribute to Ken, who had died earlier that year.
Good idea for fundraising
The fun then moved to Embryo on Renshaw Street where the aim, as the name suggests, is to present something new, and it was here that the idea for 300! was born. Trev staged 10 small scenes based on a word a minute. It went down well, people laughed, and so it occurred to Trev that this would be a good idea for fundraising for charity, specifically, NW Cancer Research, as both of his parents had died of cancer.
Mick Napier has defined improvisation as ‘the art of being completely O.K. with not knowing what the f-- you're doing”. As someone who has to script answer phone messages, I couldn’t even begin to contemplate what seems to be thespian bungee jumping with a dodgy harness, so I asked Trev what were the major challenges and benefits to improvisation as a technique, and I have to say, the more I heard, the more convinced I became that this is something that deserves to move beyond the boundaries of the drama classroom.
For Trev, the challenges are “to be open, to say ‘yes’ to everything, to see where the other person is going and joining them on their journey”. This involves “being vulnerable and open to other people rather than imposing your views”. The benefits are becoming someone who is more accepting and more willing to listen to other people’s ideas, and being able to join in and work with others to create something new. Indeed, as Trev pointed out, it is a technique highly prized in the work place to the extent that the Harvard Business Review published an article advocating the benefits of using improvisation in the boardroom:
‘In traditional theater, everything is pre-programmed. The playwrights from the strategic planning department write the script and run rehearsals, i.e., training sessions, to prepare the actors to act out their parts flawlessly, as conceived by the planners.
Improv throws out the book. The actors count on their own imagination and teamwork. They start with a rough theme and to play off of it, coming up with variations to which they each adjust, changing in response to audience reactions. In fact audiences sometimes define the theme. The actors must think fast and adapt quickly.’
Further benefits are building confidence, with improvisation workshops providing a safe space to try out new things; improving skills in public speaking; and, let’s not forget, having a good time! While not an expert, it seemed clear to me that misery and navel gazing are placed on the back burner and fun and freedom are moved to the fore.
So what can someone who heads up to 81 Renshaw Street on 7th of March expect? The idea is that Trev will work in hour long slots, creating one minute scenes based on one word suggestions from the audience. It sounded like a logistical nightmare, but ‘Though this be madness, yet there is method in’t’. As you go in, you’ll be asked to give your one-word suggestion, which will be written down. From these, 50 will be selected, and one word will be read out, with Trev spending the next 58 seconds creating the scene, either on his own or with one of his colleagues from Impropriety CIC, after which, the next word will be read out, the next scene created, and so on. The word will be the starting point, the dramatic trigger, and the scene will move on from there, possibly at a linguistic or dramatic tangent but definitely with wit, skill, and humour.
Fabulous night out
For those who fancy a fabulous night out, in a café with amazing food, while making a donation to charity, the performance details are as follows:
Venue: 81 Renshaw, an independent arts café/theatre space,
Tickets: £3 for a single episode or £12 for the full six hours. Tickets available on the door, cash only.
Times: Sections start 4pm, 5pm, 6pm, 7pm, 8pm & 9pm.
The event is suitable for 14yrs+
For those who can’t make it but would still like to help Trev raise funds for North West Cancer Research, donations can be made through www.justgiving.com/Trev-Fleming or by text donation by sending a text to 70070 and writing Trev94£[the amount you wish to donate]
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