After a week of unusual nights out– featuring trampolining, Balkan and Israeli folk dancing and ukulele to name three – tonight had the potential to be the weirdest yet.
The Box of Frogs theatre impro workshop is held in Moseley, Birmingham’s arty, crusty and eclectic postcode, every Tuesday evening. For just a fiver, you can revisit your inner child for two hours of pretend, singing, mirroring, general making things up on the spot and playing games called things like ‘Zip Zap Boing’.
Now let me just say, I am not the dramatic type and hate being put on the spot. I used to be very shy and hid behind my mother’s skirts when people came to the house. I also hated acting at school and found it false, stressful and humiliating. As an adult I can hardly breathe when speaking in public. Oh and being a ginger, I blush to the roots.
And yet… I admire people who can perform naturally, who can wing it at a talk or who can give a confident or charming presentation. And there is something (megalomania?) within me that drives me towards taking the lead. I also seem to have an occasional exhibitionist streak and have sung/played on stage (for Gordon Brown) in what now seems like another lifetime.
Finding an improv session in Birmingham was part of my SXSW Interactive follow-up, after feeling particularly inspired by the fun, games and confidence-building at a session called Improv Lessons for Freelancers.
Box of Frogs featured seven players and was fascinating, supportive and not at all embarrassing. This was unexpected considering that tonight I have had to perform a contemporary dance about dog walking, sing in fluent nonsense and play a bank manager so obsessed with a potential loan customer’s spectacles that she just had to touch them and get them for herself.
Because the great thing about improv is that nothing you do is wrong! For once, the brain can take a day off from fretting about getting it right.
Which was a particularly good thing – because I spent the first 10 minutes in the church next door doing vocal exercises with the local choir.
Now that’s what I call improv!