Successful improvisation, refered to as simply ‘improv’, in theatre is not an easy thing to do. It may look simple to speak off the cuff, rather like a stand-up comic. But stand-up is a solo venture while ‘improv’ is always in an ensemble.
And to be effective in an ‘improv’ ensemble, you have to be in tune with everyone in your group. Plus you have to be funny in your own right. You also have to be so egoless and theatrically astute that you can allow your fellow ‘improv’ folks to take center stage, leaving you to stand by.
Plus ‘improv’ theatre requires a lot of physical comedy and freedom of motion (both in body and mind), no matter what your size, shape or sex.
This was proved last Tuesday night when Kenya’s premiere comedy improv’ group, Because You Said So, celebrated their fourth anniversary at Kenya National Theatre with a show that astounded for all its charm, hilarity, spontaneity and sheer talent.
The team of seven was assembled by its founder, Jason Runo who shamelessly mixed his own true story (of being penniless but passionate about improv’) with a series of segments that constituted a sparking showcase of imaginative escapades that went on almost three and a half hours.
But they could have continued another two or three, given their full-house fans’ enthusiastic response to their seamless style of stage presence, imaginative genius and high-octane vitality.
All seven are obviously professionals although I’m only familiar with the awesome acting and vocal talents of Mugambi Nthige (who co-wrote the new award-winning Kenyan film, Supa Modo), June Gachui (who’s also a lawyer) and Patricia Kihoro (who, with June, just co-starred in The Vagina Monologues).
It was a special treat ‘meeting’ Jason Runo, Yafesi Musoke, Kevin ‘K1’ Maina and Justin Karunguru that night.
It felt like a ‘getting-to-know-you’ event since every ensemble member had, more or less, to lay themselves bare (metaphorically speaking) in order to respond so quickly, creatively and authentically to the challenging prompts announced every few minutes by Jason.
The prompts could be anything from the first ‘warm-up’ session, a rap-styled rhyming competition and an ‘African’ response to Black Panther to doing a weather report using an audience member as a prop and a karaoke-kind of lip-syn battle in which all seven performed like super-stars.
Let’s hope we don’t have to wait another year to see them on stage again.