Look, See, Be, Fly.



It’s important to be able to visualise the improvised world. We do improvised theatre in the room within the room, and this inner room is seen in the mind’s eye. We move about physically on the stage as if we were inside the mind’s world. In practice, the clarity of improvised theatre – whether it works dramatically or not – depends on the clarity with which we visualise this imaginary world. There is no short cut. Emotional and theatrical authenticity depend on this clarity.


Obtaining this clarity is difficult. It can be hard to see anything at first. Begin by looking.   (Common traps: looking at the floor leads to a mental freeze, & looking at my hands forces me to see only my hands!). Try to find some small detail. The detail is often bizarre and surprising. It could be the heel of a shoe, or the back of someone’s head. This is something to build on. Next pan back or look around the object. Details should emerge, probably slowly at first. The amount of detail which emerges increases with practice. Eventually, whole sets will emerge.

Looking is the start of the process.


This is simply the result of looking. We look and then we see. We get a sense of the imaginary world around us.


Things we see have an emotional resonance to us, in that they appear from our imagination. The world is anthropomorphised. Everything in it is capable of the full range of human emotions. Like a person, every thing has a current state of mind. At this stage, if we see a cat, we become the cat. The cat has feelings, and it has its own attitude to everything else in the scene. Its attitude would not be the fool’s own. It has a driving archetype, a mantra and a script. It is a fully formed character in the play.

We move into the role physically. [Enjoy the sense of your body playing a new role. See the colour of the fur, the size of the paws, the feline elasticity of the limbs.] Every detail should be there. There is an emotional quality to this new physicality and which emerges out of this physicality.

When we enter into a role of this cat, we should feel the whole of its emotional world view. This informs how we move and anything we say.

If this is done half heartedly, without feeling, ie without emotional capitulation in this state, it is immediately obvious to an audience. They will think, “That’s an idiot on the mat, not a cat.” Becoming the cat requires a release of every instinct and habit which tells us to act according to our own archetype, mantra and script. How can everyday Steve, with his package of character traits, reservations, witticisms, reticence and poise start about the floor looking for a litter to shit in? Only by giving up everything he is, entering into a space of improvisation, free of his own crushing judgment, and becoming or doing something else.

Just as we can become a cat we can become anything at all, such as a specific person or a shoe. If it appears in the inner world, it can be played. The same principles apply. Once you become something, it is no longer inanimate. It has all the emotions and it is a character in the scene.

It is no harder to become a shoe with authenticity than it is to become a person. In fact, it can be extremely hard to do either.   We may feel there is a difference: when we pretend to become a person we hope we appear less ridiculous than if we were to pretend to be a shoe. But both roles require a complete emotional capitulation into another state. Both roles require us to give up ourselves and give into the role.

If we pretend to capitulate by going through the motions, we Demonstrate. It is boring. It is not emotionally engaging because the fool isn’t emotionally engaged: it is as interesting as being lied to. The audience thus move out of emotional engagement towards judgment.


Once we have become something in the dream world we see the inner world as that thing, from that thing’s perspective. The perspective is physical and emotional. For example, the mouse looks up at the cat and also looks with fear. If the mouse sees a cat, the fool can become that cat. Such would be a clear example of the fool playing out the conflict between the two. But if the mouse sees a raisin, it can become the raisin too. The move from mouse to cat, or mouse to raisin, is moved by the emotion. If the fool feels it, the fool does the move. This is to fly in the dream world. There is no problem with becoming the raisin: it has feelings too and these may well be strong. Especially so, if it is to suffer to be eaten.

The fool moves from role to role in the dream world, playing out the conflict, or series of conflicts within a play.