Improvathon

 

Dana Anderson, first director of the London Improvathons

The London 50 Hour Improvathon is an annual event, the only one of its kind in Europe. It is produced in association with Canadian troupe Die Nasty who originally created the ‘Soap-A-Thon’ in the 1990s.

‘It’s absolutely incredible. This isn’t theatre – it’s blood sports.’ (Whatsonstage.com)
‘Fearsomely able improvisers.’ (Financial Times)
‘A galvanizing community event… astonishing.’ (The Times)

Ken Campbell first imported the event in a 36 hour trial version at the Inn-On-The-Green in 2005. It was taken up by Extempore Theatre (then The Sticking Place) and has played annually since 2008, initially at the People Show Studios in Bethnal Green before moving to Hoxton Hall, one of the country’s oldest musical hall theatres. Performers from Ireland, America, Canada, Australia, Austria, Norway, India, Greece, France and The Netherlands, join with UK actors and improvisers to take part in this extraordinary event.

Audience members can drop in for any number of the 25 episodes that make up the epic comedy soap-opera, or watch the whole 50 hours on an event pass. Many audience members who have gone the distance describe it as ‘life changing’. The production has built a considerable cult following.

A setting is agreed beforehand so the actors and musicians turn up ready to play. The action is directed but entirely improvised. Previous settings include: Victorian London, Ancient Athens, A Hollywood movie studio, The Orient Express and a nightclub in 1970s New York.

As the core team journey deeper into sleep deprivation they access an exhilarating and euphoric sense of community seldom discovered in any other performance medium.

Extempore also produce a 30 hour version for the Bristol Jam held annually at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre. A 26 hour Improvathon was also commissioned by the Cork Theatre Festival and took place in the Camden Palace Theatre in 2010.

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