Today, 25th of September, has already made its place as one of the biggest highlights of the trip so far (or so it seems) in the minds of myself and a lot of the other boys. The day consisted of the usual early breakfast start followed by a short waterfront walk, followed by a shopping spree, an Improv workshop at the esteemed iO Improv bar and theatre, and to wrap it all up, we witnessed what I (and lots of other boys) consider the most impressive and crazy, zany, action packed Improv show we’ve ever seen.
Most of our day’s action was dictated by the way our two workshops went. They were 4 hours each and quite different from what we were expecting, as most people had a different experience from the next person. As the workshop started, it occurred to none of us that maybe we should have left our somewhat immature inside jokes behind as we walked into the room. Though it started out slightly awkward and somewhat irritating, through help of our leader and instructor, ‘Caesar’, we soon discovered that improvising with the truth, how a character would realistically react, was more important that making a gag to get laughs from our audience. This was what we concentrated on for most of the workshop, as this style is taught and valued highly as the most appropriate way to improvise by iO.
Though the workshop was a great learning experience for all of us, it let some of us down slightly as there wasn’t as much playing or improvising as we might have hoped. The lessons learned, however, were arguably more valuable than that. That being said, with some kids slightly disappointed, we eagerly awaited the Shakespearean Improv show which we had all heard so much about. Despite having heard it’s reviews and such, nothing could have prepared us for the ‘magic’ (excuse my lack of a better word) that we saw on the stage that night.
Improvised Shakespeare is a company which has been around for 10 years or so, working with iO to bring a brand new Improvised show fours nights a week, every week. The shows always have some sort of Shakespearean theme, the actors speak in Shakespearean, characters have motives taken from the playwright’s famous plays. Though not directly referenced, one character might have a certain motive or some sort of Huberis similar to any of those in the well known plays, though no direct comparison was ever made.
To try and describe to you the story or anything which happened in this 2 hour show would be pointless, and their promise which they made to us before they even started the piece held true; everything was made up. The actors made a point to tell the audience that everything and anything in the show which we saw was completely made up, nothing like what we would see has ever been seen before, we witnessed both the opening and closing of the show within 2 hours of each other. It felt uncomfortable to know that the actors did not have any knowledge of what they were going to do before they acted it, though to fully enjoy the experience we had to place our full trust in them and not doubt any of their decision making.
As the play started, a monologue consisting almost completely of rhyming sentences brought us into the play with its prologue. By the thirty second mark we were all transfixed, whispering quietly, curious to how he could possibly had just made all of that up. The title, which was suggested by an audience member and very cleverly interpreted into the performance was ‘Truth be Lies’. This brought a nervous laugh from the actors who, despite their doubt, excellently pulled off the play in direct relation to this stimulus. The performance went on, we were excited and very impressed to see that the actors, with almost every sentence would rhyme their words in couplets and speak in the Shakespearean rhythm of Iambic pentameter.
Continuing to be more and more impressed as this show went on, the group of us, sitting in the front row might have missed the show if we’re laughing any harder. The performance was not only intriguing but ruthless, thrilling, hysterical and at times just downright dirty, an almost perfect combination for it’s crowd that night.
The play finished with spectacular style, indescribable in content, however, as it was so chaotic that I don’t believe even the actors themselves knew entirely what was happening at that time; it brought the audience to their last leg with laughter, I felt personally like i was out of breath for the last 15 minutes as these actors attempted successfully to round out this very complex story which they had spun themselves.
Spoiler warning: everyone dies.
The day was an incredible experience for all of us and really made us think about improvising in a new light. The fact that the workshop taught us techniques which we then got to see used in action was a great privilege for all for us, and most of us would be tempted to move to Chicago and watch that show for the four nights it’s on for. Overall an incredible day and a real highlight of the journey; this day will stay in all of our minds for a long time.