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The unscripted play! Audience to help write it as actors perform

Improv Comedy Mumbai is set to stage a play. And you can help them write it as they perform

It's a room full of actors engaged in crazy banter. Except for a few props that lie scattered, there is nothing else to suggest that they are rehearsing for an upcoming play. We ask about the script, and they look at each other, confidently clueless. We ask about the characters, and they return the question with a smug look. They don’t have dialogues in place, and neither do they have the plot in mind. Yet, when the director calls out ‘action’, they put up a show of knowing everything they just denied. In the next one hour, the group of seven audacious actors successfully pulls off a comical detective play that even has this writer in splits. “That’s what improvisation is about,” says theatre actor Yogesh Upadhyaya.

Actors from Improv Comedy Mumbai rehearse a murder mystery, which will be the premise for their next act at the NCPA. Pics/Bipin Kokate
Actors from Improv Comedy Mumbai rehearse a murder mystery, which will be the premise for their next act at the NCPA. Pics/Bipin Kokate

The actors, all part of Improv Comedy Mumbai — an improvisational comedy troupe — are practising inside a room at a Bandra cultural hot-spot, for their next show, which NCPA will host. There, they will take their improv skills to an all new level, performing an entire play, mostly based on clues, characters and plot-ideas suggested by the audience.

The group, which has been together for over five years, has been known to perform several short scenes and games that seek audience participation.

“Over the last one year, we’ve tried to move out of our comfort zone with long-form acts,” says Suhani Mardia. For their recent Game of Thrones Popcorn show they recreated a rib-tickling version of the epic series. “That becomes extremely difficult because you have an entire story to tell from start to finish, with absolutely no clue about the plot or characters.”

“When we perform really well, the audience thinks we’ve scripted the scene. Hence, this time, for our play, we will let the audience guide our act, not only at the beginning, but also at critical points of the play,” says Upadhyaya.

At the rehearsal, actor Mukul Chadda gives us a sample of how it’ll work. “This is going to be a murder mystery.” That’s all the actors have knowledge about. Just as the performance begins, he surprises this writer, who plays the dummy audience, with his first question. “Give me a location,” he asks. “A plane,” is what we suggest. “Okay, now suggest an activity that you’d like to see unfold inside the plane.” “Cricket… may be.”

We think, it would be tough, but within the next 10 seconds, the actors line up chairs in the centre of the room, and recreate a murder scene on a flight. Over the next hour or so, our help is sought at several points, for ‘objects’ and ‘dialogues’.

“When the audience suggests a line or object that they’d like to incorporate in the play, it’s our job to justify its presence in the story,” says Avinash Verma.

“It’s not easy, but that’s a skill we hope to hone during the practice sessions.”

When: June 4, 7 PM onwards
Where: Dance Theatre Godrej, NCPA, Nariman Point, NCPA Marg
Entry: Rs 300
Call: 66223724

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