Your first audition. The call-back. The pacing around the kitchen with a tattered script in hand. The in-shower line recitals. The dress rehearsal. Even the last glance at your lines before stepping out on stage had all gone so smoothly.

It wasn’t until you took to the stage, engrossed in character giving your most compelling performance to date, that the wrong words slip out.

At this point, there’s only one thing you can possibly do…Improvise!

Improvisation is the crucial difference between an on-stage slip-up and a catastrophe – and will often determine whether your mistake is glossed over or picked up by the audience.

In the wonderful words of the late Freddie Mercury, “The show must go on”  … and do you know what? It really must!

So, with Freddie’s words in mind, here are our three golden rules for styling out an on-stage faux- pas:

 Keep it rolling

Arguably, one of Leonardo DiCaprio’s best performances is as Calvin Candie, in Django Unchained. There’s a key scene where Candie, in a fit of rage, smashes his hand down on a shot glass which then slices through his hand.

This spectacular piece of cinematography was, in fact, improvisation – DiCaprio actually needed stitches afterwards! Yet, DiCaprio’s ability to continue and incorporate his blunder into the scene actually enhanced his performance.

When improvising, you have to try and break character as little as possible. Continuity in your performance will help you to get back on track quicker, and will also reassure the rest of the cast that you’re aware of your mistake and are trying to rectify it.

Surrender yourself to your mistake

Our second rule may seem to contradict the first, however it is the first step to pulling off successful improvisation. The natural reaction to an on stage slip up is to panic. But this will only affect your performance even more (Nothing screams unprofessional like a performance riddled with ‘errs’ and stumbly lines).

If you remain calm and “own” your mistake you will be more efficient at figuring out the fastest route back to the script and limit the damage to the rest of your performance.         

Fake it ‘til you make it!

Improvisation is most definitely a marathon, not a sprint and getting back on track can sometimes take a little while. The saviour line won’t always come to you instantly. The best thing to do while you’re trying to get back on track is to play around for a bit of time!

Equally, your way out of a hole most definitely isn’t always the predictable panto-style gag. There are plenty of different techniques you can use that will buy yourself a bit of time whilst you’re trying to get back on track.

Whether you take a dramatic pause or use the space on stage to change your position, try and use the time to enjoy yourself. Robert DeNiro’s iconic “You talkin’ to me” sequence was made up entirely on the spot!

The moment has been replicated countless times and won DeNiro several awards.

You never know – your on-stage brainwave may be your best ever performance!


What are your tips for covering up a faux-pas on stage? Let us know by tweeting us @LMALiverpool or #itllbealrightonthenight