Status Magazine Book Review – The Improv Illusionist

Status Magazine - September 2023 cover

Status is a digital magazine specializing in improvisational theatre, founded in July 2011. Every month, Status is sent to over 1,000 subscribers worldwide in 4 languages (English, Spanish, French, and Italian). Since 2011, we have interviewed the most important names in the international community and published hundreds of articles about our art form. Subscribe now.

The September 2023 issue #147 published the following review of The Improv Illusionist. Reprinted with permission.

Body, movement, image

Impro has a magical quality: the creation of something new in front of your eyes. A story, a scene, a place, a world, a character, an object. Everything is there though nada “is” there. We, as performers, live it collectively and the audience perceives it, feels it, and sees it. The Improv Illusionist, by David Raitt is a book that focuses on explaining how this magic works and gives us valuable orientations to strengthen our acting through physicality and movement in space.

The author defines physical impro as any technique that creates an illusion of objects, activities, and places that are not actually present, and states that if we do this work carefully we will be able to deepen in the creation of characters and in the narrative; and deliver a much richer and wonderful experience to the audience.

Raitt argues that the commitment to physical play elevates our art, it allows us to discover more elements to play with, and it helps us stop thinking and connect with the present of the scene by finding new ideas and by being better partners through listening and clear offers. Besides, he explains that considering the space in impro delivers a more complete and staggering experience to an audience that watches every detail of what is happening and celebrates witnessing intelligent impro where improvisers use their memory and reincorporate objects and locations that were set before, increasing the credibility of the story.

An important value in David Raitt’s book is the motto: “tools, not rules”. During the whole book, he emphasizes the importance of using physical impro techniques with flexibility, and with the goal of amplifying
and diversifying our expressive possibilities, the communication within the cast, and the creation of a narrative that surprises the audience.

The author introduces us to object work by offering a series of exercises and observations to take into account when we “make visible what’s invisible”. The key when creating objects is being as clear, detailed, and specific as possible, and that is achieved through practice. Training our instincts and our muscle memory, recognizing the qualities and location of the objects when we manipulate them, and being affected by their presence are some of the elements developed through these pages. David also warns us about the bad habits in object work and gives transversal advice: calm down and play slowly; keep present and explore the moment; commit to one activity and do it simply and carefully.

Then the book focuses on space and environment creation. The author says there are three types of spaces: the immediate, the general, and the amplified; and explains how to interact with them. He encourages us to
trust our ideas, commit to them, and explore them with absolute attention, trusting that from an action in space, characters, motifs, and stories can emerge. He presents different techniques to create spaces individually or collectively, beyond visualization by using our attitude, interactions, and different senses and resources (sound, lights, music). He details how to create big outdoor spaces and use our bodies to represent animals and objects. He also gives numerous exercises to learn how to communicate the information of the environment to our partners in a precise way to create a believable and attractive experience for the audience.

The last chapters of the book have a more advanced character and are mainly directed to professional improvisers who direct shows or teach classes. He approaches physicality and space in impro as a resource full of ideas that allow us to move the story forward when it’s stagnated or going through a difficult path, making it a very powerful tool for problem-solving. There’s one chapter completely dedicated to “tricky situations” and how to deal with them. There’s also a whole section about physical and emotional safety and another focused on how to approach the very moment of the show, the teaching of physical impro, and the experience of improvising online.

The book goes deep into multiple details, it has numerous ideas and a wide repertoire of exercises within each chapter and the final appendix. It’s a wonderful workbook to guide a long-term practice. The exercises are explained with such eloquence that, while you read them, you feel like starting to play and working.

The author closes the book with an invitation to practice constantly and to understand that physical impro is a process that requires courage, bravery, determination, and perseverance. Using physicality, spaces, and objects is just one more tool in our set of skills, that must be understood with the basic principles of impro and the context of our own communities, and that all the techniques presented can be amplified and improved from experience. After reading this book you just have to dare, practice, play, and create new and magical illusions.


You want to use your physicality in service of your acting.
You already have impro formation and want new resources.
You are a teacher and want to improve your teaching on physical work.


The specificity and depth with which it addresses objects, environment, and physicality. It’s an advanced book with a lot of theoretical and applied details. It’s a workbook that can be used in long courses.


The importance that it gives to the improvisers’ physical and emotional safety, not only in the section where he explains the different elements that allow us to play safe, protecting others and ourselves but also all throughout the book.


“Physical improv is powerful. Think back on your most memorable improv moments, scenes you’ve seen or played yourself. I’m willing to bet you’ll recall more that involved physical action than clever lines of dialogue. But even dialogue-only moments often get their power from the context provided by physicality”.

“Modern improv needs more play. Even for beginners, a workshop should be more laboratory than factory”.

—Pamela Iturra (Improlectora)

Level up your Physical Improv skills!

The Improv Illusionist by David Raitt - Book Cover

The Improv Illusionist is the first book dedicated to physical improv. Learn how to use object work, environment, and physicality in performance.