Improvisation

Coaching

I’m available for coaching teams, whether established or at the start of their journey.

Coaches serve a number of functions:

  • providing an outside eye at rehearsals
  • helping teams become clear about their purpose and focus and then sticking with it
  • troubleshooting and identifying issues
  • providing exercises and training aimed at bringing out the best in that group of people.

Coaching can take a number of different forms, depending on how established the group is and the need. Here are some examples of how I have worked before.

I co-founded the Open Heart Theatre house team in Newcastle and co-developed my initial concept for The Hang with them over an intensive period.

I recruited and coached people interested in organic long-form improvisation, working intensively with them as the group Carnosexual (later The Dreaming) in London.

In Wuerzburg students worked with me over several improvisation courses, and went on to form the group Improtent for which I provided further coaching to work on specific factors leading up to their first show.

As part of my tenure as invited artist at the Dubai Courtyard Playhouse, I provided warmups and training sessions for the Courtyard Players and presented them with new formats.

I sub-coached the Monkey Toast team Crosstown Traffic, filling in for their regular coach on and off for several months.

I have done one-off sessions as an outside for groups eager for fresh input or to address a particular question. These include London groups Big Now and Beings, Teatr Improwizowany Hofesinka in Warsaw, and Mad Improv of Madrid. In addition I have co-run an extended weekend coaching with the group Improfusion Tübingen in Germany.

Workshops

All of these workshops have been run internationally, either at festivals or as an invited instructor.

Often a workshop that has been developed for one purpose (a shorter time-slot at a festival) can function as well or better with more time. I have explicitly noted when a workshop has already been run over different durations, but am happy to discuss doing this with any of the workshops below.

Just Add Colour 🟧

Suitable for any level of improviser including novices

When our improv scenes feel thin and sketchy, it’s because we’ve drawn the lines but forgotten to colour in. In this workshop we’re in no hurry to get ahead; instead, we’ll take time to bring every part of the scene to life. We’ll run our fingers over every suggestion, and find the joy in filling things up until they overflow – and spill out into the next place we get to be.

Run as a 2-3 hour workshop or the basis for a short course

Only up 📈

Suitable for any level of improviser including novices

The power of positivity in improvisation is immense. But it’s all too easy to justify negative responses, and find our scenes becoming damp and lifeless. In this class, we will be the high priests of positivity and see how far it can take us,  even in situations where it seems impossible. The stories that we create will be ones to remember.

Run as a 2-3 hour workshop

Heart Ache – Finding the Fun in Suffering 💔

Suitable for anyone with some experience of improvisation

In real life we don’t want to panic or be threatened, but on the stage this can create some of the funniest scenes. In this workshop we’ll find ways to suffer and get in trouble, and see exactly how fun it can be to hit rock bottom… and keep going. We’ll also practice torturing others, creating the trouble your partner needs. This is an interplay between two sensitive dancers that helps improve key improv skills. So grab your partner… and get ready to squeeze.

Can be run at a range of durations including a two-day workshop.

Loveable Low Status 👇

Suitable for anyone with some experience of improvisation

In this workshop we will explore low status and how to have a lot of fun with it. A low status character can be active, opinionated, playful and full of ideas; they can make trouble and have big dreams. And they can surprise us when they come out the winner! We will learn some key principles and try out exercises to see how it’s more fun to be on the bottom than fight to be on top.

Typically run as a 2-3 hour session.

Freeform Improvisation 💨

Suitable for anyone with some experience of improvisation

Freeform improvisation is play that keeps moving: scenes spill into each other, and warp from scenes into motion or commentary. It creates highly thematic and poetic pieces, or mischievous, comedic ones, all from a single word and by committing to the group mind. Empowering edit techniques, using our words to feed the group intelligence, and honouring every physical offer to create work bigger than any of us.

Typically run as a one-day workshop or 3-4 shorter classes

Complicated Feels 😬

Suitable for anyone with some experience of improvisation

Emotions are the engine that power every great improvised scene. By exploring different emotions and how we can use them, we open up the possibilities of a scene and find different colours for painting our show. We’ll build a vocabulary of the most classic emotional responses, and recognise how some emotional moves can  lead to effortless success. 

With that in our back pocket, we will get to go to stranger places – unusual feelings and mixed emotions. By bringing levels into our emotions we can also  find more satisfying ways to play content that can be tricky, and create stories and situations that are realistic and compelling.

Can be run at a range of durations, from 2-3 hours to a two-day workshop

Family Treehouse 👩‍👩‍👧‍👦

Suitable for improvisers with at least one year experience

In this workshop we’ll make a character and then clamber around their family tree, scene by scene. This is a way to explore how both similarities and contrasts make for good improvisation, and find fun ways to connect scenes together. This workshop will help you develop instincts for how to populate the world of your characters, as well as a simple show format for you to take away.

Run as a 3 hour workshop

(In Development) Beyond Parody 📚

Suitable for improvisers with at least two years experience

(Watch this space)

Other formats I can train for

There are a number of formats that I did not design but have experience in running, such as the Harold (both modern and original guises), Lotus, Pretty Flower, Armando, and Monoscene. I also have experience in training Maestro groups on behalf of the International Theatresports Institute. I have co-devised a number of formats that could also be taught (some recent examples are here).

Applied Workshops

I have run improvisation for applied purposes, including with the Playhouse Theatre’s corporate improvisation programme in Dubai, and bespoke sessions for scientists and designers. For these projects it’s great to work closely with a subject matter expert or member of the relevant community to develop an experience that is fun, accessible and relevant. Often I draw upon my experience in psychological science and other interests, and can blend experiential content together with presentations or discussion groups. For a write-up of a particularly in-depth project, see this collaboration with maths professor Edmund Harriss.

Improvisation for Leadership

I’ve run authentic leadership workshops at Kings College for various courses (Business Management, Human Resource Management, Healthcare). I was invited to Atlantic College for a weekend to talk and run workshops for the entire student year (160 students) on leadership and emotional intelligence. And I’ve provided one-to-one coaching to business leaders on principles of charisma and leadership.

Climate reckoning

I ran several sessions at the Uncivilisation festival for people coming to terms with climate change and the grief that understanding can produce, under titles such as Improvising Uncertainty and The Honesty of Children, whose description follows.

Coming home means carrying uncivilisation amongst our friends, our families, our neighbours. Sometimes it can be difficult to share our feelings from the festival when we arrive home. Sometimes we swallow them and wish we didn’t. This session helps us to explore how to carry our opinions with lightness, exploring honesty through games and stories we make together. Using improvisation techniques, we see how play doesn’t always mean pretend.

Courses

Heart to Heart scenework course

Open Worlds exploration course

Heartcore Introduction to Improvisation (with Will Steele)

Core Principles (with Will Steele)

Interviews include Karlsruhe Improv Festival 2019

Trance Mask

I have run work using trance masks in a variety of ways, from evening tasters to one-day sessions, to weekends to intensive 5-day courses. I prefer to do this work in collaboration with my friend Will Steele but am able to teach solo when appropriate.