Let me just start by saying that Becca's nipples were one of my favourite things in Ay, Caramba, Tuesday's Music Box musical. Becca was playing a Brazilian carnival dancer and as it was mentioned that she had nipple tassels, I let my hands become them. My real delight, however, was that throughout the show, most of the cast fulfilled this role of scene painting at one time or another. And these tassels - they pointed, they gestured and they definitely went round and round. Ah, improv.
Before the show, Jules Munns and I met over chips and found ourselves discussing the pros and cons of taking the first shout-out (audience suggestion). I kind of feel that by taking the first one, you are proving something, like you're showing that you can use anything and make it work. The whole idea of improv is that it's spontaneous and everything should be treated with a Yes, And. Jules was more of the camp that 'improvisers know what makes a good scene and therefore they should choose the best idea from the audience'. I know 'dildo' is the most over-used call out in the world, but for good improvisers, perhaps it forces us to come up with something really interesting and lateral that the punters didn't expect. I suggested to Jules a racehorse called Dildo and all the trouble it would have - despite its being the best racehorse ever - of getting commentated on in the Grand National. The friends it would lose, the lost love of other horses and then, finally, the day when it met another stupidly named horse and they made a beautiful foal together. I wonder if the best way of doing it, is prefacing what you ask the audience with the suggestions that you're sick of? I think I learned this from John Cremer. 'Give us a life event, like birth, marriage or death'; as the audience muddle their frown lines.
At the top of the show, Becca had decided to pick the best of a few suggested settings for our story. From an amalgamation, we got a long form show set in a Brazilian graveyard with carnival overtones. Ay, Caramba! After playing Mark the Pagan geek in Katy and Rach last week, it was a total religious turn-around for me as I became the resident Sister of Futura's Brazilian church. I should maybe read the Koran for Katy and Rach next Wednesday...
The other question that came to light for me was taboo. We'd started the show complaining that there was no more space to put the bodies in the churchyard and I had a flashback to another Music Box show. We did one just before Christmas that was largely about suicides on the Underground and there was at least one offended audient. Was it safe to do another musical about the hilarity of death? I was discussing this and other such awkwarnesses to 8bit recently. A lot of comedians and improvisers do taboo just for the sake of taboo - wheel out the graphic sex and the paedos and the steriotypes just to get a reaction. I figure it works only if there's a really good joke or a sound philosophy in there too. I also believe that your real opinion will shine through. I know Sarah Silverman is kidding, I know Bernard Manning isn't. Our tube suicide show was a satire on cutting corners to save money (at the cost of safety and integrity), on the life-and-death power of salesmen and... a chorus line of depressives just works pretty well in a musical. In Ay, Caramba! the carnival made the dead dance, which I think is a happy ending.
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Katy Schutte is a London-based improviser who teaches improv classes in London, Europe and the States. Katy performs with Project2, The Maydays and Destination. See her live show dates for upcoming shows.
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