Using improvisation

To improvise is to invent and create content on your feet. Improvised drama is work that hasn’t been scripted but is made up as you go along. It’s important not to block members of your group when improvising but accept and try out their ideas. This will encourage you all to run with an idea rather than try and direct or plan the improvisation.

Improvising is an excellent way to generate new content and explore ideas when devising drama. The beauty of it is that because it’s unplanned you never know entirely where the scene might take you or what the other actors you are working with might say. This can make for an exciting and fun way to experiment and create work.

Spontaneous improvisation which is completely unplanned can generate dialogue or scenarios that you feel work for the piece you are creating. This can then be refined, rehearsed and included in your finished devised piece.

Improvising is also a wonderful way of sharpening acting skills. Being completely in the moment and open to what is happening improves listening and responding onstage, builds rapport, sharpens the wits and improves confidence as a performer. You can improvise from a theme you’ve discovered in a script or you can create a completely new scene from a play. Look at Script and improvisation for more information.

This clip from the National Theatre shows One Man, Two Guvnors actor, Daniel Rigby, using improvisation in rehearsal. It’s clear that improvising can free the actor to find a new direction in their performance (subtitles are available).

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Glossary
  1. a slapstick silent movie A black and white film by artists like Laurel and Hardy, Buster Keaton or Charlie Chaplin in which the humour arises from physical comedy such as pratfalls and tripping.
  2. devised A piece of original work created through rehearsal. Often explored as ensemble rather than director led.
  3. genre A category or type of something. Fiction and non-fiction are two examples of different genres.
  4. proximity The distance between characters, objects, set. Proximity may show aspects of character and relationships on stage.
  5. scenario A specific circumstance involving a particular place, time and character/s.