2014 was a busy year for improv in London. There seems to be more improv shows, more improv nights, more improvisers, more audience. Improv in London is growing and growing and growing.
It felt like that 2014 was the year that improv in London got its own identity. For years we were a bit confused. Chicago seemed to be all about long-form, New York a faster more commedic long-form, IO relationships, UCB game of scene, etc. It often seemed that North American improv knew what it was but we weren’t sure.
But in 2014 it felt like the improv scene in London decided we could actually be everything and anything. We have space for short-form, long-form, narrative, musical improv, solo improv, clowning, serious improv. London is perfectly placed with great links to Chicago, LA, New York, Austin and Toronto, and also to Europe and the great theatre tradition of the UK.
London this year has really become a melting pot of all types of improv, open to all schools of thought and all improvisers. Because there isn’t one over-riding school of thought performing here has become very open, very experimental, and vibrant.
There’s also been a great increase in the number of improv nights. We’ve been running shows almost every night of the week at The Miller in London Bridge, and there have also been new regular nights opening up like Duck Duck Goose and C3Something.
In no particular order here are some of my favourite memories of improv in 2014:
- The sheer bonkers fun of Lewis Harrison-Barker’s Improvision the Improvised Eurovision Song Contest. It feels like he’s re-found the glory days of alternative comedy cabaret from the 1980s (an inspiration for me).
- Michael Brunström’s The Human Loire, it’s been great seeing a friend get nationwide press for something so fun, so silly, and so him.
- Guesting in Glitch the improvised puppet show, this was a tonne of fun and also the most difficult improv I’ve ever done. Improvising the voice of one puppet while moving the feet of another and then improvising a song!
- Improvising a song for my 5 year old niece at Christmas called ‘wear your hat on your feet’ and her inventing the next lines ‘wear your scarf on your head’, ‘put a cherry on your car’, ‘put some cream on your house’. Game of the scene seems pretty natural to five year olds!
- Appearing on stage with my lovely wife, both inside the same costume.
- Busting out an improvised panto.
- The sheer bonkers chaos of Goblins the improvised mask show.
- A beginners course ending with all of us dancing in the workshop studio for an hour afterwards in the summer sun, it felt tribal man!
- Late night improv jams, especially ones with drums and Jake getting fired to the moon on a piano.
- Having a diverse range of people performing at our nights and working together.
- Seeing new nights start up and be so loved by the improv scene, like Duck Duck Goose, C3Something, Shoot from the Hip and more. They have done loads for the improv scene and London is the better because of it.
- Mike taking the best wedding photo every using his phone.
- Lots of great guest teachers at The Nursery.
- People that inspired me to get into all this actually appearing at our venue! Like Paul Merton, Mike McShane and Kevin McDonald from Kids in the Hall. Colin Mocherie if you’re reading this you are welcome any time!
- Having a massive improv summer picnic in Hyde Park.
- Watching new groups like The Pina Colliders come out of our Launch Pad nights.
- Watching so many people get into improv for the first time, start improvising more, perform for the first time. Always amazingly brave, always amazing to watch.
- Lots of new shows forming, this is so exciting for me. I love how many opportunities there are to perform in London now and seeing new shows is great fun.
- Having new teachers working with us like Maria, Max, Chris, Katy and more, it’s great being able to spread improv and work as a team.
In fact writing that made me realise that a lot of what I love in improv right now is the more chaotic side of improvising. I don’t really care if someone misses an offer, or the structure isn’t right, I just enjoy the sheer human spontaneity and chaotic joy of it all.