by Will Naameh
I was fortunate enough to be offered a partial Jason Chin scholarship to the Maydays spring improv intensive in Osho Leela this year. I perform, teach and coach improv in Edinburgh, so went down to Dorset to learn and bring back as much improv wisdom as possible to the community here in Scotland.
It was a fantastic experience. I can only compare it to being back at university: you live in a big house with all your friends, have a rigorous timetable of classes, and stay up late every evening socialising. Except the lectures are amazing, the food is awesome, and there’s no-one in the corner drinking tequila out of a shoe.
The fun at the retreat is exceptionally well-organised. There are classes every morning and afternoon, followed by performances from the Maydays and an improv jam in the evening. The fun is infectious. The sense of spontaneity, support and joy bouncing off the walls is what makes the improv so damn good. The Maydays are experts at cultivating an atmosphere of playfulness in a safe space, and as a result everyone’s confidence soars, as does the standard of improv. You can feel yourself and your classmates gradually transforming into better improvisers as each day whizzes by.
It helps that the Maydays and their associates are also very silly people. One particularly memorable evening show was hosted by Steve Roe and Lloydie (respectively the Beyoncé and Madonna of British improv), joining forces in a hurricane of energy and nonsense. It was perhaps one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen, and aptly showcased how highly the Maydays rank fun in their top priorities of how to make improv feel easy.
I’ve already taken heaps of this back to Scotland, in the classroom and onstage. How to steal a character from your life. How to use the environment as a metaphor for the relationship onstage. How not to drop your shit, but like really not drop your shit, and why you even have that shit in the first place. How to improvise a Sondheim song. And the many reasons why not to punch a bonfire.
But mostly the entire retreat served as an invaluable reminder that if you’re not having fun, none of this shit works. That’s the hardest lesson to learn, and one which the Maydays impart in a totally unique way that will sink into your bones. Go do this retreat you nerds!