FEATURE: Invisible Cinema | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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As part of the Live Theatre’s annual Youth Theatre Festival, Magic If are working with six young actors in Invisible Cinema, a dynamic new film that uses improvisation to create half a dozen colourful characters. The storyline has only been revealed to the actors during the filming process, so anything could happen.

Ahead of the screening at the Live Theatre, we talked to Ian McLaughlin and Bev Fox from Magic If and Youth Theatre member Niamh about improvisation, secrets and the potential for another instalment.

How did the Magic If become involved with the Youth Theatre Festival this year?

I&B: We have been involved in the youth theatre festival several times over the past 10 years, devising and directing pieces. It’s always been a lot of fun and we are thrilled to be invited back.

Why did you want the performances and characters within Invisible Cinema to be improvised? 

I&B: It’s what we do. All of our work has an improvisational approach. We like to think it gives it natural feel, even if the story is unreal.

Where do the scenarios come from? Is there a rough frame or guideline that you will work from with no script or will the process be looser than that?

I&B: We start with a concept and work with the actors to create characters and backstory. From there we look around locations to inspire us more, and then build the story around the characters and places. It’s a bit like those ‘Guided Reality’ shows you see on TV, but with a solid structure in place and good actors. The actors are only told things on a ‘need to know’ basis so the unfolding story is a surprise to them, especially if we kill one of them off! Mmwaaa ha!

How did the decision to film the performances rather than put them on the stage come about?

I&B: We were asked to make a film so putting it on stage was never a thought!

It’s been teased that “anything could happen – especially at the screening”. Does that mean we can expect some surprises at the screening itself?

I&B: If we told you, we’d have to… etc.

Since it’s been improvisational, could you envisage doing another instalment of Invisible Cinema in the future?

I&B: If it goes down well with the audience then we’d love to ruin part two with a big studio budget.

“We like to think it gives it natural feel, even if the story is unreal”

Have you got any plans to work with young people or the Youth Theatre again in the future?

I&B: Yes, if we’re asked we’d love to of course. We love the energy and enthusiasm young people bring to projects.

Niamh, what has it been like to work alongside Ian and Bev on the project so far?

N: It’s been brilliant. They’re a great laugh, and have helped ease us into this project, which at first I was quite nervous about. They’ve also given us all sorts of help on improvisation techniques, and listen to and acknowledge all our ideas.

What have you learned from working with Ian and Bev on the project so far?

N: I’ve learned a lot of techniques about improvisation. We’ve done work on status and how this changes through interaction with various people. Another thing I’ve learned is that one of the best parts about improvisation is enjoying being silly!

Have there been any challenges for you in improvising the characters on the spot and are you nervous about acting it out in front of a camera?

N: I think a big challenge is getting into the mind of a character instantly. While it takes a lot, once you get into it, it’s really enjoyable becoming a different person for a while. At first I thought acting in front of the camera would be really difficult, but we’ve been doing some practice in front of the camera and it’s quite easy to ignore it, in my opinion.

Invisible Cinema is at the Live Theatre, Newcastle on Sunday 9th August and is part of Our World Live Theatre’s 16th Annual Youth Theatre Festival.

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