Since 2012, Andrew Allen of Cast Iron Theatre has been running improvisation drop-in workshops (almost) every Sunday evening. Often, people turn up not knowing quite what to expect, fearing (or hoping) that it will be like an episode of the classic TV show ‘Whose Line Is It Anyway?’. Andrew acknowledges that that certainly can be part of the evening, but there’s a lot more to improv than trying to be funny. In fact, he suggests, workshop attendees are likely to get a lot more out of the night if they’re not constantly attempting to go for the joke.
“There’s no pressure to be funny, to be smart, or even to be remotely interesting,” Andrew says. “Obviously, within the supportive and encouraging environment we’ve set up, everyone has the chance to make up funny scenes, or create dynamic characters, but nobody should feel scared because they are worried that their mind might go blank at the crucial moment. Improv is many things, but it’s not – despite the reputation – all about making things up on the spot.”
In fact, Andrew suggests, improv can help with public speaking and team work (“Take the pressure of yourself and treat everybody else like a genius”, he advises), with story-telling and stage-craft. “It’s brilliant for actors and writers, but we’ve also had attendees who are prepping for a presentation they have to make at work. They’re experts in their field, but when called upon to show their expertise, it can get very scary. Improv helps with that.”
One of the major aspects of improv, as far as Andrew is concerned, is the value of teamwork. “We don’t have to be in competition with one another, not ever. If we put all our skill and kindness in making our colleagues look brilliant – and if we can be confident that they’re doing the same for us – it helps all of us rise up: whether we’re in an office, or on a stage.”
Iron Clad Improv runs each Sunday evening at 7pm at the Duke Of Wellington pub on Upper Gloucester Road. Entry is £7, and there are loyalty cards available.