What can we expect from your show?
What you can expect is some in the moment on-the-spot improvisation as Degrees weave a murder mystery plot right in front of your eyes. It’s a play along Cluedo inspired comedic ham-fest as you watch out for subtle clues and motives to try and work out who the murderer is and how they did it. Not to mention there’s a fair few laughs along the way. Expect more ham than Christopher Biggins in a croque monsieur corset!
What are the best and worst things about improvising?
The best and worst thing about improvising in my opinion are essentially the same thing – the fact that everything is in the moment. Once something has been said there are no repeats, no written record. This is great because it’s liberating to think all mistakes are lost once the show is over but also the worst because the true moments of genius are witnessed by everyone in the room and then never seen again. Their only record, or repeats, are in the memories of the audience.
How did Degrees of Error come about?
The majority of us met at Bristol University where we had a love of improv. Since graduating a group of us didn’t want to stop improv so continued as Degrees of Error (since none of us were really using our degrees in our daily jobs). Since then, however, we’ve auditioned some incredibly talented actor/ improvisers who joined and have transformed, what started off as an amateur comedy group, into a fully fledged theatre production.
What has been your most memorable improvising experience?
Mine personally? There are a fair few. There have been moments of pure synergy between large numbers of improvisers where we have all had the same thought at the same time, and it’s nothing short of glorious. One show, I remember, we were given a suggestion for a moon landing for the setting of our murder mystery. The lights went down on stage and when they came up every single improviser had helped build a period themed spaceship out of the furniture we had on stage. I loved that show! We could have let something like that throw us off our game but we were so inspired by the suggestion we all ran on stage and built the rocket captained by Ms Scarlet herself, or should I say Captain Scarlet?
What advice would you give to a budding improviser?
Listen and react. There’s so many improvisers who don’t listen to what the other person is saying on stage. One improviser may confess they only have five minutes to live and the other improviser may be too busy trying to think of something clever to say they forget to react. Some of the best on-stage moments come from properly reacting to something someone has said. It also makes jokes waaaay funnier if everyone reacts suitably.
In the show you took to the Edinburgh Fringe – Murder She Didn’t Write – in the later shows you all crossdressed: why?
We had been talking about doing a crossdressed version of the show ever since Peter (Mr Green) nicked Miss Scarlet’s dress during the Edinburgh Fringe 2015 one evening for a joke and declared himself as Prunella, a new feisty improviser who was going to join Degrees of Error. It was a joke that turned into a moment of inspiration “what if we swapped genders, properly, for a show?”. We didn’t think we would ever have the opportunity to try it until we were offered the late night slot by CVenues. The moment of “it’s now or never” was a tough one and we knew we weren’t the first improv group to experiment with a gender swap (Austentatious have done it before too). But it tested us as improvisers, I loved it! Playing a man was something incredibly difficult to get used to. Not to mention it changes your perceptions of character – I can play a million different female characters and now I had to contend with how I could portray the other potential 50% of what seemed like previously unavailable unexplored characters. At first it was hard to portray anything deeper than just “male”. I had to ask myself was I playing a shy man? Old? Ambitious? Where in the country were they from? What did they do on the weekends? It was a hell of challenge and by the end of the run I wasn’t thinking much about my gender at all but my character.
Who inspires you?
Personally I am inspired by Eddie Izzard. I watched his documentary “Believe” a while back and it was crazy to think that such a talented man used to feel like such an outsider. He used to look up to the Footlights crew (Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Emma Thompson) and felt inferior. So he set up his own comedy club in Sheffield and put himself on the bill every night, he worked so hard to perfect his comedy and pushed himself, learning new languages to practise his art further afield, constantly pushing himself out of his comfort zone. Now he is an incredibly respected successful, not just comic, but tv personality, marathon runner and political commentator. He is a paradigm of sheer persistence and hard work that I find inspiring on days when I would rather stay safe and stick to what I know. Not to mention Degrees have a similar setup as we are now the resident company for the Bristol Improv Theatre. I can only hope that we have kept a similar mantra in another 6 years time when Degrees are 12 years old. But this doesn’t mean, by any stretch of the imagination, that we’ll be signing up to a month of marathons any time soon.
For information about upcoming Degrees of Error shows, click here.