In late 2014 I was honoured to be awarded a prestigious Churchill Fellowship from the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust. The Foundation aims to provide an opportunity for Australians to travel overseas to conduct research in their chosen field that is not readily available in Australia. It also aims to reward proven achievement of talented and deserving Australians with further opportunity in their pursuit of excellence for the enrichment of Australian society.
The Fellowship gave me a once in a lifetime opportunity to pursue a form of theatre I am completely enchanted with: improvised music theatre. My aim was to investigate the artform of improvised music theatre whereby skilled “quadruple threats” (improviser/actor/singer/dancer), directors and improvising musicians collaborate to create original, fresh, vibrant, audience interactive events that are fully improvised and unique to each performance. In particular I wanted to learn more about how companies gather and train their ensembles and what techniques have proven successful over the years. I travelled to the UK in July 2015 to follow this passion and spent time all around the country from Edinburgh to Brighton connecting with over 20 different UK and US companies/troupes, meeting with the companies, participating in intensive training and residencies and interviewing key movers in the field.
My Fellowship was incredibly timely as the flagship company I trained with and focussed on, The Showstoppers, presented a 10 week run on the West End at the Apollo Theatre and won an Olivier Award – both history-making events. The company also extended their workshop and training opportunities. Due to these exciting developments my sabbatical extended into a year long stay in the UK.
My ultimate goal is to help generate a vibrant improvised music theatre scene in Australia, establishing a Brisbane-based ensemble and leveraging the connections I have made to create dynamic improvised music theatre.
You can read my initial Fellowship Report on the Churchill website and I am in the process of writing two extended articles on my experience one focussed on The Showstoppers and the other on Open Your Mouth and Sing + The Maydays. Further interview summaries, key learnings, developments and news of a new ensemble will also be published on my website! Stay tuned!