An interview with Nathan Keates

Nathan Improv Local is Nathan Keates and he teaches improv comedy in various cities around the UK. Nathan has been performing and teaching improvisation in various forms since 2006. He has taken himself all around the world enabling communities, professionals and people of all ages and abilities to learn about improv comedy. In this quick interview we discuss Bristol and what is really meant by improv.

Tell us about improvisation and how you got into it?

Improvisation came up as a hidden gem for me. I am a high-risk human being, so it seems from my life so far. When I began training as an actor, I sought to improvise and when researching into that I found a whole world, figurative and literal, of improvisation. I wanted to get onstage with nothing and succeed. In improvisation there is an endless supply of skills, philosophies, techniques, styles, forms, purposes and much more. I began in solo scenic improvisation and solo movement improv too. What I found was my life prior to that moment. Every initial skill and philosophy that I discovered was something I had done in my life before then.

nathan keates 1                                            Photo Credit: James Mainwaring 

Can you give us an example?

I can… in school a group of boys wanted to engage in verbal bullying, I guess. They asked me how much it would be to spend a night with my mum. However it backfired for them as I went home and asked my mum and then told them the answer the next day.

That tells us a lot about you. Nowadays that would just be called banter… How does that relate to improvisation?

It is a principle. I accepted what the boys said and ‘yes and’ them by asking my mum. It works for beginners of scenic improv comedy like that.

That sounds like a lot of fun..

Yes, however if I had truly ‘yes and’ them I would have just engaged in their bullying more and probably made it even worse for myself eventually. There is more principles that change things, but we don’t need to dissect it completely

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Tell us about your experience of improvisation directly onstage?

Oh yes, so drama schools will use it as a development tool and some will use art forms that delve into improvisation onstage, like clowning. That side of the training was and is what I am interested in. I was in a clown company in Cardiff with the brilliant Denni Dennis and some wonderful clown colleagues. I like the spontaneity that connects with the audience in a human way. There is little other way to get honest, organic connections without being live and present. Other practitioners seek that quality in scripted work… but that’s not where my path has gone. 

Of course, so where has your path led?

Currently I tour scenic improv comedy courses and run them locally under the ‘Local’ heading.  Scenic improv comedy is my attempt to rename ‘improv comedy’ which is non-specific and a vague description to the niche end of improvisation. It doesn’t work, but its a step… I have weekend intensives in Bristol and currently two other cities in the UK too.

nathan keates 3                                                          Photo Credit: Joanne Logie

What can people expect to take away from your courses and who are they for?

These are aimed at anyone whom wishes to attend. I take participants with no experience through all the three core classes that I currently run and they become strong self aware comedic improvisers. At the end of the weekend, participants will be able to play out various ‘long-form’ formats including montage, which we do in the first session, to Krompf, Game of the Scene which we do in the last session. We also do short-form games like you see on ‘Whose Line is it Anyway’. The second weekend is about efficiency in scene work, where we truly seek the actor in everyone. It looks at behavioral study and being effortless. This makes the performers more confident and trusting in themselves and each other. They can get onstage with nothing and succeed. This was my goal when I first began.

What is next for you?

To continue to speak about my courses and I hope Bristol will develop a wider understanding of scenic improv comedy. 

Nathan Improv Local: Bristol has two weekend courses coming up. Efficiency in Scene work in May and Game of the Scene in June.

You can email Nathan [email protected] for further details or go to his website

You can also join his mailing list