An Improbable Musical to have a limited London run at the Hackney Empire this autumn

Improbable is delighted to present An Improbable Musical, a Royal and Derngate Northampton and Improbable production. Following its critically acclaimed premiere in Northampton this February, An Improbable Musical will open at the Exeter Northcott on 26 September before a limited London run at Hackney Empire from 21 October. It will then tour the UK in spring 2023, including Gulbenkian Theatre (13 – 15 April), with further tour dates to be announced.

Improbable are maestros of improvised theatre. For three decades they’ve created make-it-up-as-you-go-along shows that have captivated audiences across the world from off-Broadway to the National Theatre. An Improbable Musical is their first improvised musical piece and it develops a thread of work for the company through shows such as Animo, Lifegame and Lost Without Words which are improvised live but whose intention is not primarily comic (although they are often very funny). Like other Improbable shows, An Improbable Musical seeks to expand the vocabulary of what we think improvisation can do by incorporating puppetry and material animation, movement and non-linear narrative structures (an inspiration was Ursula Le Guin’s essay “The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction.”). This is work that could be hilarious or heart-breaking, anarchic or eerily atmospheric but it is definitely essential viewing for anyone who likes their theatre as live as it gets.

The show is directed by Improbable Co-Artistic Director Lee Simpson (70 Hill LaneLifegameTheatre of Blood, Comedy Store Players) who also performs. The cast of brilliant and highly experienced improvisers includes Josie Lawrence (Whose Line Is It Anyway?Good Omens, Amazon/BBC; The King and I, London Palladium), Ruth Bratt (People Just Do Nothing, Showstopper! The Improvised MusicalNiall Ashdown (Tristan and Yseult, Kneehigh, Whose Line Is It Anyway?) and Aya Nakamura (All Wrapped Up, Oily Cart, Talking Rubbish, Theatre Rites) who also designs and directs puppetry in the production. Further casting to be announced.

The musical devisor and director is Christopher Ash (Showstopper! The Improvised Musical, The Borrowers, MAC) who also performs with versatile musicians Max Gittings on flute, Joley Cragg on percussion and Juliet Colyer on cello.

The show is designed by E Mallin Parry (Hamlet, Shakespeare’s Globe; Rotterdam. West End). The associate director is Angela Clerkin (Moll and the Future Kings, Sam Wanamaker Playhouse). Lighting design is by Colin Grenfell (Pride and Prejudice* (*sort of)Black Watch West End), sound design by Oscar Thompson (Rob Brydon Songs and Stories, UK Tour) and Will Thompson (Salome, Southwark Playhouse), and movement direction by Pauline Mayers (What I Told You, UK tour).

Lee Simpson, co-artistic director of Improbable said: “Some of the best bits of any show the audiences never get to see – beautiful moments of discovery, fresh minted gags, a story coming alive for the first time – all of happens in the rehearsal room. Less of a secret is that you never see the worst: dead ends, duff choices, bits that don’t fit. With this new production, we put it all on the stage: triumphs, disasters, the wonderful and the what-the-hell? How? By improvising from scratch a new show every night with story, song and puppetry conjured from the unlikeliest materials and every moment of creation (or lack of it) witnessed. This is not an attempt to improvise the “classic” musical but an unapologetic experiment in starting with nothing and seeing where the night ends.

Improv is in rude health and there are some very successful make-it-up-as-you-go-along shows. Most often they take a genre we know and love and give us their improvised version. The best of these are brilliant. We love them. An Improbable Musical is a little bit different, because the “frame” for the show is not a genre, but what is in the theatre at that moment on that night, both the tangible: a skeletal tower of stairs, puppets, random materials and also the intangible: the impulses of the actors and musicians, the fantasies and dreams of the audience, the synchronicities and happy mistakes. The show sets out to listen and respond to all these. This is theatre made out of listening, and a bit more listening in the world is worth a try, right?”

There will be audio described, BSL interpreted, captioned and relaxed performances across the run. See venue websites for details.

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