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Adjectives and Archetypes

In our continuing quest to devise comedy we used an exercise from the Chicago Improv scene. Each actor writes an adjective on one post-it note and an archetype on another. We stuck the different coloured ideas on opposite walls and each actor randomly selected an adjective and archetype. In pairs we then began to work on the encounters between these characters. A blind vicar decided to fire his fairy godmother, a hairy prisoner was given advice by a large doctor upon finding she had woken up as a cat, and a shapely lawyer was required to give legal advice to a succulent CEO after she had made the decision to sell horsemeat burgers to the public.

It wasn't always easy for the actors to decide how best to play each character and there was a temptation to reject a post it note and find a 'better' one. We resisted this as it is always wiser to pursue an idea, to test it, before rejecting it. Some of the scenes needed a crises or twist ending to make them work whilst others had no need of plot - the characters were interesting enough.

Perhaps one of the most interesting characters was Hitler's Nephew - Adam Himmler. OOC Actor Adam, created a brilliantly observed petty dictator, in the manner of Charlie Chaplin's Adenoid Hynkel (The Great Dictator). In the original improvisation he tried to invade a country with the help of a Wobbly Fisherman. We liked his character so much we added in an unplanned exercise.

It is said that the influential American TV show Saturday Night Live once defined their sketches as falling into one of two categories - The Insane Character in the Sane World or the Sane Character in the Insane World. Sitting in a circle, with Adam standing in the middle, we went for the former. Each seated actor was given a role (Argos assistant, a vet, Adam's nephew, a builder etc.). We then went on a journey through this irate and frustrated dictator's life as he tried to fix his shower, return a broken item, get his sick dog treated, in a series of 60 second improvisations. Adam continually switching between situations.  He, of course, played mania whilst everyone around him remained dead-pan and 'reasonable'. There seemed to be a lot of comedic mileage here and we recorded each of the raw scenes. We don't know whether any of this will make the final show but it certainly was the most fun you can have with two post-it notes!