Years ago I started playing with a long form idea which was eventually titled Mortal Coil. After a few facebook comments it was suggested I should write a blog about it. After my last European tour where Mortal Coil was performed in Würzburg, Germany and workshopped in Oslo, Norway I thought now might be a good time to try and write something on it to share. So here goes.
So, what is Mortal Coil?
Any long form I create always comes from something that is bothering me in improvisation. I try to find solutions to impro problems by creating a form that will put the improvisers in a place of being inspired, challenged or directed away from the problem.
The stimulus for Mortal Coil comes from my boredom with most long forms. What I often see is improvisers using the length of the time they have as a diversion or device to avoid narrative work.
Here is a list of common problems I see in long form.
I know by scene 2 what the plot is going to be and then have to wait the hour for the players to get on with it.
Most long form has lost the impro sense of adventure and jumping into the unknown.
Players become locked into their character and stop focusing on inspiring the other improvisers.
The ‘hero’ character spends most of their time being safe and the rest of the cast doesn’t force that characters hand or put them into situations of moral dilemma or decision making.
All the improvisers want a central or important character or role. This breeds competition for stage time and switches the focus from what does the story need to what does my character need.
Players spend time in the wings planning the next scene. They are not watching and listening to what is happening as they are too busy being in the future.
Scenes follow a predictable linear line that is monotonous.
The end result is it falls short of exciting improvisation and is the weakest form of theatre as it does not attack, reveal, debate, question anything.
I have seen some long forms that are exciting, interesting theatre. There are a few forms that I love to play that awaken the improviser in me which is glorious feeling. However the above list applies to about 90% of the long form work I see.
In essence the over enthusiastic desire to play is overriding the foundation of how we play. Long Forms seem to be breeding permission for not listening, playing safe, planning and bridging. Yet the players would come off stage and not seem to know this.
So my aim with Mortal Coil is to
Stimulate and inspire the improvisers so there is no pre-planning before the show
Connect them back into the now of the scene they are playing and remove any script writing for the next scene.
Add back the danger and unknown of improvisation.
Remove their ability to plan and responsibility for the future.
Try to deliver to the audience what they have already imagined and what they haven’t predicted.
Remove narrative stalling, bridging and avoidance.