1) Mood change e.g. excitement to melancholy, relating to the elements.
2) Death as a common theme/focus.
3) The performers and their personal lives coming through in performance.
4) Bringing new dimensions to inanimate objects, and not relying on traditional set and staging.
5) Accepting 'mistakes' and letting theme become part of the performance.
Posted by Chloe Gosling
1) They use ideas and themes concerning themselves – for example in 70Hill Lane, the story was based on Phelim McDermott.
2) They work as an ensemble; all of Improbable members are equal, there are no hierarchies.
3) They often create the set and decide on design elements before the performance has been fully created. They use set design as a stimulus for the narrative of their piece.
4) They welcome mistakes, as they believe mistakes produce creative decisions and ideas.
5) They use objects in order to tell the story; they believe that the object or puppet is as important as the actor.
Posted by Charlotte Harvey
There are many recurrent elements in the work of Improbable, however, I have decided to draw on the points that have had most impact on me through my studies on the theatre company.
1) Ensemble- working together, having awareness for one another, concentrating on the group as oppose to the individual. Seeing the bigger picture.
2) Spontaneity- Trying new things without pre-conceiving ideas. Not being afraid to jump off a cliff with the hope that the audience is there to catch them. Not worrying if what they are doing is right or wrong by learning from their mistakes. Taking the risk!
3) Creativity- working in an artistic environment with like minded people. Being open-minded to new ideas that can come from anywhere. Developing their work through the use of original materials.
4) Authenticity- (this leads on from the last) creating original pieces of work which are refreshing. Not 'thinking up' new ideas, but instead working through experimentation.
5) Incorporating the audience- producing a unique performance every time by reacting and adapting to the individual audience.
Posted by Faith Brandon-Blatch
1) The use of everyday items such as newspaper or sticky tape
4) Use of light and sound to help build up scenes where they, maybe, don't have the props to aid the storytelling
5) Responding to the audience and their reactions, leaving room for mistakes. e.g If someone's phone goes off in the audience they are able to incorporate it into their piece as they are not following a specific text (improvisation)
Posted by Louisa Hagan
2) unconventional use of objects
3) newspaper into puppets
4) unfinished or left open for audience interpretation
5) creating piece around basis of set i.e. creating set first then devising show around what is in the set.
Posted by Emily Cookson
1) Ensemble- ensemble is clearly an important element in performance, but for improbable it is essential. Without the team work of being able to understand one another thoughts through a phase, gesture or movement would create a disjointed and random piece. If they did not 'accept' one another's 'offers' the story would soon end and become illogical, as we discovered through exercise in our classes.
2) Imagination/ using objects- Another element improbable entails is the imagination to use and create a object into something else which is not commonly associated with. For example turning paper into a living person and then turning it into a performance on stage, furthermore treating it as a equal to a human performer on stage.
3) 'Offering'- This element originates from Keith Johnstone's book 'Impro', meaning to give a gesture, movement and sentence that the other actor's on stage can respond and react to.
4) 'Accepting'--Once again, the idea develops from Keith Johnstone, and meaning to retaliate to a gesture, movement or sentence has been given previously.
5) Mistakes do not matter- this element means that unlike other forms of theatre where a mistake such as misinterpreting a fellow actor would be incorrect, Improbable believe it develops in to a new path of a narrative. They believe that a mistake is not wrong but a new creative element to their play.
Posted by Olivia Pointing
3) Every day items used to make something bigger e.g. newspaper puppets
4) Use of set
5) Open to change
Posted by Emma Berge
1) Ensemble-members: the main members of the ensemble are always the same. Therefore it is some sort of recurrency as they know each other and are then able to repeat (maybe intuitively) things that have been working quite well before.
2) 'Death' as a main-theme
3) Working with simple every day objects such as newspaper or sellotape
4) Naivety: this means that they always try to see the world from a childlike position; They are always open to explore and create new or unexpected things on stage, during rehearsals and during shows.
5) Puppetry: improbable is quite attached to puppets; They come in any shape and size and are used in order to support the 'real' actors, not just as a 'nice accessory'. Of course, one can see the every day objects which I've mentioned before also as puppetry. But here I mean puppets in term of creatures (human or animal like).
Posted by Mirjam Frank
2) Being afraid sometimes is a good thing
3) Audience participation in the creation of the story
4) Not having pre-conceived ideas about what they are creating
5) Giving life to ordinary objects
Posted by Fiona Allison
1) The way in which they devise as a company in terms of their philosophy of 'spontaneity' and 'play'. This structure or non-structure is how nearly all of Improbable's performances are created, whether the final product is scripted or not.
2) The use of light is something I also feel Improbable use as an instrumental element in their performances, particularly in 70 Hill Lane, Sticky and Lifegame, even is it just symbolised an ending of a scene, this was very effective particularly in their improvised performances.
3) Puppetry seems to be another strong element in Improbable's work. In 70 Hill Lane they used both sellotape and newspaper to create puppets, and also used the element of light to create a more enhanced visual effect for the audience. This was also done on a larger scale for Sticky.
4) Improbable have also used the element of song in some of their productions, both scripted and unscripted! This requires very close work as an ensemble, which was shown very clearly in Lifegame, where they managed to sing songs together on the spot.
5) In terms of Improbable's philosophy on improvisation, it would seem that one of their other main elements would be the idea of accepting everything, and not thinking. This is considered to Improbable the only way to create a successful improvisation scene by where each actor is accepting the idea without trying to make the scene meet their own pre-conceived ideas. This is also a way to prevent yourself from trying to think of something funny or original rather than just 'doing'.
Posted by Emma Bilton
1) Storytelling- Many of Improbable's pieces encompass storytelling. Lifegame was fundamentally a new life story every night and 70 Hill Lane was a story about Phelim when he was younger. The start of any devised piece must come from our perceived ideas and these only come from our experiences in life; so the element of storytelling seems like one of the most prominent ones to me.
2) Truth - Linked with the first this is also part of what, to me, seems like a good formula for devising as it draws on our own lives to create something. I think this connection must exist in order to create a good piece as it creates a degree of passion and love for the work you are producing which i think is incredibly important and seeing as Improbable create some very original work i hope this applies to them.
3) Emotions - Again this links in with the previous two. Creating an interesting piece means that the truth must somewhere lie in the emotions portrayed and seeing as storytelling is also a big element, the mixture of these could insinuate that some of the emotions in Improbable's work could be seen as quite raw and thus relate to the group, then again they might not...
4) Death - I think this mainly because Improbable say this element keeps recurring in their pieces and i think i agree. I might be tempted to say 'the circle of life' or something less specific would be more accurate than simply 'death'. However, as i believe their pieces concentrate more on life as a whole where death just happens to be a very common end. Sticky is a good example of this whole idea of life; from my vague memory of the piece some sort of angel descends and all the strange bug and clock light show ensue where many 'eggs' are released followed by the exit of the 'angel' (This may be a slightly pretentious way to look at it but i think there is some truth in there).
5) Life - I say this for the reasons above in death but in reference the other way. Life is an important part of death, funnily enough, and it seems blatantly obvious to have them both in here!
Posted by George Calderwood
1) Working as an ensemble- all equal
2) Show deliberately made unfinished
3) Create design elements before the rehearsal/ devising process
4) They welcome mistakes- and often use them in their work
5) Fear should be present in each show- feeling scared helps you perform best
Posted by Fran Smith
1) Puppetry with different materials
2) The theme of Death
3) Changes of space - being experimental and not using the same space twice
4) Uses of different Media - theatre, outdoors, structures
Posted by Emma Fielding
1) The theme of death: Improbable often deal with death in their work; it is a universal theme which obviously applies to us all. They use this theme in a tasteful and sometimes humorous way, which makes it an easier subject to cope with for the audience.
2) An enhanced feeling of ensemble: In improbable’s work, the audience can plainly see that their sense of ensemble is very deeply developed.
This is why they can improvise so easily on the spot, and the reason some people don’t believe they improvise live on-stage, which they actually do.
3) Use of everyday objects: Many people find it strange that Improbable use such common objects as Newspaper and Sellotape within their work.
However in Sticky and 70 Hill Lane Sellotape is used to great effect, they use the qualities which the tape already possesses to create objects and even sets.
4) Live Improvisation: Improbable are possibly best known for their use of improvisation live on-stage. They believe the scariness of doing this creates good, lively theatre. This technique also ensures a show is different every night, emphasising the liveness and changeability of theatre.
5) Abstract Notions: Most of Improbable’s shows have an unfinished feel about them. This is intentional, and allows the audience to ’fill the gaps’ with their own imagination, and arguably have a deeper and more formed experience than if they had seen a truly polished show. The audience have an active, rather than passive role within Improbable’s shows.
Posted by Eleanor Rhodes
Obviously this is quite difficult to pin down but so far I have gathered these to be the five main elements of Improbable's work:
Each production I have seen so far clearly lacks either a lead character as some traditional productions, of has any lead writing/directorial of production credits. In productions such as "Sticky" the cast does not even "Act" but prefers to come together to create a work of spectacle.
In all the production's I have seen so far the audience has either a key part to play in "finishing" the production, or, as in Sticky the needs of the actor's involved to display their craft as "performers" is pushed aside for the desire to please and entertain with a display of pure spectacle which is designed I feel, to simply connect them with an Aesthetic engagement.
3) "Unfinished" works:
Each improbable production leaves from for either surprises (Lifegame) or simply development on stage, often Improbable's productions will never be alike and change greatly during a single run, or other many years as in "Shockhead Peter"
Each production really seems to suggest that aside from everything else, the performers involved simply enjoy producing theatre. In Lifegame a real sense of playfulness was embodied through the portrayal of childhood events, and in Sticky I could almost imagine the gleefulness with which the actor's simply decided to play with sticky tape and fireworks and simply have some fun.
In key performances Objects are used to great effect and are often the starting point for improvisations, such as the trap door ramp in Spirit, and the amusing horns and table/interview set up of Lifegame.
Posted by Gemma Moran
1) spontaneity for authenticity
2) lack of structure and freedom in performance
3) acceptance of all offers, even accidents
4) taking everyday objects, eg selotape/newspapers, and giving them anew use and voice
5) Telling personal stories and anicdotes without having to resort to a naturalistic style, but constantly involving the audience and using props, puppets, lighting, sound to make the storytelling come to life.
Posted by Helen Hudson
1) The involvement of the audience- the audience always play an important part in the development of Improbable's work.
2) The use of improvisation.
3) Death seems to be a recurring theme in Improbable's work suggesting that the element of the 'shock factor' is recurrent, e.g. The Hanging Man.
4) Storytelling is a major recurring element in Improbable's work.
5) The use of props and objects/making props and objects- newspaper, selotape.
Posted by Hazel Darlington
1) Issues surrounding life and death.
2) Storytelling- throughout their performances they usually tell a story. Any story from fairytale to a real life story.
3) Narrative- within the storytelling they often use a narrator.
4) Music - Although the music that Improbable use during their performances may be chosen late on it nevertheless plays a role in creating mood.
5) Comedy- Comedy is used in many different ways. It is never forced and is often experienced alongside more serious issues such as death.
Posted by Sylvie Barlow