In today’s improvisation class we had a task that was both minimal but also tricky and very interesting. The stage is a room in the swanky London home of a well-to-do Lady you’ve come to visit. Expensive rug, large paintings, views across a tree-filled square, lavish spread of food. There are five of you, strangers, and you enter one at a time.
That’s all, and it doesn’t sound like much. But it usually resulted in a wonderfully tense scene. If you enter and a woman (one of the five) is already there you think this might be the lady you’re visiting: expectant looks, raised eyebrows, half-spoken greetings… Similarly when a woman enters, maybe this is the host, and everyone in the room turns toward them, smiling.
It’s a terribly English scene, relying on deference and diffidence. In real life you’d hope to defuse any tension as soon as possible but on stage you want to keep it there and play with it, but not push it so far that it becomes unreal or boring. With each new entrance new relationships are created as people make fools of themselves or laugh inwardly at the stupid newcomer getting the wrong end of the stick. Lots of fun.