Written by Martha, a member of ENO Baylis Youth Company.
Read about Martha’s experience of the Youth Company’s fourth module. The group took part in a day long improvisation and clowning workshop with director Cal McCrystal, who directed ENO’s production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s opera Iolanthe in Spring 2018.
Today was so much fun! It was very different to our other sessions so far, and I loved every minute. We were working with Cal McCrystal, an actor, director and comedy consultant, and a lot of the exercises we did were based around improvising. When I read that was what we’d be doing today, I felt a little worried because improvising has always felt like something out of my comfort zone. However, Cal was so great at making us all feel so open to a new branch of theatre we’ve never explored together – comedy and clowning.
We started the session by playing lots of different games, like ‘who killed king john?’, ‘tag with a twist’ and ‘musical chairs’. Cal started up a catwalk and we each walked down the runway to music which was really funny and made me feel more relaxed because it was a fun, not very serious exercise. We played a game where each person in a group has to describe the same experience as if it were their own, and we had to judge who we thought had actually had the experience. This was a lot of fun because we had to think on the spot and make very detailed things up as if it was a real experience we’d had and some of the stories were hilarious.
Then we were asked to each stand in front of the group and sing something on our own. This really showed how comfortable we are around each other because it was something we’d never done before. After this, we each performed our songs as a tragic dramatic monologue, as Juliet over Romeo’s body. This was hilarious, was very unexpected and was very funny to watch.
After lunch we mimed detailed short stories to music which was a lot of fun, and it really didn’t feel as scary and on the spot as I thought improvising would feel – instead it was fun and relaxed.
Something that stuck with me about this day was that each of us gave everything a go. Whether we thought we’d be good at it or not, we all stood up and tried it and that was really good because it gave us all the chance to experience the different exercises and explore performing. This was really great for me because at the start of the day I felt a little nervous, I was anticipating the kind of improv we’d be asked to do, but because we all gave everything a go, we all got to try things that we wouldn’t have necessarily volunteered for otherwise – and I really enjoyed it.
Cal taught us that being yourself is not always easy, but it’s the best thing you can do. You shouldn’t be afraid to be laughed at and to accentuate what it is about you that people find funny. He taught us that the greatest laughs come from laughing at someone – this is what clowning is after all – and that it’s all about the timing. No one can play you as well as you can.
Thank you Cal for such a fun, funny, confidence building day full of new experiences, I had so much fun and it was so great to meet and work with you.