Sunday 2 February 2014

IMPRO Amsterdam 2014: Day 4

This blog is late. It was supposed to be ready yesterday, but life and workshops got in the way. But more about today tomorrow.

The festival has moved into the final phase that includes workshops for those quick enough to sign up. On Friday, I worked instead of workshopping, but did so in the style of a boy who wished he was a long way away.

Boxing. Photo by Mathieu van den Berk via
Friday saw the last of the single-group shows, with The Raving Jaynes, who are improvisers who come from a dancing background. I know plenty about improvisation but what I know about dancing you could write on a ballerina’s butt.

Inspired by what was to follow, the host, Jochem Meijer, invented the best warm-up game ever. Put simply it got the whole audience to dance. Willingly. If you want to know more, go and see a show he is hosting and he might do it again.

The Raving Jaynes’ show brings together dance and improv. For the main part of their show they performed a single story with a mixture of improvised dance and improvised scenes which are generally kept separate. The dances linked the scenes, showed the inner life of the character or depicted big events in a stylised way. It is when dancing that they really come into their own. Their attention to what each other is doing is quite phenomenal. A routine is picked up by the other almost instantaneously. There was a little character confusion in the scenes and I think given that the dancing gives the show a strong abstract side, I wonder if the characters could be painted with bigger brushes.

Reviewing an earlier show, I complained about lots of abstract with no substance. The Raving Jaynes really showed how the abstract can have substance. How it can be used to depict emotions and dramatic events in a way that differs from typical improv which tends to be very literal or symbolic but still quite literal. Obviously most improvisers are not going to be able to suddenly start dancing with the same proficiency as two trained professionals, but it does show that movement and the abstraction of emotions, etc, can be used to great effect if a group so desires.

Hitchhiker. Photo by Mathieu van den Berk /
The second half was Blockbuster, which started by showing 3 key scenes from movies in genres given by the audience. All three were great, high-impact scenes that the audience would have wanted to watch. But they had to pick one. They went for the thriller possibly because it was the last, but also I think because there were more unknowns in it. They then recreated the thriller with the same scene included somewhere in it.

The cast were really working together well, but it seemed clear the Austro-Americans were the driving force here. However, this is no bad thing; Their experience in this sort of thing is not to be underestimated. And I would certainly not go so far as to draw a parallel between this and story in which the holiday-makers were trapped and stalked by the characters played by the Austro-Americans.

The thriller ended up being more of a horror (the distinctions can be subtle), there was a fair bit of confusion and, of course, the original scene, when it reappeared, was a bit different. But the whole thing was played with gusto and some great physical work (not least, again, from the Mexicans) that it was enjoyable. It’s already a lot of mental work to for the players to make sure same scene comes back, so as an audience we do somewhat forgive some of the things that changed. (And as a group you could even justify it by saying a clip in a movie trailer is often different to the one that appears in the final cut of the movie because the trailer is often released before the film has been edited.) But, obviously, it’s a million times better if that promise to the audience is kept in it’s entirety. The other two start scenes, which were simpler and with less people, might have been easier to hit.

I personally think the show was made by the music. It was a thriller because it had a thriller soundtrack, created and put together magnificently by Wouter Snoei and Emil Struijker Boudier. Two hats off to them.

Again I missed out on the late night show, but it’s more important for the visitors to see a sample of what else the Netherlands has to off improv-wise that me. I can tell you Sleeping Together (or Het Bed In) is a great duo show about intimacy and relationships with the added excitement that real clothes come off.

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