Improvisation – October 2019

Week 3 of our 12 Acting Classes and we meet John Melainey for his ‘Leap before you Look’ Master Class in Improvisation.

The third of our weekend acting classes this term. Everyone knows each other well enough to be brave, let go and make magic!

John has worked for many years as an actor mainly in Commercials & TV.

He also ran casting sessions for the famous Hubbard Casting Company (Lord of the Rings, Bourne Supremacy and many others).

John has developed this great Improvisation acting class with several guidelines, a list of do’s and don’ts. In this way, you learn great, spontaneous Improv. This is ideal for freeing creativity. It’s terrific for Commercials and rehearsals for film, TV and theatre, unlocking a character or playing out a back story.

We all have a mental list of things we do in real life in order to stay in control, protect ourselves and remain safe. However, we should not do these things in Improvisation!

In class, we create a safe space to experiment, get it right, get it wrong, fail, fail and try again!

First off all we establish the number one ’rule’ in Improv - say YES!

The ultimate sin is saying or indicating ‘NO’, thus blocking the action or what the other actor is suggesting. (You can of course use ‘no’ but only if it is actually agreeing, saying YES to the Improv.)

So, very simply, be open to ideas, say ‘YES’ and ACCCEPT what the other actors OFFER you!

After a series of easy, confidence building exercises we worked with STATUS, high and low.

We then began ‘physicalising an emotion’.

This is a sure-fire way of showing an emotion to the other actor. In this way, through simple physical gestures, you will also begin to feel the emotion for yourself. For example: shoulders slumped, shallow breathing, looking at the floor, you will appear depressed. Miraculously, you will begin to feel miserable!

Similarly, standing tall, shoulders back, chest puffed up – you’ll look proud, strong, in control and you’ll begin to feel it.

Of course, there is much more nuance to this and more than I can explain on a blog. You’ll have to take the class to experience it!

John has almost 20 Improv hacks including: cancelling, hedging, looping, bridging, wimping, joining, side tracking. Plus, some good habits NOT to be avoided e.g. Spectators want to see actors in states of transition being altered – let’s give the audience that!

Thanks to John Melainey for getting everyone excited and confident with Improvisation.

We’ll see John again in the next two acting classes: Commercials Casting and Auditioning for Film & TV.

Between classes, top photographer Mark Davis ( gave us an an invaluable discounted session for our show case flyer. Many of our actors will be buying a new head shot from him. Thanks, Mark!

Deidre Forrest says:

John was great - very clear on our objectives for Improv. A gradual building process to ensure a clear outcome at each stage to build a solid technique that’s going to work for us. It was tough sometimes but the worth it!

Mark Davis (the actor not our photographer!) says:

All I can say is “Wow!!” Amazing class with John last Sunday, such a brilliant technique and one which through its challenge made me hungry for more. I love the way we are all growing together. The amazing way we are encouraged and made to feel great every step of the way is making this course so blooming brilliant. Thanks!

Ashleigh Swain says:

I've done quite a lot of devised improve recently.... rather poorly it would turn out.  John was so insightful and challenging that you wanted to keep having a go at it.  It's not as easy as it would seem and breaking it down made it a lot clearer.  Enjoying this class and group so much.  Being constantly challenged and taught.  Love it!

Chloe Scalzo says:

I utterly enjoyed the Improvisation workshop with John Melainey. A real breakthrough moment for me. I really felt comfortable and able to throw myself into it, exploring where moments would lead & letting go of all inhibitions. The exercises and techniques used throughout the first half of the class built gradually. This allowed us to really experiment in small improvisations scenes at the end of the class. John allowed each actor to experience every exercise and gave notes and positive feedback for the future.

Maria Alexandrova says:

When you think an acting course cannot get any better, it actually does! So far I’ve done just three classes at the London Actors Workshop but I cannot wait to do the next one. The coaches are brilliant. Endy McKay showed us the REAL Shakespeare, John Melainey taught us the skill of Improvisation and thank goodness there is more to come! Makes you want to say to the fleeting Moment (using Goethe’s words): “Linger a while - thou art so fair...” The course is getting more and more exciting. Improv class with John Melainey instantly took us out of our heads, got us relaxed and playful. One little beautiful little exercise helped us remember each other’s names and become really connected, extremely important in acting. Will take improv classes on a regular basis now! Thank you very much Jonathan for all the hard work you put into it!