Ones To Watch in 2021 – INTERVIEW – Welcome To Improv Gym

Welcome to 2021 and all this month we are celebrating acts, websites, content, musicians and everything in between that you should be looking out for this year! All this month we are also featuring Sarah Davies who runs Improv Gym in Folkstone, Kent. We get to know all about what they have in store for this year, improv shows and much more. This week we speak about adapting to online shows and dream guests!

Hello Sarah, how did you get into improv?

My degree was in Drama and English, my Masters was in Drama, and I’m a Drama Lecturer by trade, but I didn’t really get in to improv as an artform in its own right until much later, when I first went along as a punter to Improv gym in 2016! From there my passion grew quickly and I started training intensively at The Nursery, improv intensives and festivals! By June 2017 I was performing at Mount Olymprov with Will Luera of Big Bang improv, and its fair to say that I was fully addicted! 

What have been some of your favourite shows?

In the ‘real world’ I’ve always loved performing with Improbotics, experimenting with cutting edge ideas, and any show that I’ve done at the Edinburgh Fringe is always amazing – like The Cutting Room, guesting with Absolute Improv or The Oxford Imps, or Twinprov slots at late night super niche cabarets! I’ve loved our City Impro tours, and am particularly fond of all of our Improv Gym jams too! 

What has been the most challenging show you have done?

A late-night Edinburgh slot to 4 people only there to shelter from the rain – Twinprov were on after a man dressed as broccoli who just screamed at the audience for five minutes, and the compere clearly wanted to be anywhere else…… 

We must talk about the improv scene in Folkstone and Kent! Tell us a bit about it!

It’s so great! Its relatively small in scale, but diverse and super creative, and as a result there is a real sense of community in Folkestone. We’ve been so lucky to be resident at the awesome Quarterhouse theatre, and our drop ins, masterclasses and jams have really grown over the last few years. 

Recently the improv scene has been very different – how have you adapted to doing shows online?

I really think it felt like sink or swim – the first day that my workplace shut down, I was on zoom learning how to use it all, and trying my absolute bets to embrace technology! For some reason I started keeping notes of every improv show/class/workshop I’ve done – 274 later, I think I’m getting the hang of it! Improv Gym has been going online since April with weekly drop ins, and it has been AMAZING to see how well our regulars have taken to the change, and how much richer and more diverse our work is as a result of now being accessible to anyone on the globe!    

Tell us about some unusual suggestions that you have had? 

Nothing too unusual – apart from the fact that we haven’t had ‘pineapple’ for a while….

What have been some of your specifically favourite scenes you have created so far in a show and why?

I love the way we use technology in Improbotics , thanks to Boyd Branch’s AWESOME virtual director programme, which can transport us all to the same location and zip us in and out of amazing scenes- we did one that was set in Stonehenge with an avatar disrupting a proposal – that was really effective! 

What other improv groups are you a fan of and why?

So many – I admire anyone who gets up and creates something! I’m really loving the diversity of global improv right now, in addition to all our fabulous UK output. Groups like Improv Comedy Bangalore and The World of improv (which I’m lucky to be part of!) are blowing my mind right now!  What advice would you give for people thinking about starting an improv troupe? Go for it, just don’t come up with the name whilst drunk in the pub (Plus Support…I’m looking at YOU!). 

What advice would you give for people thinking about starting an improv troupe?

Go for it, just don’t come up with the name whilst drunk in the pub (Plus Support…I’m looking at YOU!). 

What about extra advice for those wanting to focus on an improv style or format they are creating?

I think that being open and experimental is the key, plus watching as much improv as possible – when you are aiming to create something new, its great to understand all that has come before. 

Who would be your dream guest to appear at one of your shows and why?

Anyone who is playful and supportive. I’m not really a fan of naming specific people as I feel like it gets a bit exclusionary, I think our community benefits from acknowledging experience but making way for fresh voices! 

What is the best piece of advice you have been given about improv and why?

The Maydays often speak in their classes about the idea of having a safety dial on your chest and turning it up a few notches for improv (within safe and respectful boundaries, of course) and that’s really stuck with me in both my teaching and performing – I love the idea of risk taking.

If people want to find out more about you where can they find you on social media?

@improvgym on Facebook

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