Step aside, Elsa. Move over, Anna. On your bike, Olaf. There are some new kids in town. We are Pinch Punch, a London-based, comedy improv company, beaming live into your living rooms to workshop and perform improv to children. They say never work with children or animals… and although many of us are still eagerly anticipating the day when doggy improv takes the world by storm, we think that improvising with kids may just be a teensy bit more workable at the moment. So, let us give you the lowdown on our expedition into the unknown as we got to grips with performing and workshopping improv for children this autumn.
Build Your Own…Improvised Story
It’s been a funny old year, hasn’t it? We’ve all had a tough time, but kids especially have had it rough losing six months of vital schooling and spending long hours away from friends. Here at Pinch Punch, we wanted to do something to help and so we partnered up with Harrow Arts Centre – as part of their From Home series – to deliver our live, improvised show, Build Your Own…Improvised Story, over Zoom for primary school aged children to take part in from the comfort of their own home.
Getting down with the kids
Performing for children as a company was a new venture for us here at Pinch Punch (into the unknown indeed…). In making a show for children rather than adults, we knew that the content of our improv and workshops would have to be very different – not that we are especially known for being controversial, potty-mouthed rebels here at Pinch Punch, but it was definitely something we were aware of and feeling cautious about in rehearsals.
So, on day one, nerves were running high. Would there be gaping, tumbleweed silences after our gags? Would there be boisterous and unruly children? Or – *cue terrifying music* – would any children even turn up?
We needn’t have worried. Lots of kids are experts in the art of improvisation without even knowing it! Days of playing mummies and daddies, shops and doctors, of playing with imaginary friends and telling stories to fill the time mean that kids are already completely down with making stuff up. During our improv shows and workshops, the children’s imaginations, suggestions and fearlessness were second to none. They were coming up with improv ideas that most grownups wouldn’t even have dreamt of!
So, lesson learned: the kids are alright.
With Build Your Own…Improvised Story, we found that you can keep the structure and format pretty similar to an improv show for adults – we’re never really in control of the characters or plots anyway, it is improv after all, darling – but when it came to character suggestions, that’s where the adults and kids really differed.
When we have character ideas thrown at us in an adult show we often get suggestions like Noel Edmonds or Kenneth Williams. However, in a children’s show we were much more likely get an actual character from film or TV to play, like Elsa from Frozen or Spiderman. Oh, and of course, there was a lot of Harry Potter! Performing for kids in this way there was a little bit of freedom lost – if the kids want to see you stalk around the stage as Voldemort then that’s just what you’ve got to do! – but we also found there was still lots of fun to be had mashing worlds together. I mean, who doesn’t want to see Harry Potter kicking butt with his trusty sidekick Elsa as they do battle with an evil Octopus who wants to take over the sea?
The Do’s and Don’t’s
And for any brave souls contemplating working with children over Zoom, we have compiled a fool proof, no expense spared, in depth Do’s and Don’t’s list for your delectation.
-Get in on the latest Tik Tok trends and pop charts
-Remember that you have control of the mute button
-Try and steer the conversation away from Harry Potter
-Swear or use bad language
-Don’t even go there with Santa… because he IS real*
-Let the suggestions be Harry Potter EVERY SINGLE TIME.
All in all, with Build Your Own…Improvised Story, we had an absolute blast and discovered that the gap between adult and children’s improvisation isn’t that hard to breach. In fact, if adults came to our shows in London with the same enthusiasm and wonder that children have over Zoom, well, one can only dream of what a bonkers, brilliant show we’d end up with.
And as far as doggy impro goes? We’ll work on it. Who knows? Maybe one day…
Finally, before I sign out and turn off the Frozen playlist I’ve been humming along to in the background (it’s work, okay!?), if you think you’d like to take part in some improv yourself, or if you’re a parent thinking ‘my child would dig this’, then we would love you to get in touch with us at email@example.com. Or if the thought of getting up and improvising sounds terrifying to you and you’d prefer leaving it to the professionals, then why not come and watch one of our London shows in person or online? We’ll be delving further into the unknown with more performances for kids and adults in the new year. Visit our website, https://www.pinchpunchimpro.co.uk/ , for updates and to book any of our upcoming shows, or feel free to follow us on the socials (We’re @PinchPunchImpro on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook).
And if all else fails… stick on Into the Unknown because ALL CHILDREN LOVE FROZEN 2.
*and so is the Tooth Fairy