Thursday, November 23, 2017

Saturday night at Improvention 2017

Over an extended weekend (Nov 17-21) The Street Theatre hosted Impro ACT’s Improvention 2017, five days of workshops and performances.

There are plenty of improvised theatre traditions in the world and ‘impro’ is more than an acting exercise.

A brief visit on Saturday night was driven by a curiosity about the work of visiting director Charlotte Gittins.

Gittins is part of a company in the UK that does Jane Austen improvisations and here’s a sample.

Saturday night was only a small part of a five day programme of workshops and performances. The first half channelled Homer, myths and legends and the rhetoric of dozens of fantasy novels and films accompanied by percussionist Gary France who gave such energy and atmosphere to the far more serious reading of the Iliad a few months ago. It is hard to sustain the epic. I sometimes think we have lost the knack. But there were strong moments and heroes and villains and a great use of a mysteriously lit upstage platform behind a scrim.

The second half had Gittins on a mike acting as a narrator for an Austenish tale of balls, unrequited love and servants who know their place (but have a much more interesting life below stairs than suspected.) She shaped the performers’ work with good humoured and challenging suggestions for what the next scene should be.

Part of the interest was in watching the performers attempt to follow a style and sustain it and keep it convincing. And that applied to the epic as well as the Austen.

Part drama workshop, part theatre sports and part of a much bigger tradition than the one that depends on writing the words down.

And even when the words are written down we still don’t know exactly how Shakespeare did ‘Exit, pursued by a bear’.