“Improvisation is an art that has to be learned…the art of improvisation is not just a gift. It is acquired and perfected by study.”
– Jacques Copeau
Games and Improvisation at the beginning of the twentieth century were used infrequently in the rehearsal process by directors, let alone actor training. Now this work is an integral component in most theatre training establishments throughout the world, used not only in the rehearsal process but also as a way of preparing the actor to be creative. Games create enjoyment, if a performer enjoys their performance and more importantly, if they can share that enjoyment with the audience, the audience are more likely to enjoy watching. To Act is to play and the most charismatic actor is the one who is having fun. Le Jeu (the French word for “play”) helps you to discover the fun of being an actor and the pleasure of being onstage in front of an audience. Le Jeu is at the core of any actors performance and in their making. It is the quality that their techniques sit upon. It provokes the imagination and harnesses the actors inner fun. Through Le Jeu we experience many of the techniques of theatre play; Space and action/reaction, rhythm and timing the fixed point, sensitivity and lightness, and complicite, a shared understanding with ourselves, our fellow actors and the audience. This work helps us move towards an inspired and free from inhibition performance.
“The games are the work, particularly when you are making anything form a physical point of view (physical comedy for example). Games contain all the raw ingredients we need for generating material of amazing richness and complexity. Games work because they give us restrictions, rules if you like. Not rules to live by, just rules to make things happen. If you don’t like what`s happening then you can change the rules. It`s liberating to know that sometimes its ok to be crap. We don’t learn anything when we are terrified. There are times when we have to go to that place when we have to go that vulnerable place with total impunity.”
Le Jeu 2012/2013 Tokyo, Japan.
‘Play’ is central to improvisation, we use this term to signify the energy that is shared between performers in rehearsals and on stage, its the ball that the game is played with. Play also means inter-play, relationships which spark off or create new combinations, people, movements,moods or styles meet and collide giving rise to different possibilities. For the actor, finding this elusive quality of play is crucial, not only to find the freedom to be inventive, rather than being merely a conduit for the director or the playwright, but it is perhaps the most crucial element in making the transaction between performers and the spectators effective and engaging. Without play, in it’s richest most nuanced form, spectators will never be properly engaged in the theatrical event.
Le Jeu 2015 Tokyo, Japan.
(Photos by Rodger Sono)
Improvisation is fundamental to all drama The relationship between formal acting and improvising is so intricate that we might say each includes the other. Improvisation is a part of the nature of acting, certainly. But, more importantly, acting is the only one part of the creative process of improvising. We also might think of Marivaux’s nicely ambigous title Le Jeu de l’Amour et du Hasard, where jeu signifies at least the folllowing'(a) capriciousness; (b) interplay; (c) something amusing or diverting; (d) the playing of the game or competitive match; (e) stage entertainment. This plurality of possibility is central to the improvisatory mode.