There were 396 improv shows in the Midlands during 2018. That works out at one show every day across Birmingham, Nottingham, Leicester and Coventry. This is roughly a 50% increase on the 275 shows in 2017, showing that the improv scene really is growing at a tremendous rate.
The highlight of 2018 was the Birmingham Improv Festival. Across nine days this autumn it featured the best groups from across the country and even hosted a musical group from New York. Harry Potter, Star Wars, Shakespeare, horror and a murder mystery all thrilled audiences who visited the Blue Orange Theatre, with West End musicals and a Jane Austen show at the Birmingham Rep. It’s arguably the finest improv festival in the country. Click here for a quick review of every show.
The Leicester Comedy Festival also featured a huge amount of improvised talent, with more than 30 shows across the month long run. There was improvised stand up, panel shows and performances by many local acts, topped off by a competition to find the UK’s greatest improviser. You can see a summary of the festival here.
I really enjoyed seeing Rhymes Against Humanity perform a sell-out show in Leicester in October. Audiences have been saying great things about them for the last couple of years, using words like “hilarious”, “sensational” and “absolutely fantastic”. Finally seeing them myself I can confirm the praise was justified. I loved it. This really was a full blown musical, with songs in every scene, all supported by choreography from the other players and strong music throughout. Read the full review here.
Other shows I reviewed in 2018:
- Between Us – “Sad. Touching. Beautiful.”
- The Improlectuals – “Worked together well to create a great night of comedy”
- Mischief Movie Night – “A high quality improv display…A very satisfying show”
- SquidHeart – “An easy show to enjoy with lots of laughs from start to finish”
- Coventry Improv – “A show suitable for all ages and tastes”
Two other events happened that are of special note in 2018.
Firstly, for the first time in its 24 year history, The Glee Club dedicated a full night to improvised comedy from a Birmingham-based group. The show by Box Of Frogs sold out, leading to more performances throughout the year reaching a wider comedy audience.
Secondly, SquidHeart won Best Newcomer at the Birmingham Fest awards. Winning this award at the annual fringe festival shows that improvised theatre can be as satisfying and compelling as scripted pieces, with no special allowances required just because the shows are created on the spot.
Altogether, a great year for improv in the Midlands. And, with another huge run of acts already booked for the next Leicester Comedy Festival, 2019 is looking like it will be even greater.