Wade Jackson of the Improv Bandits shared his new format with us at a workshop held at Toi Poneke on May 23rd. Ferris Wheel premiered at the 2013 Comedy Festival in Auckland. He described it as a great training and performance format to develop strong characters, and an excellent way to help introduce new performers to long-form improvisation. It looks that way to us too!
A character and narrative-driven show, suitable for mixing rookies and experienced players.
Series of interlocking stories, presented as if on a Ferris Wheel – eg, 5 groups of players (in twos and threes) are in front of the audience for 2 minutes at a time, in strict rotation, 5 times each – for a 1 hour show.
The only audience ask for is at beginning, and nothing more that to get the audience to call out numbers that represent the players, to decide groups of two and three and the order their scenes will play.
Each group of two or three sit on a Ferris Wheel seat with a bar in turn facing the audience (rotating from seats at the side in strict order, everyone moving seats each time). They get two minutes – to establish characters, relationships, wants and start their story then . . . lights down, wheel moves (with noise), then next group takes the centre seats for two minutes. The wheel might rotate five times for a show length set of stories.
Some people will know each other, family groups, dating couples, friends, others will be strangers temporarily meeting on the wheel.
Listen carefully (ie, someone may establish a city, weather or other details). People in different baskets may have relationships and may or may not be aware of the others presence (friends, partners, ex wives).
Gags include: Interaction between groups in a limited way, always being conscious of who’s above and below, eg things can be dropped, yelling out.
Stories can unfold, start in the middle, have mysteries and secrets. Players may Arrive on the wheel with a character and a motive, but be ready to be endowed by partners and yield your ideas. Especially if there are three on a seat one may be ‘just a passenger’ much of the scenes – but be there to deliver the deadpan killer punchline, or the startling revelation.