What’s on the improv table? – brief guide through the Fringe's improvisational performances
Updated: Sep 3
Our city’s festival of creativity is just around the corner. The seventh Gothenburg Fringe Festival, of course!
It would be appropriate then to dive into a presentation of shows that your senses will be able to witness. We start with the improvisation performances! But before that, a bit of background on improv.
It was said that improvisation is “the skill of using bodies, space, imagination, objects and all human resources to generate or to reformulate a coherent physical expression of an idea, a situation, and a character (even, perhaps, a text)”1. Indeed, all this happens spontaneously, as a natural, intuitive reaction to the surrounding stimuli. Reasonably, improvisation found its stable (or unstable?) home in the theatre a long time ago.
Western history found the first traces of improv theatre dating back to 390s BC. So-called Atellan Farce were masked plays performed in the ancient streets of Rome. Apparently, they attracted a lot of attention and interest, and most historians tend to agree it all started around the region of Campania, south of today’s Italy.
The popularity of these plays lasted a few centuries and in the 16th century, they evolved to other forms, the most popular being commedia dell’arte or Italian comedy2.
Commedia dell’arte was a form of Italian theatre that spread through Europe and in which performers embodies stock characters (servants, clowns, wealthy old men, young upper-class lovers, and braggers3) and improvised dialogues. However, towards the 18th century, the perception of commedia dell’arte started to change mainly because artists wanted to experiment with the “serious art” forms. Interestingly, this type of theatre gained a new wave of interest in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, both from academia and performers. Maybe that’s the reason we are now writing about improv performances.4
Okay, okay, that was the historical aspect of improvisational theatre, for some, maybe the boring part. But what comprises improvisational theatre, you ask? Well, if you ask Dave Morris, storyteller and improviser, improvisation consists of seven rules:
- Let yourself fail
- Say “yes”
- Say “and”
- Play the game
- Relax and have fun.
Without going too much into details, we advise watching Dave’s TED talk, if you want to understand these rules better. Of course, these rules are just one of many that improvisers have talked about.
Furthermore, except in the theatre, improvisation is even known to be used in classrooms and offices, which they call applied improvisation. Its aim is to develop communication skills, problem-solving skills and teamwork chemistry5. Even science has interesting findings about the effects of improvisational theatre in everyday life. Research that explored the impact of improvisational theatre on cognitive processes (divergent thinking, flexibility, language, memory, problem-solving, and co-construction) among teenagers found that “improv helps teenagers’ divergent thinking to improve”6. Improv - improve, get it?
Finally, the time to present our beloved improvisational shows. Here are ten improvised performances well worth discovering, with six of them being the ones you support artists through ticket sales, and four of them being the ones you voluntarily decide if you would like to support them. We begin with ticket shows.
BIG – An Improvised Story Blink independent theatre group incorporates theatre, stand-up, improv, and other forms of art into one BIG story full of variation. Actors will take three suggestions that they will improvise at the beginning, and this will serve as a trailer, returning later in the show.
They say for themselves: “We create our theatre performances in the moment. Together with the audience, we make Gothenburg's cultural life more surprising and unpredictable.“
So why not be a part of a surprise?
Performed by: Blink Improvisation Teater Venue: Stage of Secrets, Chapmans Torg, Majorna Language: English Age: 12+ Ticket price: 100 SEK Length: 60 minutes Performances: Thursday 8 September, 21:30 Saturday 10 September, 18:30
Next on the repertoire is the show which meshes theatre, improv, and comedy. The trio fight writer’s block to deliver the script for the movie and all that while deadline looms around them. The team from Chaotic Neutral delivers a fast-paced, irreverent improv comedy show.
Come and share a night of self-indulgent, media-obsessed humour!
Performed by: Ricky LaBontee, Brian Bonafilia and Nikhil Acharya Venue: Stage of Secrets Language: English
Age: 18+ Ticket price: 100 SEK Length: 60 minutes Performance: Saturday 10th September, 20:00
Choreographer and dancer take us on a journey to explore the result of a motion – kinetic, and analyse consequences. Viewers and surrounding influence the effect of the motion and body energy transforms into something that floats.
The show will also feature Improviseason, a film on improvisational dance in urban and non-urban places in Sweden, Denmark and France.
Performed by: Feri Sri Danarto; film by: Martin Johansson Venue: Stage of Secrets Language: N/A Age: all ages Ticket price: 50 SEK Length: 20 minutes Performances: Friday 9 September, 19:00 Friday 9 September, 23:00
When executive producers of Simpsons and Lost praise you, you know you are something. Nick will combine stand-up and music to explore human nature through different characters. Find out “will the real Nick Jameson please stand up? (humming Eminem's version). A Crowd of One is a roller coaster of voices, characters, songs, and questionable philosophical musings that is ribald, rocking, and satisfyingly ridiculous.
Performed by: Nick Jameson Venue: Oceanen, Kvartersscenen 2Lång
Age: 18+ Ticket price: 125 SEK
Length: 60 minutes
Performances: Friday 9 September, 18:00
Saturday 10 September, 20:30
Mind playin’ tricks on me, Geto Boys rapped a long time ago. Well, this performance will to! Sharing its name to an ink blot test, a psychological test developed to measure thought disorders for the purpose of detecting mental illness, this shows asks what do you see? Is it something joyful or sad? Something painful or relieving? Maybe it is fear?
Find out in this comedy with an existential crisis. It is up to you to decide what it all means.
Performed by: Caged Together
Venue: Kvartersscenen 2Lång
Length: 60 minutes
Performances: Sunday 11 September @17:00
From the minds of Edinburgh Fringe sell-out CSI: Crime Scene Improvisation, the very flawed people of the show explore what makes the musical so magical and take the audience's perceived self-weakness and use it to create a roller coaster atmosphere of songs, scenes and storytelling.
So what's your weakness?
Performed by: Lee Apsey, Patrick Clopon, Emma Wessleus
Venue: Kvartersscenen 2Lång
Length: 50 minutes
Performances: Friday, 9th September, 23:00
Saturday, 10th September, 17:30
Sunday, 11th September, 15:30
These were the performances for which you must buy tickets. The next four performances are free of charge, and so some of the artists will provide swish so you can support them in the artistic path.
Did you ever want to accuse someone in front of the court? Now you have a chance! In this theatrical stand-up performance, judge Ricky will decide if they are guilty or not, while guest artists act as prosecution and defence lawyers. It goes like this: file a charge on a light-hearted crime before the show, those chosen come and testify, lawyers make their case, and the audience decided the verdict. In the end, the honourable judge Ricky implements a new law.
Performed by: Judge Ricky Venue: Kvartsscenen 2Lång Language: English Age: 18+ Price: 0 SEK Length: 60 minutes Performances: Sunday 11th September, 18:20
What happens when you merge violinist & composer, dancer & choreographer and actor & poet? Kontakt, that's for sure! In this performance, the artistic trio will rely on dialogues with the audience to create short stories and vivid characters that will be expressed through music, movement and speech.
Performed by: Kontakt Venue: Världskulturmuseet Language: Swedish, English Age: 18+ Ticket price: 0 SEK Length: 60 minutes Performances: Saturday 10th September, 13:30 Sunday 11th September, 15:00
Have you ever been part of slam poetry? If not, now it is the time. If yes, then you probably have the experience to show everyone the power of your intuition. Read your poem, or let others read it.
Surprise is inevitable.
Performed by: Poetry Slam Gothenburg
Venue: Contrast Public House
Language: English (some Swedish)
Age: All ages Ticket price: 0 SEK
Length: 90 minutes
Performances: Friday 9th September, 20:00
Last, but not least. Dancer and poet only know how to enter the performance space and a trigger line to end it, but everything in between is an improv. Combining movement and spoken, they respond to the immediate environment and each other.
They might need your help!
Performed by: Stina Nilsson (contemporary dancer), Dominic Williams (poet) Venue: PanJál Scenstudio Language: English Age: All ages Ticket price: 0 SEK Length: 20 minutes Performance: Saturday 10th September, 18:30
1) Frost, A., & Yarrow, R. (2015). Improvisation in drama, theatre and performance: History, practice, theory. Bloomsbury Publishing.
2) Wikipedia (2022, August 31st). Atellan Farce. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atellan_Farce
3) Rudlin, J. (2002). Commedia dell'arte: an actor's handbook. Routledge.
4) Chaffee, J., & Crick, O. (Eds.). (2015). The Routledge Companion to commedia dell'arte. Abingdon Oxfordshire, UK: Routledge.
5) Wikipedia (2022, August 31st). Applied Improvisation. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Applied_improvisation
6) Hainselin, M., Aubry, A., & Bourdin, B. (2018). Improving teenagers’ divergent thinking with improvisational theater. Frontiers in Psychology, 1759.