For the third instalment of our KOMPAS Stories series, in which we interview London’s residents and ask them to share with us their favourite place and some of the stories behind why they love them, we talked to Clemence about the De Beauvoir Arms.
When you asked me for my favourite place, I thought of the De Beauvoir Arms, which is a pub on Southgate Road, on the corner of Southgate and Northchurch Road near Dalston Junction. It’s a really nice pub, it has good food, it’s a relaxed place, it’s dog-friendly. Above the pub is a theatre, a pretty tiny room, where The Free Association (the FA), an improv school here in London – have their home. I’ve been doing improv comedy for about 3 and a half years… I think I started taking classes there 2 years ago. They have levels 1 through 5, and I did all the levels with them – classes on Saturdays and Sundays at like 11.30, so there’s no one at the pub when you arrive.
Currently, I’m taking a class there on Sundays at 11.30 and it’s one of the only activities I do where… yeah, I’ll show up on a Sunday at 11.30 and be on time and get to work. It’s a really fun thing to do, but it’s something I take quite seriously and I really want to improve and hone my improv skills. So I’ve spent a lot of hours doing rehearsals and classes there, with some really incredible teachers. I’ve failed miserably and also had the most fun in those classes, and doing shows there. I’ve performed there a lot; in jams where you get put with people you don’t know to do an improv show, and with teams that I’m on – I’m on 3 teams at the moment. Teacher jams as well, where you get to perform with teachers. You can go there by yourself and there’s always people you know and someone to catch up with.
It just feels like community, you know. Even if I’m not close to everyone. It’s warm… and has friendly faces. It’s candlelit, and the lighting is nice. Lots of wooden tables – I like the feel of it, it’s very cosy. The setup of the room is that there’s a stage in the middle with a carpet, and all around are the seats where the audience sits. It’s got this atmosphere where everyone is surrounding the stage. I’ve performed in other theatres that are bigger or just set up differently, but I like that kind of horseshoe set up. It’s so good for improv as well, because it really… concentrates the energy. Whereas if you’re in a much bigger space the energy can dissipate very quickly.
When I started doing improv, and I kept doing it, it was the first thing that I’ve ever done that I didn’t give up on. You know, it’s like you start playing the piano and after a while, you have to practice so hard and it’s such a big commitment. With improv, it’s just the first thing I’ve stuck with really, and that’s been very satisfying. Doing comedy is just fun. It feels very freeing… when it goes well. But there’s a part of me that, when it doesn’t go well, still can appreciate the experience. I’m desensitized from failure in that particular context. I just chalk it up to experience. I value the process. Making people laugh is just… it’s addictive. The best improv shows are the ones where you feel very connected to the people that you’re performing with and you kind of lose yourself in it. You’re not thinking about what you’re doing, it’s just kind of happening through you, and that’s a very magical feeling.
We hope you enjoyed Clemence’s stories about the De Beauvoir Arms. What’s your favourite place in London? Why does it mean so much to you? Tell us in the comments.
Visit the De Beauvoir Arms, 113 Southgate Rd, N1 3JS
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Also published on Medium.