Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Impromptu Dramaturgy: Improvised Shakespeare @ Edfringe 2017

Just the Tonic – The Big Room 13:30 (1 hour), 3rd - 13th AUGUST

Imagine Shakespeare wrote a completely new play at your suggestion. Would it be a tragedy or comedy, about love, lies or mistaken identity? Improvised theatre company Impromptu Shakespeare are coming to Edinburgh to give you the chance to find out. Now in their fourth year, the company buckle on the Bard's britches to bring you the plays he never wrote.

What was the inspiration for this performance?
We improvise new Fringe length plays in the style of Shakespeare, incorporating suggestions from the audience. It was inspired by a love for Shakespeare and a love for improvisation as a genuine art form. 

Shakespeare plays originally contained improvised elements which have largely been lost, while his written works have become revered, sacred and untouchable - we like to flip that on its head for an hour and try to become the bard ourselves. 

We were also interested to experiment with what feels to be the impossible challenge of making up something that can seem to the audience as though it could be 'authentic' Shakespeare. It's also incredibly fun!

Is performance still a good space for the public discussion of ideas? Yes - if not more than ever before. Performance can sensitively allow you inside someone else's world and allows a greater understanding, and sometimes empathy for multiple viewpoints.

How did you become interested in making performance?
I came to improv at the age of 23 - it felt like a whole new world had opened up and the creation of this completely ephemeral art (either comedic or theatrical or both) which exists just in the moment was an exciting revelation.

Is there any particular approach to the making of the show?
We have some guiding principles. We want to honour Shakespeare and his skill with language, and imagine that if he were stood at the back of the theatre he would enjoy himself and clap at the end. In this respect we are certainly not a parody show. 

We also want to honour good long form improvisation and so will not sacrifice on that in order to create something that if transcribed would be closer to 'authentic' Shakespeare. 

Does the show fit with your usual productions?
Impromptu Shakespeare only perform this show. We are a collection of actor improvisers who also perform with a diverse range of other companies from the Maydays (Happily Never After) to Notflix to The Adventures of the Improvised Sherlock Holmes and many others. 

It's notable that our other improvised projects at the Fringe are mostly narrative or genre based shows, which could be seen as a similarity, but this simply demonstrates the types of improv show which are most able to appeal to a general audience in Edinburgh. 

Back in London and elsewhere we are involved in a variety of non-narrative or genre shows too. 

Our producer KPS Productions has looked after shows in a variety of genres.  

What do you hope that the audience will experience?First and foremost to feel transported and genuinely affected. Joy, sadness, pity, pride. The human experience - just as you would hope for if you were putting on a production of Shakespeare.
Then, to be surprised and delighted and enthralled by our ability to improvise and for it to feel like it could actually be Shakespeare, but that we are making it up, right there and then.

The cast include some of the UK’s most experienced improvisers and literally make each play up as they go, inspired by suggestions from the audience. Appearing will be Ailis Duff (Notflix: The Improvised Musical, Reversed Shakespeare Co.), Rosy Fordham (Upstairs Downton, Secret Cinema), James Irving (Shakespeare for Breakfast, Classic Andy), Alice Lamb (Closer Each Day), John Lomas (Closer Each Day), Rebecca MacMillan (The Maydays), Jenny Rowe (The Maydays) and Tom Wilkinson (Adventures of the Improvised Sherlock Holmes).

Each hour-long show is unique but unmistakably Shakespearean, echoing his themes, characters and language. It's great for families with older children (age guide 12+) with its winning combination of accessible irreverence whilst striving to be as true as possible to Shakespeare.

“What we love about performing this show is how it appeals to both Shakespeare nerds and complete newbies” says founding member Rebecca MacMillan. “If you’re new to Shakespeare’s work, it can seem pretty daunting, but improvising using his language and themes we show how approachable it is. We’ve found that aficionados also love that playfulness, borrowing and skitting on elements they recognise.”

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