Birmingham Improv Festival 2022

Birmingham Improv Festival 2022


Posted 2022-09-14 by dpmfollow

Wed 28 Sep 2022 - Sun 02 Oct 2022

Birmingham Improv Festival returns this autumn after a three-year break with its biggest and most ambitious line-up of top international and UK performers. The festival, between September 28 and October 2, this year moves to Midlands Arts Centre (mac) in order to meet the demand for larger audiences.

Directed by Birmingham-based improv performer and teacher Jon Trevor, the festival, which features 18 acts over five days, promises a wide range of shows from hip-hop to crime and folk music to virtual reality.

Jon, who organised the first Birmingham Improv Festival in 2016, says: "This is definitely the biggest festival we've done so far, with some huge acts. It's an opportunity to see such a wide variety of very talented people doing some extraordinary stuff in extraordinary ways. So, for example, we've brought over Baby Wants Candy from America who are massive and sell out the Edinburgh Festival every year and we've got the Comedy Store Players up from London. This is a chance for audiences to see these shows here in Birmingham."

Jon, who founded Birmingham-based improv company Box of Frogs, is constantly looking for companies who are new to the city. "I'm fairly well plugged into the improv scene and for the festival I look for acts which you wouldn't get to see in Birmingham otherwise. This year I've looked for shows which will appeal to different kinds of audiences, so as diverse a programme as we can possibly make it. So this year we have Do The Right Scene, a company from London of black performers, we've got an Eastern Asian company The Comediasians, we've got a gay company Queer Improv and an opera group Impropera."

And he adds: "On Sunday afternoon the first three shows are improv tech using virtual reality, live animation, robots and artificial intelligence. In the Pixels show they are wearing motion sensors and there's a screen behind them so you see the actors on the stage and you see the animated world they're inhabiting. FANDCO are wearing 3D virtual headsets and are performing in a virtual world and we also see them projected onto this world. Improbotics have a robot they are interacting with and they also have AI that generates text so AI is telling them what to say."

With this year being the fourth festival, Jon is hoping he is well on the way to achieving his ultimate goal, for Birmingham Improv Festival to be a highlight on the national arts calendar. "My official stated ambition is to become the Edinburgh Festival of Improv," he says. "Wouldn't it be wonderful if once a year the whole city became improv and it was at all the venues, the mac, the Rep, the Hippodrome - that would ultimately be a fantastic vision."

And Jon believes the appetite for improv in Birmingham is continuing to grow. "I think five years ago if I'd said there's an 18-show festival of improv at the mac, the majority of responses would have been 'what's improv?' But Birmingham Improv has been running workshops and putting on shows and now I think we've built an audience and an understanding. That's one of the reasons I don't include local groups in the festival. Audiences can see them all the time and I want to bring groups to the city audiences can't usually see. Then, hopefully, after the festival they'll want to go out and see the local shows as well."

As part of the ethos of helping to build audiences, the festival performances are an hour long, enabling audiences to see a number of shows in one afternoon or evening. Some of the productions also feature BSL interpretation.

The festival gives people the chance to have a go with two workshops at mac plus Birmingham Improv are taking a series of free workshops and shows across Birmingham communities. "We've received Arts Council funding to offer free workshops and free shows out in the community so in the weeks before the festival we have events at Thimblemill Library in Smethwick as well as venues in Moseley, Nechells and Erdington," says Jon. "I've worked with the arts forums as they are already plugged into their communities. Confidence-building and wellbeing underpins all of the workshops I do and this is a great opportunity to take those workshops into communities."

Jon believes improv brings together performers and audiences in a unique relationship when creating the show. "I think what's special about improv is there's a complicity between performer and audience. There are always two things going on in improv – there's the performance and the knowledge that we all know this is being created in the moment."

He explains: "That affects the way we see it - it creates a sort of bond between performer and audience because we all know it's a tightrope and you can fall off it at any moment. Half the joy is watching people half fall, catch themselves, wobble - all of that is part of the fun. Improv is a truly collaborative artform which allows a group of people to create something that none of them would have been able to do alone and none of them knows where it's going but they find out together."

And after the past two years of Covid and lockdowns, Jon hopes the festival does bring joy to the city. "First of all I want audiences to have a great time, to laugh and be amazed," he says. "And then to experience something they wouldn't have the chance to see without the festival."

For the full programme and to book tickets for see For more information or to book onto outreach events see

!date 28/09/2022 -- 02/10/2022
70751 - 2023-01-26 01:49:06


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