Class: Deliciously Dramatic
I love Osho Leela. It is a genuine highlight of my year. Getting to immerse myself in a bubble with awesome people who like messing about and making stuff up too! Besides being super fun it also means that the classes can go deeper than they do in a usual course or drop in session. When you’re improvising in the ‘the real world’ you come to class with all the other stuff that’s happening in your day: niggling mental reminders that you have to send that email later or pick up the kids or make sure you don’t miss the last tube. You’re shifting from the relationships of your own life to manufacturing onstage connections with your scene partners for a couple of hours before you go back again.
The immersive nature of the festival means that the life baggage fades into the background, you’re bonded with the other players as you’re all part of this shared experience and the constant bouncing between different elements of improv resets the body and brain to a more open resting state.
My Deliciously Dramatic class on Sunday morning was wonderful. The focus was honest, non comedic improvisation and the end result was some gorgeous, tender scenes that gave half the room wet eye.
We started by observing the basic emotions that we all feel at some time or another. Not putting them on like a jacket but exploring the unique way they rise in us. Where they sit in the body and the sensations they manifest in. Then we put a lid on them. In real life people are constantly hiding all kinds of feelings but you rarely see someone screaming their head off. That’s where the tension remains and that’s what keeps us interested.
We looked at adding space to the scene so subtext could bubble in the air. Words have more weight, looks have more meaning when we’re not cluttering up each moment with dialogue.
And the cherry on top was cinematic orchestration. Underscoring is an incredible shortcut to raising the emotional stakes. Acting in a scene with music underneath can make you so much braver. It’s like a cushion. The silences don’t beg to be filled by your inner critic panicking about ‘not being interesting enough’. You’re more comfortable to just be with it. And the more you are just ‘in’ it rather than ‘showing’ it the more we want to watch.
There were some terrific scenes; from an elderly couple on a bench looking out at the ocean and contemplating the inevitability of separation, to two soldiers unable to reveal their love, and a pair of viscerally furious sisters. The trust in the room was implicit and it was great to see improvisers that I’ve known for some time being really open. After a few chin-quiveringly moving scenes it was lovely to end on best friends giggling hysterically together. Because emotion doesn’t mean miserable. It’s happiness, excitement, fear, sadness, anger, disgust, surprise.. it’s every part of human existence. And once you can access the treasure chest of all human experience in a scene, you’re laughing.
I was proud of everyone in that class. The trust, the commitment and the honesty. Thanks guys, it was a pleasure to be in there with you.
And after all that delicious drama we had a nice cup of tea before people dispersed to go and be robots or sing songs about windmills or whatever larks they fell into next! It’s funny when you mentally zoom out and think about what’s happening at Leela during the festival. You’ll see its just loads of awesome people making stuff up in the countryside. Sometimes it’s silly, sometimes it’s moving and sometimes it’s just plain weird. But it’s a very special place.
Osho Leela. Improv tapas. Yum!