Luke Fucks Up Christmas

I hope Luke won’t mind me recounting a moment from a scene he did recently in a workshop, which made my eyes bulge with delight.

Luke and his scene partner were playing a couple exchanging gifts under a Christmas tree. He gave her a rare ornament, hoping to impress her, as she was an expert in antiques. She looked it over casually and declared it to be a fake.

I thought about what my reaction would’ve been if I’d been in the same situation in real life. I would’ve blushed, and apologized, and perhaps promised to get her something else. In short, I would have tried to make the problem go away. Inwardly, I would be criticizing myself for making the mistake.

In the scene, what Luke did was to kick the Christmas tree over and scream: ‘Aaargh! I’ve fucked up Christmas again!’ This childish response was superb for three reasons:

1. It was truthful. It took the inner self-criticism you or I would probably have felt, and expressed it outwardly and explicitly. We come to improv to see the kind of story that gets censored in real life, because we are afraid to communicate honestly and openly. We want truthfulness. Children don’t censor what they’re saying, and are capable of turning tiny afronts into magnificent dramas. They are great role models for improvisers.

2. It yes-anded the problem. A phrase I used to be taught years ago was: ‘If a scene’s going well, make it better; if a scene is going badly, make it worse.’ I didn’t really understand what that meant until recently. In life, we’re often inclined to wish awkward problems would go away, but as soon as a source of tension has been created on stage, we owe it to each other to fall in love with that stuff and run towards it in slow motion with our arms open wide, through a sunlit meadow, laughing like drunks.

3. It showed 100 per cent commitment.

Be a child. Don’t censor. Make bad situations worse by throwing yourself at them.

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