THE IMPROVISATION BOOK: John Abbott.
Pub: Nick Hern Books.
Review: Ian Spiby, 30 September 2007.
(A link to Amazon to the book is below).
An excellent, practical, hands-on guide to teaching improvisation.
John Abbott teaches at the ArtsEd School of Acting in London and both his knowledge of students and his experience of conducting improvisation sessions in an ordered and developmental way is evident in every chapter.
The book is constructed in the form of a course, starting with inexperienced students and gradually increasing in sophistication and complexity as the lessons progress. Each of the sixteen chapters, written in totally accessible language, deals with a particular aspect of improvisation. For example, Chapter 4 deals with Atmospheres; Chapter 8, Objectives, Chapter 13, Releasing the Imagination. At the end is a list of warm-up games and exercises followed by a series of character and scenario cards which can either be cut out of the book or photocopied.
Many improvisation books are either little more than a huge list of pick’n’mix exercises or a theoretical treatise with only the roughest idea of how to put it into practice. The refreshing thing about John Abbott’s book, is that if I were required to teach a course on improvisation to improve both student skills and understanding on a week-by-week basis, I would be in safe hands and thoroughly supported.
Abott begins each chapter with a personal anecdote relating to the aspect of impro he is about to deal with and how it relates to the business of developing acting students. He then gives simple exercises, often based on guided fantasy where the students work by themselves, moving on to the more complex task of getting them to interact. On the way, he tells us about pitfalls which may occur and how to get out of them. He is also very aware of the traps that actors get themselves into. But above everything, he constantly works towards avoiding superficiality and achieving truthfulness and depth.
One of the difficulties about teaching improvisation is coming up with ideas, whether about different kinds of characters, situations, emotions or activities. The book is a veritable treasure trove of such things and where the character and scenario cards come into their own, allowing the possibility of literally hundreds of different permutations.
Abbott’s book is of real value in the training of actors; I’m enthused and excited about putting it into practice.
Here’s the link to Amazon: