Exploding Fish ‘steal’ Edinburgh Fringe

EXPLODING Fish, Aberystwyth’s improvisation society has successfully conquered Edinburgh once again. This year, a five man performance went up to Edinburgh’s annual Fringe festival with their show, ‘Playgiarism’. An improv show where the actors would ‘steal’ other performer’s shows using the information they provide on their flyers. The team were able to bag a £245 profit as part of PBH’s Free Fringe campaign, with most of the money going to paying off the colourfully made flyers and the charity organisation Mind. For the society, it meant a fifth consecutive run at the prestigious comedy festival. For the performers, including myself, it was a dream come true.

For an art form that is normally associated with fun and games, social interaction, and comedy it would be strange for anyone to describe improvisation as stressful.

But it is. Very.

As part of the team that went up to Edinburgh this year – with Exploding Fish – I found it interesting seeing what makes an improviser, as they perform to audiences on a semi-professional level. The highs, the lows, the stress, and the success were all present throughout our stint at Fringe.

The life of an improviser can be incredibly exasperating. The weight of creating and performing an hour long performance is, well, scary. There’s really no other way to say it. An actor in a scripted play can slip up a line and face an embarrassing moment, whereas an improviser could slip up and risk jeopardising the entire show. It’s an incredibly high risk performance style.

FringeCOUImprov is, without a doubt, a lot of fun, as it gives you the freedom to use your imagination and play with the circumstances presented to you but it comes at a cost. This freedom can only be portrayed correctly by a series of important rules. ‘Gasp!’ I hear you cry. It’s true, improvisation isn’t usually associated with ‘rules’. Improvisational theatre is commonly known as the art of spontaneity; being able to use the stimuli around you to inspire an act you can create in a very immediate fashion. The best example of this was the hugely popular Whose Line Is It Anyway? television show.

‘If all that you are doing is coming up with scenarios, characters, environments, and stories off the top of your head, why would you need rules? For that matter, why would you need to rehearse?’ I’ve had people ask me these questions over and over again, and I can understand why they would.  Improvisers are famed for their comedic and outgoing personalities, however the objective of the – shall we say – game, isn’t to humour themselves. A good improviser lives to entertain their audience. A good improviser is always observing the audience, just as much as they are observing the improviser. To entertain does not strictly mean to be comedic, but the two are not mutual exclusive. And to know how to balance all these variables takes practice, and – the dreaded word – rules.

Rules such as ‘never say no’, and ‘don’t force yourself to be funny’, are constantly on an improviser’s mind when they perform, and this becomes increasingly difficult when they are trying to tell an original story. For an improviser the most difficult thing is the internal fight between creative freedom and the desire to follow these rules to the book. This is where the stress hits.

To courageously stand in front of a full audience, and perform an hour long play devised entirely from their imagination, while keeping in mind direct rules, whilst being funny and imaginative, is a huge achievement for any actor. This is something I’ve personally experience while performing with an array of incredibly talented people through a three year campaign with Exploding Fish. Before you think I’m shamelessly plugging the improv society to you (which I obviously am), just remember that Exploding Fish will always have a place in Aberystwyth where anyone can join in and experience some pretty strange, but intelligently crafted comedy. Here’s to Exploding Fish who will most definitely get a place at next year’s Edinburgh Fringe.

Exploding Fish workshops – 7pm-9pm every Tuesday, Old College Primary Room B

Knights of Improvalot (Exploding Fish performance team) – Performing every fortnight, venue TBC.