Tuesday 4 February 2014

IMPRO Amsterdam 2014: Day 5

I am writing this stiff and tired. My brain is a grey, soggy mush. But I have on my face a smile.

My legs ache from having been put through my paces by two separate dancers at different ends of the day. In the early afternoon, I took an interesting workshop given by Amy of the Raving Jaynes where we explored movements and physical interaction as a way to generate character and start scenes.

It was too much of a rush to make the early show today, which was a presentation by the highest level of Dutch improv school, TVA. They’ve also been working on a lot of movement and dance-based stuff. But I didn’t see it. So the best I can do is explain that I didn’t see it. Actually the best thing I could do is save your time, my time and internet bandwidth by not mentioning it at all. That’s what I should have done.
Photo via IMPRO Amsterdam

The main show started with a format called Personal Stories. After a week of working together, the festival cast now feels like an ensemble. Personal Stories takes audience suggestions of personal details and events and creates scenes and things based on them. It’s hosted so the players only have to worry about playing, which can really help them relax. There was a huge sofa to enable that. The host, Anja Boorsma, did a great job of choosing the task for each story, which included a high preponderance of death. It meant I got the song by one of the Irish players that I’d wished for. it was by George, by George, (as well as Michiel from the Dutch contingent) and was hauntingly great.

Over the week, object work has been on the increase in both quantity and quality. I suspect the cast had a session from the Mexicans. There were lots of scenes where people came on and represented or indicated or became objects.

Photo via IMPRO Amsterdam
The second show featured everyone in the festival cast. Which was not so unwieldy a number as you might think. All the 4 foreign groups had 2 or 3 players each, no more. The Dutch team had a comparatively massive 6. It’s still 16 players, which normally is about twice as many as too many on stage. But because everyone gave each other space, and again plenty of people got to be objects, it worked pretty well. The most notable object was an ancient Ming vase depicting a sad woman. It was very enjoyable, and quite ambitious to try to tell a story with so many people who had only been working together for a week. There were holes in the story and some trampled-on opportunities, but the commitment and joy at playing made it good fun to watch and a great end to the festival performances.

For this show there was a whole band - four great musicians - who accompanied and lifted the performance. Whenever I speak to improv musicians they always understate what they do. Like they just tinkled a few keys under a scene. But good musicians can add so much to what is experienced by the audience and can make a singer of almost anyone. They are players, making and accepting offers like anyone else on the stage. And that goes for tech people as well.
Photo by Paul Strik
Paul Strik
Paul Strik

As ever, the festival ended with a big, old fancy dress party at which performers, organisers and anyone else in the vicinity celebrated the end of another enjoyable and successful festival. The party was roaring fun, with plenty of people going all out on the costume front. And here it was the turn of Jamie of the Raving Jaynes to put me through my paces as part of an interactive mass theatre piece using movement in space to the sounds of popular songs as a way to generate enjoyment and engender friendship.

My brain mush is starting to congeal; time for a coffee.

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