Years ago, I attended an improvisation match in Italy and found it very inspiring. So when I saw there was a whole professional league in town I had to go to their show.
I must admit I didn’t remember all the rules that well – and probably never really knew all of them to begin with – so here’s what I got from the two hour match:
- two teams of five players face each other on a ring-looking stage. They have to act following a series of guidelines read out by the referee at the beginning of each round.
- The guidelines include the time of the round, the title of the piece – which works as a general theme – the numbers of players involved, the style of acting required, and whether the teams will have to act one after the other, or at the same time interacting with each other.
- Three referees have to make sure that the guidelines are followed otherwise they can assign faults to either the whole team or to a single player. A player that gets two faults is thrown out of the match. If a team collects three faults, the opposing team gets one extra point. During my two our match, faults such as ‘confusion’, ‘repetition’, ‘stillness’ and ‘treachery’ were assigned to the teams and players.
- The audience votes at the end of each round and this is how the points are assigned.
It’s show business at it’s highest and a mockery of it at the same time. From the beginning the audience is called to participate and express its enthusiasm, excitement or disappointment.
Before getting seated, you receive a two-sided piece of cardboard, each face representing a team, with which you can vote. You also receive a slipper, for what you might ask? Well – as our anchor explained to the newbies – the slipper is there so you can throw it on stage whenever something you don’t like is happening. I tell you, I’ve seen plenty of flying slippers in two hours and I admit to throwing my own towards the end because of a particularly irritating decision. Ah, by the way, apparently the audience is always set against the referees as a matter of principle.
Each round is a challenge and it’s inspiring to see how, in a few seconds, the teams work with the directions they are given. They only have the time to plan how to begin and then they have to be ready to react with the other players. Some stories turn out perfectly, others not so much, but it’s still fun to watch. Voting is not always easy, especially if the round was a mixed one and therefore the resulting performance is a two-team effort more than the result of one player’s or one team’s wits.
Naturally, on the not-so-bright side, being a French student but not mother tongue French, I sometimes felt like I was missing out on a joke. But overall a must-see experience. If you want to know when the next match is taking place, check the Ligue d’Impro website.
Ah, I almost forgot! The match took place in the Marni theatre (rue de Vergnies 25 – website). A very interesting venue and perfect for the show. The Marni theatre has a varied and quite interesting programme of films, concerts and expos so it’s worth to check their website once in a while. Not to mention it is just round the corner of place Flagey where it’s always nice to hang out for a beer after the show.