Continuing on from the experimental improvised theatre piece “Lunch on the Go” in June of last year, Friday 24 and Saturday 25 June 2016 saw the Story in Motion Project bring two female performers on-stage at the Théâtre National de Luxembourg for “The Virginia Monologues”, an improvised show inspired by Virginia Woolf’s 1928 essay “A Room of One’s Own”.
The scene – composed of three grey chairs surrounded by neatly aligned pairs of women’s shoes in various forms and colours – greeted spectators upon their arrival, piquing their curiosity and offering a first taste of the unexpected that was to come.
Former Theater L.U.S.T. cast member, Nathalie Jacoby, and Luxembourg-based London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts teacher, Rhona Richards, then took to the stage, clad in black, presumably a sartorial blank canvas to facilitate their metamorphosis into a smorgasbord of characters of different origins, opinions and eras.
Prior to starting, the two female performers explained that the objective behind the show was to explore space, both in terms of physicality and ideas. The audience were attributed a significant amount of power in this latter aspect, asked for suggestions for a landscape (resulting in “seaside”); something you hold in your hands (“apple” and “crystal ball”); a period in history (“the Cold War”); and something you wear (“a sarong”).
This wonderful interactive aspect of improvisation saw these small ideas snowball into full-blown characters and storylines: a love-shy accidental exhibitionist; a fractured mother-daughter relationship; a rose-smelling princess with hayfever; a queen undergoing an identity crisis; and a fed-up fortune teller.
Another factor of spontaneous theatre involves the performers playing off each other’s words and movements – a primary feature of the process which is by contrast discernible in the subtlest of actions. Nathalie Jacoby’s quick-thinking used a technical problem with the lighting to her advantage as a joke about “living in the shadows”, whilst Rhona Richards’ storyteller character narrating Jacoby’s fairytale princess to “sing sweetly” earned the former a resentful look from the latter and, consequently, big laughs from the audience.
These details are testament of the acting capabilities of both Jacoby and Richards, as well as the perceptive and nimble skills of improvising musician Peter Corser, whose deft use of songs and sound effects accentuated each scene and earned the appreciation and amusement of the audience.
It was also no small feat to make the show topical, which, taking place in the aftermath of the results of the UK-EU referendum, was unsurprisingly evoked through jokes at the expense of the so-called “Brexit”, with two characters throwing a party to celebrate Boris Johnson’s win struggling to come up with non-EU sourced food and drink items to provide for it.
The concept, co-developed by Nathalie Jacoby and Story in Motion Project Executive Director and Producer Timothy Lone, was overall well-received by its spectators. Its parting words, “the fist is mightier than the finger”, delivered with a startled look even from their speaker, is indicative of the twists and turns that improvisation brings to the fold and the surprises in store for the performers and the public alike.