The French Loop is a relatively new company offering improv with a major difference: it’s in French! We had a chat to Natacha the company founder and workshop instructor.
Natacha, your company The French Loop offers improv theatre courses in Melbourne for children as well as adults, doesn’t it?
Exactly. I host two classes for the young public from 2 to 10 years of age and a workshop for adults. I also stage classes in different primary schools and French-Australian schools. Children and adults, there is something for everyone. I love working with these two audiences and I strongly believe there is no specific age at which to practice theatre, to the contrary the younger you are the better for personal development and for the older ones, there is no particular moment to learn more about yourself. Finally, we all need improv in our lives.
How, when and why did you start The French Loop?
On the same principal as the construction of improv, who I am, where I am and what is my objective: The French Loop is the beautiful result of years of practice and experience in various backgrounds, schools, associations and theatre troupes gained over more than 10 years. Where, I’ve brought to Melbourne all of this Strasbourgeois experience and my objective is to share this passion with Franco-Australian audiences.
More seriously though, The French Loop was born last year, after my maternity leave, I had a strong desire to launch my own company and to offer my services. Workshops started in January 2019 and since then, I can say that I haven’t been bored!!! I move around a lot and I meet a lot of wonderful people across the various suburbs of Melbourne and it’s through these encounters that I decided to host workshops at various places across Melbourne.
Are you of French origin? When and why did you come to Australia?
I was born in Melbourne and lived here for the first 5 years of my life after which my parents returned to Europe and I grew up in different French cities. I am therefore lucky to have two nationalities.
Four years ago, following a holiday with my husband, we decided to try everything and leave behind our French comforts to embark on an Australian adventure. We arrived in Melbourne in July 2017 and since then we have lived an extraordinary experience.
Tell us about your personal experiences in theatre or more specifically improv?
One day, my Dad told me to go to a certain place at a certain time. I went and I was welcomed by actors who were starting an improv workshop. I stayed for two hours and mentally I think I never left. I was 13.
I have been practising improv and theatre since I was 13. I have a Masters in Performing Arts and I have always practised acting as well as coaching. Besides, moving to Melbourne, I put one of the notions of improv into practice: getting out of your comfort zone and I don’t regret it at all.
Having just arrived, I went to a gathering of different Australian improv troupes before settling on Impro Melbourne. An Australian troupe which is absolutely magnificent and who opened their arms to me from the beginning and accompanied me on my Australian travels. I still practice improv with them and I am extremely grateful for everything they have brought me both personally and professionally. But practising improv in another language is a difficult challenge so the idea of practising improv in French came to me rapidly. I wanted to perform in my maternal language. I still practice improv in English but I enjoy the French wordplay to much that I don’t think I could be entirely satisfied in the Shakespearean language.
How are your classes different to those provided by other theatre schools in Melbourne?
The French Loop is an improv theatre company. Beyond the large number of improv companies that already exist in Melbourne, our workshops offer a practice of the discipline essentially in the language of Molière.
Our strong point is to promote the French language through the prism of improvisation. Of course there is also a desire to democratise the theatre so as to render it accessible to everyone at affordable prices.
Tell us about your workshops?
The workshops that we offer are on the practice of theatre improvisation according to Keith Johnstone, a great Master of improvisation. I am a fervent admirer of his school and since I practice this discipline I almost only swear by him. I am also inspired by the work of Viola Spolin, who for a long time practised theatrical improv with young audiences before creating an entire discipline. Further, during my studies of Performing Arts, I spent a long time reflecting on the integration of alternative pedagogues, such as those of Maria Montessori and of Célestin Freinet.
I would therefore say that my workshops are the result of all of my years of research and practice of different sources of inspiration. And to be more precise on the content of our workshops, we make a point of transmitting our knowledge through individual goodwill and emancipation. We have a framework for each workshop but this is often put aside according to the dynamic of the group and the desires of each participant. The workshops are built around a warm up, bodily and vocal, and then some games which mix up the let go and cohesion of the group and then a third part of categorised improvisations in order to build upon our work.
Do students need experience before coming to The French Loop?
Absolutely not, I spell out that it is sufficient to simply have the desire to join one of our workshops. Moreover, that’s the richness of the improvisation, each one is in a position to practice without worrying about having prior artistic experience. The workshops help to develop the fundamentals of stage performance and equally the benchmarks of improvisation. We guide each person in their learning of the discipline but also in their personal evolution.
I always say to the most reluctant that theatrical improvisation is made by the people who practice it and that we built scenes together with YOU and with YOU therefore if you accept to come try impro, it’s your inner richness that will bring out your theatrical game. Without meaning to denigrate professional actors, there are already workshops at those higher levels where the competences worked on are adjusted.
Are your workshops only in French and therefore only for those who are fluent in French?
Currently the workshops are only in French, that’s what The French Loop represents: improvisation in French. Maybe in the more distant future, I could offer workshops in English, but I haven’t yet looked at that topic.
Why do you encourage people to sign up for workshops at The French Loop?
Because improvisation is already part of everyday life and like Shakespeare says so well “all the world’s a stage” so doing improv is spending an unforgettable moment with people who you never thought you’d meet and to discover through and in a group.
What are the prices and times etc.?
For adult workshops, we offer a number of packages, starting from a try-out workshop for $20 up to a month of workshops for $80 and two months of workshops for $160.
We meet on Tuesday nights from 7:30 to 9:30pm at the Hub/Docklands, CBD.
For children, there are two regular workshops. There is a class every Tuesday from 4 to 5pm at the Gasworks Arts Center in Albert Park and the price is $25 for children between 5 and 10 years of age. There is also a class of three hours duration every Friday for children between 2 and 5 years of age at North Fitzroy for $65 per session.
Our prices vary depending on the number of weeks according to the terms but we do our best to offer our services at prices that are affordable for all.
How do people sign-up to classes at The French Loop?
Thanks Matilda for granting me the time, I am thrilled to be able to share my passion with you.
Who knows, maybe the spirit of an actor is hidden in you! Join the LOOP, the story of French improv in Melbourne starts here, with you.
Have you every done any improv?