The Tao of Theatre

Review of This Is Your Musical at the Bristol Improv Theatre (BIT) on 21st June 2019.

I’d never been to an Improv show before, but what better place to start than at ‘The UK’s First Improv Theatre’ where they’ve been doing it since 2012.

From setting foot in their building (very convenient in St. Paul’s Road, Clifton) I was impressed by how friendly and welcoming they are there: from the chap on the door checking my electronic ticket (they don’t do paper ones) to the cocktail shaking bar-man, I was greeted warmly and made to feel welcome. That’s the norm in Bristol, but it was particularly personal and authentic here. The folks working and volunteer at BIT are there because they love what they do.

And that certainly extends to the actors and all involved in the production.

Their enthusiasm and energy was infectious and engaging. Again, you expect that when going to see a live stage show, but this was particularly vibrant yet relaxed: naturally, flowing.

In an intimate room (seating 120, pretty-much full on this occasion) the 5 improvisors came on stage and quickly established that I was by no means alone in never having seen such a show before. Audience interaction is critical to their success: they need not just our engagement but input.

One kind gent offered a recent experience as a topic for tonight’s musical: an argument with his brother over religion and faith. And so that was the storyline of the show. And what a show! An excellent musical with the two musicians encouraging and enabling the actors to break into song at any moment, from powerful religious choral to pathos and rousing finale. It was all there: unscripted, unrehearsed yet believable, powerful and moving.

Whilst the cast may not have practiced these words or moves before it was obvious they had had much practice in working together. That they were making it up as they went along was evident from the (not that frequent) pauses. You could see them seeking inspiration for their next line. And it came. Together with some wonderful interactions as they fed off each other’s ideas and words.

The audience lapped it up; impressed by the spontaneity and quick-thinking flow to both the on-stage action and development of the story.

Anyone who knows anything about The Tao will see where I’m going with this.

The Tao is the flow of life: anything and everything about life: from its powerfully religious and pathos to rousing finales. According to Taoist practice one immerses oneself in the moment and lives in that never-ending moment, flowing as the energies and needs change around you.

The Tao Te Ching (#11) says:

Give birth and cultivate
Give birth and do not possess
Act without dependence
Excel but do not rule.

‘Act without dependence’. The BIT improvisors were certainly not depending on any script-writer or lyricists. They gave birth to a brand new show, never seen before and never to be seen again.

How refreshing compared to all the preconceived ‘entertainment’ we so often witness . . . and to all the aspects of society that have as much flow and presence as the proverbial wet-blanket.

I couldn’t help thinking that taking up Improv Theatre would be a really good step towards Conscious Evolution and helping to develop a genuine rapport with our fellow actors in life . . .

 

This Is Your Musical at the Bristol Improv Theatre (BIT) runs once a month.

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