The future of improv in London
Last blog sparked a minor chat in The Miller last night that I’ve interpreted as an undercurrent of feeling of ‘is this the end of some groups working together?’ since Tuesdays at The Miller have become chocablock with monthly nights and new shows I’m producing.
The short answer to this is…. No. The longer answer is Noooooooooo.
I find it really frustrating sometimes that the default reaction of the impro community occasionally seems to be to seek divides where there aren’t any, politics when there is none, and basically seek the negative in the slightest movement. Without the ongoing work of people like Dylan Emery (Crunchy Frog), Jon Monkhouse (LondonImprov.co.uk), Jules Munns (SlapDash) and more and more and actually loads of people, we’d still be scattered all over the place competing for the same audience.
So instead here are some positive suggestions of how the improv community could work together.
– Form some solid groups and shows with unique selling points targetted at specific audiences in addition to the improv audience.
– Make them really good.
– Get some good reviews and gain exposure outside the improv world.
– Build up a solid ongoing audience, starting from friends and family and building from there.
– Keep adapting and improving the shows, and take it mainstream.
– Promote improv in general, in addition to your own show.
– Make connections with other groups and performers. If you feel yourself competing, connect.
Then take a look at what a full-time impro venue would need…..
Say if you had 2 days a week off or for private hire, and then 1 day a week as a regular open thing – jam, stand up, maestro, catch 22 etc.
That leaves 4 days a week of impro to programme, or roughly 16 days a month or so.
So if groups are performing once a month that means the venue would need just 16 impro shows that bring in an audience each time.
Obviously it would be more complicated than that, as there would be some shows being more frequent and some less so, some ad-hoc events and seasonal changes, but let’s keep it simple and say….
All a dedicated London Improv Theatre needs to exist is 16 different improv shows capable of bringing in a new audience once a month.
Actually when I look around London I can see that already pretty much happening. In recent weeks there have been shows on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday at various places like The Miller and The Horse and all had great audiences. If you throw in Grand Theft Impro (Thursdays) and Comedy Store Players (Wednesdays and Sundays) you can see that the impro audience in London is actually quite large and lasts all week. Furthermore there are loads more shows that I haven’t got round to looking up for this week, and that’s just this week.
So in my opinion:
London actually already has an improv theatre and audience, it’s just split across different venues. Let’s call this the ‘virtual venue’.
So let’s continue to build this ‘virtual theatre’ and audience, and the ability to jump into an actual shared building would then be pretty straightforward, and incredibly empowering. I actually envisage multiple improv theatres in London, not just one. Similar to New York, Chicago and Toronto with IO, Second City, Bad Dog etc. I really don’t see why not, it looks to me like it’s already happening.
Furthermore London has a massive theatre audience, a massive comedy audience, a massive musical audience, a massive live music audience, a massive audience for everything really apart from improv. So let’s start tapping into those audiences. Showstopper do that really successfully for musical theatre. Noise Next Door do that really successfully for stand up comedy. If different groups are tapping into different audiences then together the whole will be massive.
I already knew I was going to be busy with Edinburgh, and then starting new workshops and shows in Autumn, which is why I was sticking to running just one night a week at the moment. But now I’ve started twigging how close everything is I’m probably going to put aside some more time later in the year to start supporting it and going into it more, so look out!