Thursday 10 February 2011

Amsterdam International Improv Festival pt 4: Inspiration

This is my continuing exploration of the things of interest I saw at the 16th Amsterdam International Improv Festival. This is a week-long series of shows featuring performers from all over the world and around the corner. It's one of the best-organised of all improv festivals, from what I gather; and it's certainly a high-point on the local improv calendar.

I always enjoy seeing and learning from the various different styles of the different groups and individuals from often very far-flung places. Every group and country has a different approach, a different interpretation, a different attitude; these are very interesting and educational to see.

My only real quibble about the festival is that, in general, it's run more for the performers than the audience. I enjoy the shows most when an established group comes and does what it does best; what it's been doing for years. Increasingly less groups are invited and instead more individuals. This does make the festival more international (i.e. more countries represented) and offers more networking options for the performers, but for the audience it means they miss out on groups presenting their specialty that they've worked on together for years.

That's not to say there is nothing to learn from individuals, but because of the collaborative nature of improv, I always learn most from watching a group do their thing than individuals each doing their own thing.

The highlight of the festival for me was no surprise. On Wednesday the only well-established group that was invited and given the chance to do their own thing on their own had their show. The National Theatre of the World (who all come from Canada) improvised a full Woody Allen play. It was a textbook example of what two people who play a lot together can achieve. People who are committed to telling the story through realistic, three dimensional characters unspoilt by all that gagging, goofing and showing off that blights a lot of improv. It was nothing short of awesome. Something for us all to aim for. In fact it's the aim of my new group, The Ad Libertines. More on them in the near future.

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