8 things we love about the UK and Ireland Improv Scene!
1. Welcome to the Family!
‘No matter where I have been in the UK, when I find the improv scene, I feel at home.’ Monica Gaga, Hoopla Teacher
Even putting aside the stuff we do on stage, improvisers are pretty awesome people. Any time I’ve visited another community in the UK and Ireland improv scene they’ve rolled out the red carpet to any visitor (we’re also awesome at space work). Improv companies frequently collaborate together, creating shows and eager to share resources and games. I’m so proud to be part of an inclusive club where everyone is invited to hang out and complete strangers can share laughs like old friends.
2. Variety is the Spice of Life
“From booking in groups for the festival, we realised just how huge the variety of improv styles there are in the UK and Ireland.” Steve Roe, Director of Hoopla
The UK and Ireland improv festival only shows a microcosm of all improv styles that are being actively performed in our theatres and yet the bill is still incredibly diverse. Browsing the line-up for the UK and Ireland Improv festival, we have: short form, improvised gothic musical, improvised heist movie, improvised plays, improvised sketch, Harold, long form, celebrity biopic documentary and others that just can’t be neatly summed up in three words or less. There really is something for everyone.
3. Festival Season
Improv has been a staple of performance festivals for many years, so it was a natural progression that we now have entire festivals dedicated to our joyful artform. As well as our own UK and Ireland Improv Festival, you can also check out Improv Fest Ireland, BitFest weekend improv festival (Bristol), The Edinburgh Improv Festival, The Maydays Improv Retreat, The British Improv Project and loads more opportunities to rock up to a Holiday Inn for a few nights.
4. No One True Path
While geographically smaller than other leading improv communities such as Canada or the USA, the amount of different styles in the UK and Ireland is astounding. We are influenced by North America, Europe and our own rich theatre and comedy traditions. There is no dominant voice that says the way that improv should be, instead we take inspiration from across the world and have many of our own theatres housing experts closer to home who are taking improv into new and exciting directions.
5. Where we’re going, we don’t need stages!
The UK and Ireland can boast a growing library of podcasts from home grown talent, including interview shows such as Neil + 1 and The London Improv Podcast as well as improv shows like Destination and Dreamweaver Quartet. I’m very happy to live in a world where I can have a bath while listening to people pretending to be ants.
6. Award Winning!
‘Showstopper The Improvised Musical’ has won an Olivier, Austentatious a Chortle award and others. Collective cheer went up for the gang after achieving these accolades and many people felt that it gave improv a sense of legitimacy it has long deserved. We now boast dozens of award winning groups because improv in the UK and Ireland is awesome.
Some of the biggest audience numbers for improv shows seem to now be happening in the UK. Showstoppers, Comedy Store Players, Austentatious, Paul Merton’s Impro Chums, Stephen Frost’s Impro All Stars have all crossed into the mainstream and perform to 1000s.
7. Improvisers are Everywhere
It wasn’t all that long ago that improv resided in only a couple of the UK and Ireland’s major cities, with smaller groups elsewhere practicing Whose Line is it Anyway games while hidden away in their dining room. Now we’re everywhere! The UK And Ireland Improv festival will host groups from Birmingham, Brighton, Leicester, Oxford, Cambridge, Dublin, Glasgow and more but this only shows the tip of the iceberg.
8. Improv Nation
Our numbers are growing by the day! In London alone, this month there will be close to a thousand improvisers taking improv classes and workshops and hundreds of those who will be trying improv for the first time. That’s not even taking into account the numbers from the rest of the UK and Ireland. Anyone else up for starting an Improv Nation?
Blog by Liam Brennan, who teaches and performs with Hoopla Improv.