We asked one of our newest members, Alex Walker, about getting into Improv, and her adventures with The Cambridge Impronauts.
Thanks for talking to me about Improv and your time in the Impronauts. How and when did you get involved?
Watching the Impronauts perform at my college on the first night of fresher’s week was the first time I had ever encountered improv comedy. The show was hilarious and the performers seemed to be having just as much fun as the audience, so when they mentioned their weekly Open Workshops I decided to go along, and about a term and a half later I got asked to join the Nauts!
I believe you’ve spent quite a lot of time on various stages before you joined us, could you tell us a bit about that?
Yes, I did a lot of theatre when I was growing up. I was lucky enough to perform in a few professional musical theatre shows and I’ve experimented with some pretty wild acting genres- from Greek tragedy to documentaries, short films and a German TV series! I picked up some pretty useful skills from theatre projects, but my two proudest achievements are definitely my American accents and the ability to cry on cue- which strangely landed me a stunt role where I had to jump off the back of a moving bus!
How does Improv compare to scripted performances for you, Alex? Has it surprised you, at all?
I’ve found that performing Improv takes a lot more concentration than just reciting lines! It’s pretty incredible that in a matter of seconds improvisors can create a believable world without the aid of carefully constructed costumes, sets, or pre-written rules and even more exciting that the audience are immediately able to tune into that world. There is a pretty unique connection between the audience and the improvisers and it creates such a comfortable atmosphere to work in, because both sides are rooting for each other to go bigger and better. Scripted theatre can often be intimidating because there is a tension that comes from knowing you can go wrong- with Improv there aren’t really mistakes, and I love how much control the performers actually have over the art they are creating.
I’m really sorry that the Improvised “TV” show you were going to be in last term got cancelled – What was it like starting to prepare with your cast until that point? Any favourite moments?
I was absolutely gutted that we didn’t get to perform! The cast was brilliant- we spent a lot of time getting to know each other and I think that the trust and friendships that developed really pushed the quality of our performing. My favourite moment from rehearsal was definitely when Tally’s character announced she had an army of moths and every single other cast member threw themselves across the stage to start miming the moths: it was just the most enthusiastic “Yes And-ing” and we somehow managed to turn that crazy thought into a (mostly) coherent and quite emotional storyline! The live music aspect was also super exciting, and that helped massively with creating the mood of a scene.
It’s been really great that Barney [Troupe Director] kept Impronauts rehearsals going every week over the summer. For people who haven’t done Improv, the idea of rehearsing can be a bit counterintuitive. How would you explain it? What kept you zooming-in?
I think if you’re going to be performing with the same group of people then the more rehearsals you have the better- it helps to be able to follow people’s train of thought and to establish what you’re all comfortable with. Equally, the more practice you have as an individual, the more confident you’re going to feel on stage and your mental reflexes will get faster!
I kept “zooming-in” because it was just so lovely to have a group of friends laughing and not thinking about the crazy world outside, and by about June the weekly workshops were my only means of measuring the passage of time!
Pitch me a show idea!
Well, aside from an Improv musical (which would be AWESOME) I would love to do a “Choose Your Own Adventure” style show with really high levels of audience input. We could work in some quickfire games like Pillars and Change to give the audience a lot of power over our characters or the direction of a scene. This is definitely not just an excuse for me to dress up as Indiana Jones…
One more thing: what would be your top tip or trick for improvisers (maybe something you’ve learnt from other theatre or literature)?
I would say that even when you’re not speaking or the focus of a scene, react and show emotional responses to what is happening. An expression or a physical reaction can be crucial in establishing your character, in supporting your fellow performers’ choices and it can also be an exciting way to take a scene in a new direction.
Thanks Alex, I can’t wait to see you on a virtual stage!