This exercise is named after a really difficult 1980s UK game show called The Krypton Factor. One of the challenges in the show was for contestants to watch a video and then afterwards answer really questions about what happened. The questions would be really specific, like how many satsumas were in the fruit bowl behind the actors or what was the name of their second cat. It was a great test for observation skills.
In improv this exercise is used to help improvisers really listen to scenes, observe everything, and remember everything. By listening and observing we realise how many offers are on stage and how much potential there is in every single line. Right from the start of a scene there is so much going on and so much we can use to create stories, sketches and great scenes. This exercise is also a great first step for teaching game of the scene.
How the exercise works is two people are on stage and improvise a scene from suggestion, deliberately starting as normal as possible to the suggestion and not deliberately trying to be clever or funny.
The rest of the class are listening intently and trying to remember every single detail.
At the end of the scene the teacher asks the audience really specific questions about the scene. For instance what was the characters name, how long had they been working in HR, what they liked to do on Saturday afternoons. First we work on the stated facts of the scenes. Then the teacher asks for their opinions on how the characters were behaving and how they might have felt. This step gets the class used to listening on a deeper level, and also used to picking up the emotions and behaviour in a scene in addition to the literal dialogue.
We can then do a number of other rounds with a different two improvisers each time improvising a new scene from suggestion.
If using the exercises to explore the game of the scene the following questions to the audience can be helpful:
- What struck you as the first unusual thing to happen?
- What do you think the scene was about?
- What could be a game in this scene?
- What patterns did you spot?
When asking these questions we sometimes go down the line of the whole audience so that everyone says something (even if they are repeating someone else) and we should CORRECT to each person. This helps people realise that any scene has multiple possible games going on, there isn’t a strict the game of the scene it is more down to us to pick one and the rest of the cast will support us.
Another variation is to ask these questions and then arbitrarily pick one answer and then go back to the scene to deliberate play the scene using that game of the scene.
Another variation is for people to raise their hands as the scene goes on as they spot the first unusual thing or a possible game or what the scene is about.
You can also play it with constant pauses and questions to the audience or actors.
- Game of the scene.
- Spotting patterns.
- Spotting the first unusual thing.
- Observing emotions and behaviour.
- Listening skills.
- Making longer scene.
We’ve learnt versions of this from various places including UCB and The Maydays, and it’s then be adapted at Hoopla.