INTERVIEW: Impromptu Shakespeare At Brighton Fringe

With the easing of restrictions on theatres, it means that shows are returning to the stage and one thing that also able to return is none other than Brighton Fringe. Things may be a bit different at this years festival but there is still a lot of shows that are happening that you book in advance to go and see. One of the acts that are performing at this years festival is Impromptu Shakespeare. Whilst their show has had to be slightly adapted to work with social distancing and Covid rules, there is still so much to look forward to. I caught up troupe member Ailis Duff to find out all about what they have in store

Hello Impromptu Shakespeare tell us all about who you all are and three unknown facts about your troupe!

 We’re a long form improv group who improvise in the style of Shakespeare! Three unknown facts about us: one of us once improvised a sonnet about a toilet brush live on BBC radio; we once had to cancel a show because the sea was hitting the stage; we are really, REALLY good at pub quizzes.

How did your troupe form?

The group started back in 2013 and has gathered new people along the way. What’s really fun is that we’re all from different training backgrounds, so we’ve got lots of different improv influences, as well as people who came from an acting background or an academic background. 

How did you get into improv?

 We all got into it through different avenues – I came at it from an acting background. I remember trying improv at university and thinking it was impossible and I was rubbish at it, then did it again at drama school and totally fell in love. I got in to Notflix: The Improvised Musical (who are also at the Brighton Fringe this year) shortly after graduating and then joined Impromptu Shakespeare a couple of years later, and the rest is history!

How has the last year in lockdown been for you?

It’s been full of ups and downs, as I’m sure it has been for everyone. It was really sad last spring just watching our lovely busy show calendar gradually become completely empty as all of our touring plans got cancelled… but then we had a delightful bit of respite with some live shows in August. We’ve also been rehearsing on Zoom all year, which for me at least felt like a lifeline during the lockdowns! It’s not the same as rehearsing in a room with people, but seeing everyone’s faces on a screen definitely brightens up a lockdown day.

Have you managed to do many online shows?

We haven’t delved into the world of Zoom shows, but we’ve been running free online improv jams for the last six months and it’s been so much fun. Online improv has allowed us to connect with improvisers all over the world and play with some wonderful people, what a treat. We now run them on the first Thursday of every month and are planning to continue even when the world goes back to normal.

And now you are returning to the stage!!! How exciting! What are you looking forward to the most?

Audience reaction and interaction! We did a live-streamed show from an empty theatre back in November, which was fun but very strange – it was at Norden Farm Arts Centre in Maidenhead who are absolute legends and have been so supportive of artists during this time. It was very odd not having an audience in the room, but knowing they were watching! We can’t wait to be back with a live audience, there’s just nothing like it.

It is at a festival as well! Brighton Fringe! That must be exciting to be able to do this as one of your first return shows?

 Yes, definitely! There are so many incredible shows coming to the Brighton Fringe this year, I can’t wait to watch as many of them as possible, I’ve missed watching live theatre as much as I’ve missed performing it.

How are you adapting to social distancing rules?

We’ve had to slightly alter the beginning of our show – those who’ve seen us before will know that it involves the audience pelting us with ping pong balls, which unfortunately isn’t very Covid-friendly. So we’ve got a new opening instead… I won’t spoil the surprise, but let’s just say it features a plague doctor mask.

How did the show come about?

It was created as a show to take to Edinburgh back in 2013, inspired by the Improvised Shakespeare Company in Chicago. Back then, nobody else in the UK was doing Shakespearean-style improv… and it still feels like quite a novelty!

What three things are you looking forward to about performing in this show?

Being back on stage with some of the best improvisers I know! Also being back in Brighton (I’m definitely going to the beach), and getting to make an audience laugh again.

What is the time, date and price for your show?

Saturday 5th June (18:30),
Wednesday 30th June (20:15),
Sunday 11th July (16:45),

Location: The Warren: The Oil Shed.

Tickets £12/£10.50. https://www.otherplaceticketing.co.uk/6936/impromptu-shakespeare

How do you warm up before a show? 

Lots of high energy games, lots of rhyming, and games that get us really listening to each other. Plus, my personal favourite is when we make up Shakespearean-sounding insults – it warms up your brain and it’s hilarious.

What have been some of your favourite improv scenes you have created and why?

One of my favourite things about our show is that you can have properly ridiculous bits right alongside some really emotional and serious scenes. We did a show just before lockdown last year at the Theatre Royal Nottingham where there was a really honest and heartfelt scene of a father and daughter confiding in each other… and then we also had a ghost appearing by coming out of a lift at the back of the room. And lots of puns. There were lots of very silly puns in that show. And the combination of all of those things felt like magic!

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

We are @ImpromptuShakes on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. You can also sign up for our mailing list on our website, www.impromptushakespeare.com

And Finally in three words – Why should people come and see the show? 

Joyful, witty, impressive!

QUICK FIRE ROUND – Shakespeare Special Edition

Favourite character?

Viola from Twelfth Night. I got to play her last summer and she is an absolute badass.

Favourite quote?

“And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare/ As any she belied with false compare.”

Best Villain?

Aaron from Titus Andronicus. So evil, and completely owns it.

Best film or television adaption?

Ten Things I Hate About You is the perfect adaptation of Taming of the Shrew, and if anyone disagrees I will fight them.

Have you been to Globe – if so what did you see?

Yes, I love it! I remember seeing King Lear there when I was about fifteen and it’s been my favourite play ever since. I am planning to go to the Globe A LOT this summer.

What do you think Shakespeare himself would think of your show?

I think he’d love it – productions in his day would have involved a lot more audience interaction than modern Shakespeare shows do, so I really do think that improvised Shakespeare gets back to the heart of what he was doing!

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