There is improv comedy and theatre in many towns and cities across the United Kingdom. The few that shall be included in this discussion are ones that have a personal connection. We can question how much the culture of the city affects the art, the theatre and how we improvise. The ever-growing community in these local areas bring themselves, there background and their surroundings. There shall be four towns or cities that shall be investigated.
In Canterbury, Kent, improv comedy began many years ago. It has had a lot of comedy and improv, specifically, historically. Noise Next Door, who tour the UK stand-up comedy venues performing hilarious improv, started their careers in Canterbury. There has been improv in schools in Kent due to the work of such people as Lucy Fennell. Similarly, there has been some in the universities too.
Students still have improv comedy. Nowadays, it is solely focused on doing improv. The growth in the group has developed splendidly. Not only do they perform, or have done, long-form (30 minute non-linear, thematic productions or improvised plays), but they have been a member of Theatresports (iTi; short-form competitive full-scale evening of a myriad of emotional theatre that is very funny).
What is the impact on the theatre created from the culture of Canterbury? It would be thought that what people must want from their art is improvised Chaucer or other literary-based creation. However, with a student population in the improv community, there are younger politics involved, as well as their sensibilities. Nonetheless, that relatability and human nature is still at the core of the comedy in Canterbury. From the funny of love to the hysterics behind rivalry in the office, Kent seems to offer a wide variety of laughter.
The local community can once more engage in improv comedy with the Canterbury Improv classes. There are weekly drop-in classes and weekend intensive courses.
In Basingstoke, Hampshire, the arts world is quite small, and yet the improv comedy community is growing. There are two theatres that are now one organisation, and one company that have their own arts venue near the top of town. Nonetheless, this does not affect the desire for comedy in Basingstoke.
Hampshire, in general, has had some fantastic improv. In Havant, near Portsmouth, there was a theatre company that ran improv productions and classes. Unfortunately, they have stopped now. The wonderful and aforementioned lady, now working in Southampton, has been teaching improv in a school that has performed recently. Also in Southampton, the students there run comedy events that include improv. So Hampshire seems fertile for more improv.
Basingstoke is a commuter town, so it can be believed. There is a lot of business and computer-related occupations, and holistic therapy too. The impact of this on the comedy and theatre created seems to be fairly minimal. It could be the teaching that has been provided, but there is silliness, with physical comedy, and once more a human connectedness to what drives people to laugh.
The local community in Hampshire can take advantage of the Basingstoke Improv weekend intensive classes that occur. Likewise, the improv comedy nights that happen may continue, so you can see performances and chuckle thoroughly.
In Cardiff, Wales, the history of improv has a fair amount of lineage. Rob Brydon, for example, although he should be mentioned in the next city - due to it being group in Bath. There have been a number of groups in the past, anyway. Cardiff loves its comedy. There is a strong focus on stand-up comedy, with some sketch.
There is not a lot of improv comedy in Wales, overall, but the reoccurrence of it says a lot. Wales lusts for more. It is a great principality for wonderful theatre. Amazing circus, clown and musical productions. Specifically in Cardiff, this description still works, as it has NoFit State circus and Hijinx Theatre - and many more.
Cardiff loves its weekends and rugby. The impact on improv is more likely, however, to come from the theatre practices. The prospective faster-pace of stand-up seems to drive those that dabble to short-form games - not that long-form cannot be fast (it can be faster, more often).
The wider community, and the local, can benefit from the Cardiff Impro weekend classes that are run in the capital city of Wales: Cardiff. The potential for monthly improv comedy nights with a variety of productions is available. Hopefully, Chapter Arts centre shall host these when all the puzzle pieces are aligned.
Lastly, Bristol has a vast amount of improv comedy and theatre now. This is many thanks to the graduates of the university there. Specifically, it is thanks to one man: Andy Yeoh. He is a remarkable guy and has formed the foundations of the community there so that the growth can be exponential. Every few years, the boom happens and there are more possibilities. There has been improv there for many years, not just from the university, as there are theatre companies that do improvise and nearby, in Bath, there was the group with Rob Brydon and Ruth Jones. That was lead by Paul Z Jackson (from the Applied Improvisation Network, these days).
Bristol has a lot of arts. The glorious dancers, circus, clown, fools, magicians, musicians... The weekly events that no one can keep up with is why Bristol is an amazing city to live in. The impact on the improv there must be true. Nonetheless, the funny does come from the human qualities; whether they are presented through a more clown perspective or emotional theatricality, they are accessible.
The local community have the weekend intensive classes to support their development and drive the improv comedy and theatre scene into a wider range of production styles. We seek to connect, we wish to play.
Let’s find the funny together!