One of the UK’s most sought-after improvisers Charlie Kemp performs The Improvised Play, a comedy show entirely made up on the spot.
The concept, originated by the Charlie Kemp and Lola-Rose Maxwell at The Royal Court in 2022, opens with Lola-Rose and Charlie taking suggestions to form the anatomy of the show and from this they create an entire play. Crafted by the audience, the direction of the play’s narrative could be anything from a two-hander in a 1980s Texan oil rig, to a multiple-role side-splitting farce in a London brothel in the 1600s.
With no two shows ever the same, in this spontaneous comedy the possibilities are as varied as the imaginations of the audience.
The Improvised Play is at Arcola Theatre 5th – 9th March 2024.
The Improvised Play is coming to Arcola Theatre, what can you tell us about the show?
I can tell you very little to be honest, which is weird for the promotion side of things. I can say a few things for sure, it’ll be 60-70 mins, it will be 100% improvised and it’ll contain Lola-Rose and myself. There are things we hope will happen, it’ll be funny, it will be exciting, and it will be an experience unlike most theatre performances.
Where did the idea for an entirely improvised play come from?
Lola-Rose was asked by a friend (Ellie Fulcher) at the Royal Court if she had a show that she would like to try at the theatre as a one-off performance. Lola-Rose and I had been speaking for a while about the idea of doing an improvised play and when she contacted me, I agreed straight away. We have both done a number of shows in big spaces, with Austentatious and Cool Story Bro among others and there is something special about bringing something as free and anarchic as improv to big professional performance spaces.
You perform alongside Lola-Rose Maxwell, how did the two of you start working together?
We have been performing with each other for many years now. We started performing regularly together in a team called ‘The Cartel’ which was one of the original house teams at the Free Association theatre about 7 or 8 years ago. An improv school that we both learnt at and subsequently taught at. We’ve always enjoyed doing shows together and had a tendency to do very dramatic play like scenes from the start.
What’s the biggest challenge in performing a show that’s completely different every night?
It’s difficult to know really, one of the biggest challenges will be forgetting the information from the night before and starting completely fresh every night. But I suppose the biggest challenge will just be in performing a show that’s completely different every night, we are confident though that we can do something that will be interesting to watch and most importantly, funny for each show.
And what makes for a great audience suggestion?
I think something honest and genuine. Sometimes people think that if the suggestion is funny then that means the show will naturally be funny. But I think when we ask for the play’s title, the more genuinely it sounds like the sort of play you’d see in the west end, the more likely we can make something funny and relatable. But to be totally honest, I think whatever is suggested, tends to be a jumping off point, from that moment, the ideas that are generated in the moment are what lead to more ideas and eventually a plot/theme.
What would you say to anyone thinking of booking to see The Improvised Play?
Do it. Some people have said that it is a gamble to go to a show like this and it is, but I think that is true of all theatre. I can guarantee you won’t have seen anything like this before and there is something really magical about all being in a space and experiencing the creation of something in front of your eyes. It will be something you remember for a long time.