Welcome to this months feature theme, in the run up to Edinburgh Festival Fringe, we tend to forget about the groups and comedians that are heading there for the first time and just how much work goes on behind the scenes to prepare everything. Well this month we are going to learn face on as we are going behind the scenes with the improv troupe Banana Hut Gang Improv.
Hello everyone! Can you tell us a little bit about the improv team Banana Hut Gang Improv?
Jonny – We are a group of seven improvisers who love a good story, and a whole lot of silliness. We were all actors first, so we like to keep our focus on performance and character – look out for that in our shows. We’re taking our first show, ‘Choose Your Own…Improv!’, up to the Edinburgh Fringe this year, and it’s a massively exciting opportunity for us.
How did you guys form?
Jonny – We initially met through Sedos, an amateur dramatic company in London. Two years ago Chris and Alex started running a weekly class to help members improve their acting skills through improvising. Over time, a group of us kept coming regularly, and we decided to see what we could build with a smaller group. We now meet once a week as a smaller collective, while still running our weekly drop in sessions. These keep us all on our toes, and helps us to get new people involved in improvising.
Alex – Just to add, it basically started because I had been taking an improv class and started playing them with Sam, Laura, Chris, and Jess outside the Sedos Christmas party in the street. That was really the birth of Simprov, which Chris and I then established through Sedos, and then from that the Banana Hut Gang formed. It was all very organic.
How did you come up with the name of your troupe?
Laura – It involved a lot of mind melding, brainstorming and drinking in the pub. The building that we rehearse in is called BHG and we’d begun affectionately calling it the‘Banana Hut’ and the Banana Hut Gang grew out of that.
What style of Improv do you do?
Jonny – We’ve dabbled with a bit of everything on the short-form to long-form scale, but we’re focusing more on long form styles for now. Our latest show challenges the audience to make big, life-changing choices in our characters’ stories. Of course, we have to go along with what the people want to see, but not every ending needs to be a happy one!
What will make you different to other improv shows out there?
James: We really involve the audience throughout the whole show – which way we go depends on how the audience choose. We hope the audience feel connected to the characters we create because they will be deciding their fate.
What other improv groups are you a fan of and why?
Sam: I LOVE Austentatious. It’s funny, it’s smart, and it’s bringing improv to a much wider audience. The long-form, story driven concept seems much easier for those new to improv to feel safe and get behind. I also really like a lot of what the Free Association put on, not just because it’s right by my house. Shout out to FAPD.
what advice would you give for people thinking about starting an improv troupe?
Sam: Find people you feel comfortable disagreeing with. You have to have a shared
vision, but it won’t last unless you can feedback and be honest with the people you are
playing with. You and the show won’t get any better if it’s all smiles, nods and simmering
If people want to find out more about you where can they find you on social media?
Laura – We’re in all the usual places so find us and follow our antics!
We also have a website https://www.bananahutgang.com!
What is YOUR favourite Banana Hut sets you have done this year and why?
Jonny – We’ve done three test-run shows so far:
1. A taxidermist solving a murder in a wheat field
2. A cowboy rogue taking on a horse rustling ring (with mixed results)
3. A half-moustached German exploring the secrets of a post-war manor
We can’t pick a favourite, but we’ve noticed that our audiences do like a turn for the dark! Show 1 saw them feed poison to a six year old, show 2 saw them shoot a horse as a mercy killing, and show 3 saw them take out a poor lady with a corkscrew. Lovely stuff.
What is the best thing about being in Banana Hut?
Sam: Laughing. All the time. We find ourselves really funny. It feels cocky, but it would
be completely pointless if we didn’t.
What is the most challenging?
Sam: Chris’ love of wearing banana themed clothing.
What have been some of your specifically favourite scenes you have created so far in a show and why?
Sam: Alex and Chris playing two gun sellers in the Wild West. They only sold tiny guns
and big ass rifles. They had a complex arrangement of fun racks that they spent a really
long time creating for the audience. Maybe they should move to Texas and start that
shop for real.
My selfish one is a scene where I had to play a drowning man, and each of the two
characters trying to save him. So much fun.
What have been the worst?
Sam: It’s nailed on that someone is going to suggest ‘Film Noir’. The first time we did it,
we hadn’t done any research. I was the protagonist and I didn’t have a clue what was
Who would be your dream guest to appear and why?
Laura: If I ever got to meet or perform with Tina Fey I would die happy. I think she’s an
incredibly clever performer and she’s proudly female and feminist without ever making it awkward or uncomfortable for the audience.
What is the best piece of advice you have been given about improv and why?
Laura – “Bring a brick” – it’s such a simple piece of advice and it’s so true. When you’re in
an improv group you’re all working together to build the piece. You don’t need to build a
cathedral all on your own, all you need to do is bring a brick. Your other group members
will bring their bricks and you’ll build it together
More From Banana Hut Gang Improv next week…