Do The Right Scene are a group of black improvisers with a wealth of TV credits including BBC 3, BBC Radio 1 and Comedy Central. They will be performing at the theatre on Saturday and in this blog, we do a little preview for three of the cast who make up the group that are taking the improv world by storm.
Tai is a winner of BBC’s Comedy Writer’s Room with credits on BBC One, BBC Three and Vice.
As well as a writer he is a director, actor, comedian, improviser and celebrity impressionist.
He combines his socially aware comedy with surreal points of view.
Monica is a fizzy one and a right comedy corker; a Hoopla Impro teacher with finesse minus the stress, coming to orchestrate some classic comedy and improvisational sonatas as she conducts a score of merry mayhem.
Athena Kugblenu is a comedian and writer trying to dismantle the current world order by trying to make people who disagree with her laugh.
A BBC New Comedy Award finalist, her writing and performance credits include News Quiz, The Now Show, Museum of Curiosity, Loose Ends and BBC Scotland’s Breaking the News. She’s written sketches for BBC 4 (Sketchtopia), and written and presented online and print content for Stylist Magazine and Time Out.
She’s taken two acclaimed hours to the Edinburgh Fringe where her writing always makes the best jokes lists of The Guardian, Independent and The Telegraph. Her stand up has been demanded in Europe, Dubai and Johannesburg.
A respected commentator, Athena is a regular co-host of The Guilty Feminist and was invited to be a regular co-presenter of the Arts Hour on BBC Five Live in 2018.
“…authentic, observational comedy presented beautifully…pleasingly original” ★★★★ – Broadway Baby
Do The Right Scene will be performing on Saturday 16th October at 8pm.
Tom Wilkinson, director, “Screwball” takes us through the cast’s five favourite Screwball Comedies
The easiest way to get an argument going among film fans is to get them to pick five screwball comedies. As we found researching our new show, the genre is loaded with the best dialogue, most beautiful stars, greatest romance in film history (sometimes with great songs, too) so choosing a top five is a game of leaving classics off the list and offending people. Still, who doesn’t love an argument: here’s our five. Fight us!
- The Lady Eve (1941)
If ever someone tells you a black and white film can’t be contemporary; that an old film can’t be sexy, or if they tell you that a film made for audiences eight decades ago will be slow – this movie will silence them in its opening minutes. By its closing reel, your sceptical friend will usually be ready to open a cinema and dedicate their life to film.
Barbara Stanwyck plays a card sharp who seduces, falls for, loses, and re-seduces a hapless millionaire (Henry Fonda), in a movie that balances sex, slapstick, and razor wit so brilliantly it makes the whole thing look as easy as breathing. If you watch one screwball comedy – hell, if you watch just one more film in your life – make it this one. The only problem is that it spoils you for all other movies. Why can’t they all be as good as this?
- Bringing Up Baby (1938)
Probably the most “Screwball” of the films –beautiful stars doing stupid things at breakneck speed, and occasionally singing: in this case, in order to tame a leopard.
Cary Grant plays an improbably beautiful paleontologist (a model for Clark Kent) trying to secure a million dollars for his museum – if only Katherine Hepburn wouldn’t insist on inflicting chaos on his life and periodically near-kidnapping him in fits of apparent absent-mindedness. Action moves to the countryside, where Hepburn’s leopard (the Baby of the piece) starts to cause serious trouble, and things accelerate to their breathless, barmy conclusion. A frantic gem.
- The Palm Beach Story (1942)
If you’re hankering after another Preston Sturges film after the Lady Eve, this makes a perfect pair: the writer-director’s next-but-one feature dials up the farce and the chaos, staying just within what the censors of the day would allow. Claudette Colbert plays the wife of a struggling architect, who decides to divorce him and marry a millionaire to fund his ideas. He sets off in pursuit, a millionaire turns up on the same train, and things accelerate from there.
If a happy tale of wise-cracking New Yorkers wooing Florida millionaires in disguise sounds familiar, it might be because this is an alleged model for Some Like It Hot – but this is more madcap in its situations and more grown-up in its dialogue than that later classic. It also might be the best-dressed screwball comedy, which is saying a lot in a glamorously crowded field.
- To Be Or Not to Be (1942)
No, not the Mel Brooks remake (good though that is): Imagine a comedy about the Nazis in Poland, made when they still might win the war. Jack Benny and Carole Lombard are bickering married members of an acting troupe, who find they need to use their thespian skills to avoid a list of resistance members being handed to the Nazis.
A screwball film is often a few things at once, but this takes that layering to another level – as well as the sophisticated romance and the farce you’d expect, it’s also a genuinely tense thriller and a lopsided tribute to the acting profession. You’ll be charmed, shocked, maybe a little scandalised – but never bored.
- The Awful Truth (1937)
This divided the cast when we watched it, but as the author I’m getting to choose, and anyway this is Cary Grant’s first screwball comedy and we should salute a Bristol hero.
Grant and Irene Dunne are getting divorced; in meeting each others’ new partners they realise they were in love all along. Like The Palm Beach story, this is a comedy of remarriage, a feature of several screwball comedies designed to get round censors (“but you see officer, these are married people fooling around”). More than the other films in the list, this revels in tiny moments, little looks and reactions, building little by little into jewel-box farce.
Or if you prefer…
If you’d like to see a new screwball story conjured from thin air before your eyes, with a drink in your hand and live music to boot, then come to our show, 30 Sep-2 Oct, at the Bristol Improv Theatre. Then argue with us afterwards about why our choices were all wrong.
Book tickets for Screwball: An Improvised Misadventure
Q: Hey Screwball Team! How are you doing? How have rehearsals been going?
Hey! Can you imagine if you dreamed up a musical supergroup a year-and-a-half ago, and now your wish came true and you’re watching them play? It’s like that! Every hour is a joy, working with your heroes…
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about the show and what audiences can expect?
It’s an all-star improv tribute to the fastest and funniest romantic comedies of the golden age of Hollywood. Crazy scenarios, heart-stopping dialogue, songs in the style of the great American songbook, and a cast who look gorgeous in white tie. It’s glamour in a bottle! No, glamour in a martini glass! Did we mention the cocktails?
Q: How did the idea for the show come about? What is it about the Screwball genre that you thought would mix well with improv?
We’d toured genre improv shows for years, and when we were alone in the theatres together we’d sing these songs and act these characters to show off and have fun. Caitlin, the Bristol Improv Theatre artistic director said that was something we shouldn’t keep to ourselves. We were delighted to make it a show.
As for why the genre: the best screwball films are about razor-sharp wits, about surprise and delight, about a battle of the sexes where the women have the upper hand – they’re champagne for the mind, which is why they still top the polls for the best comedies and romances ever made. What a challenge to offer great improvisers, to talk and sing like that…
Q: How are you turning a film genre into a stage show?
Well, lots of the classic screwball comedies started off as plays – or were turned into them – so it’s easy to capture the same spirit. Plus we’ll incorporate some projections into the show as a way of capturing that style. We can’t say more at the moment but we’re really excited about those.
Q: Is this show a good fit with the Bristol Improv Theatre?
The Bristol Improv Theatre team is fantastic, they’re not afraid to make their main theatre into a nightclub-mixed-with-screening room to put on the show. Plus, we have to mention Bristol as the home of screwball comedy – its greatest (male) star Cary Grant was a local boy and you can see that spirit survives in the Slapstick and Cary Comes Home festivals. It’s an honour to join that madcap tradition…
Q: What’s it like to be back performing again after the last 18 months? How are you feeling about things getting ‘back to normal’?
Well, we’re still being COVID-safe backstage – with regular testing, masking when moving around the theatre, and the rest – so it’s more “on the way to normal’ than all the way there. That said, it’s great to discover that the atmosphere of the BIT is the same as it was. Audiences will always have that same thirst for the live experience, and good improv is the best way to slake it (aided, of course, by a themed cocktail from the theatre bar).
Q: Has the pandemic changed any aspects of the show from when you were originally meant to perform it in 2020?
It’s less a case of the structure changing than the mood – in a strange way, being apart for 18 months has made us more of a company. We all appreciate what we’re doing a great deal more; we’re more joyful, more willing to dive in, and that has had incredible results for the show.
Q: What part of the process are you most looking forward to/have enjoyed the most?
We’re still devising the show for its premiere at the Bristol Improv Theatre, so if we’re allowed a cheat answer, the best part is always the next rehearsal, trying the new things we found! So far, though, the most exciting thing has been the music – Tom [Hodge, pianist from Paul Merton’s Impro Chums and Dragprov] has helped us find a style that’s rooted in the jazz age but still sounds fresh today.
Q: Why should people come and see the show?
Timeless romance; timeless glamour; timeless music; watching the quickest wits in Improv win your heart. There are few better improv casts you could see in the whole country, and it’s a thrill to be able to show them at their best.
Buy tickets for Screwball: An Improvised Misadventure. 23rd, 23th, 25th, 30th September; 1st, 2nd October. Time: 20:00
We’re looking forward to welcoming more of you to the theatre as restrictions ease. However, we’re aware a lot of you might still feel anxious about attending the theatre.
Therefore we’re making a few changes to the way we operate so we can welcome more of you in a safe and secure way.
What we’re doing and what we expect from you:
CABARET SEATING IS STAYING
We’re continuing with cabaret seating in our theatre spaces and we’re increasing capacity. We’re placing a few more tables in the space and re-arranging our seating plan. But the theatre still won’t be at full capacity.
This will allow you to sit with the group you booked with.Tables are available in groups of 2,4 and 6.
BOOKING IN ADVANCE
While we have cabaret seating, we’re still asking everyone to book tables in advance. This allows us to plan the seating arrangement for the evening.
We’ll still ask you to sign in on the NHS COVID 19 app when you arrive, or provide us with contact details from your group.
We’ll ask you to continue to use our contactless hand-washing stations that are situated at the front entrance and the entrance to the theatre.
We ask that yo uwear a mask when arriving at the theatre and moving in the corridors. You are invited to wear a mask when observing in the audience but this isn’t mandatory.
While restrictions have eased, we ask you to be mindful of other people’s personal space while moving around the building.
When arriving at the theatre, you’ll be shown to your table for the evening and invited to go to the bar to order your drinks before the show. The bar will also be open during the interval and after the show. There will be a clearly signed, socially distanced queue to the bar.
We’ll also have some tables set out in the bar where you can enjoy your drinks in a bigger space.
We’ll gradually increase the capacity of our classes, but will keep no contact games or activities. We’re capping the courses starting in September 2021 at 12 spaces.
We ask students to respect one another’s personal space during classes and allow space between you where possible.
We will also be offering one fully socially distant 4-week course per teaching block. This will be capped at 8 spaces to allow plenty of room for everyone taking part. And we’ll ask participants to stay 2m away from everyone at all times.
With the latest news that restrictions are likely to be eased on the 19th July, we wanted to let you know the Bristol Improv Theatre’s plans for the next few months.
We have really enjoyed seeing everyone back at the theatre since we re-opened in May and look forward to continuing this wild journey of artistic recovery with you.
We believe it is important for audiences and students to be able to attend based on the assurances they were given at the time of purchasing a ticket or a space on one of our courses.
As such, we are retaining many of our COVID safety measures until at least the end of August. With cases still increasing, this is to protect our audiences and staff, many of whom are yet to receive their second dose of the vaccine.
We will still expect audiences to wear masks while moving around the venue, and will still be offering table service to our socially distanced cabaret layout.
September 2021 onwards
Watch this space: we will be publishing updates to our policies and plans for September onwards in the next couple of weeks.
Hello everyone, we have just heard the news from the government that we are plunging full on into more banana bread, yoga and zoom quizzes AKA a new lockdown.
We will be rescheduling our shows and updating our classes. All show bookers will be contacted with new dates, and class attendees will be contacted in due course.
For any queries or concerns please get in touch with us on email@example.com
See you on the other side!
The Bristol Improv Theatre are proud to be joining with other Bristol Arts Organisations who are taking part in the #lovebristolarts campaign from 19th– 23rd October 2020
Covid-19 has dealt heavy blows to every industry in the UK but none have been so keenly felt as that given to the Arts Sector. We’ve spent months behind closed doors, waiting patiently to return to the things we love.
However, the spirt of collaboration and creativity continues to bring hope and support during these difficult times. Many organisations, including ourselves, have been fortunate to receive grants from Arts Council England and the DCMS in the form of the Cultural Recovery Fund which will help us to continue our work.
We are putting that funding to use, finding creative ways to produce, entertain and support artists who would not be eligible for public funding.
We are putting on shows as part of our REACT season to facilitate performances, providing rehearsal and training opportunities and continuing to provide an online offering for those who wan’t to access improvised work from home.
However, the industry still faces threats from the uncertainty of changing restrictions and working with reduced capacities.
The Bristol Arts Marketing Network and Arts Marketing Bath are launching a collaborative campaign, mobilising audiences and organisations to support Bristol and Bath’s arts and culture sector.
As an alternative to the Culture Flash Sale, which would normally be announced around this time of year, #LoveBristolArts will encourage locals to reach out to their favourite artists, companies and venues, presenting ways to offer real support.
Across a week of action, each day will focus on a different area of the sector:
- Monday: Launch day!
- Tuesday: Art Galleries, Venues & Visitor Attractions
- Wednesday: Independent Artists & Collectives
- Thursday: Arts Companies & Freelancers
- Friday: Final day!
How can you help?
There are so many things that people can do to help, from buying tickets, memberships and giving donations to free help, such as subscribing to mailing lists, following social media channels and taking a minute to fill out surveys. Even just hitting like, rather than scrolling by, has the power to raise profiles, build relationships and amplify awareness.
Below are the top three ways in which you can help the Bristol Improv Theatre:
1. Book a ticket for REACT – our new season of live performances
2. Take an improv class – classes available for beginners and students with some experience.
Follow us on social media for the latest updates
We regularly post behind-the-scenes content, blog posts and show announcements on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Click on the buttons below to follow us on your platform of choice!
These are just our top three ways that you can support us but make sure you keep an eye on social media throughout the week for more ideas for how you can help not only us, but our friends across Bristol and Bath to get back on our feet whilst facing the current challenges!
Read about all of the organisations taking part in the campaign on Visit Bristol.
A message from the theatre’s artistic director Caitlin Campbell about REACT, a series of shows returning to the theatre in November.
Let me start by saying welcome back one and all; we couldn’t be more delighted to see you.
It has been six months since we last performed in front of a (non-virtual) audience and as wonderful as it has been testing our limits and working with new mediums online we are beyond excited to be returning to our theatre at last. I can’t describe how much I personally have missed the hum of an expectant crowd, the scrape of chairs and clink of glasses, the sudden release of a whole room bursting into laughter together. It feels good to be back.
So what have we been up to in the last six months?
At the start of lockdown we sprang into action taking our shows online and were blown away by how many of you came with us. Thanks to the streaming platform Twitch we were able to keep in touch with you in the chat (you made us laugh a LOT. Who knew improv audiences would so enjoy the opportunity to noiselessly and benevolently heckle throughout a show?), and keep the heart of improv alive by basing our shows around your presence and input. The natural adaptability of improvisation along with the resilience and creativity of this amazing community allowed us to keep making and presenting work from opposite ends of the city (and occasionally the world).
That’s not all though, we’ve been renovating too.
While the theatre has been empty, we have taken the opportunity to give it a socially distant makeover. The stage, seating layout and operational systems have all changed, to make coming to the theatre as safe as possible for staff, audiences and performers alike. You can read more about the changes we have made and how these will affect your visit here.
It’s with this spirit of adaptability that we have launched ourselves into the next stage of this strange journey. Never have we felt this keenly before the value of improvisation, an artform that doesn’t just embrace changing circumstances but thrives on them – a useful skill to have in a world where the rules are changing day by day. Especially as we will be bringing the same restrictions that affect our work and home lives onto stage with us.
We therefore present to you REACT.
This November we are staging six shows that respond creatively to the challenges of social distancing on stage. They’ll explore what’s possible within the new restraints, approaching them playfully to create shows that are imaginative, immediate, whole-hearted and fun.
In some cases you’ll be treated to shows devised from workshops with our associate artists over the last month; in others we have approached local companies and artists we admire, handing over the reigns and allowing them the freedom and creativity to explore these new possibilities.
📷 : A talented pool of performers from our associate companies coming together to develop new shows for REACT. Photo taken by Ross Wilson.
We still don’t know how long this crisis will go on for – and so now our thinking has to shift from ‘when will we be able to do what we did?’, to ‘what can we do right now?’
Although so much has changed in our lives recently, one thing that has remained constant is our need for connection, joy and laughter.
With our new space, the efforts of our dedicated staff, the creativity of our talented artists and your support, we hope to be that source of connection, joy and laughter for years to come.
The shows that are part of the “REACT” season go on sale Friday 9th October. Check our what’s on page on the day for more information.
Try an improv class!
The Bristol Improv Theatre opened its doors for classes this week, for the first time since we closed them in March. Teaching the first one involved me shaking off the dust which had gathered on my face-to-face interpersonal skills.
Like many others, I’ve been on an emotional rollercoaster during lockdown, riding the waves of despair, craving physical contact from my friends, adapting to working and socialising on zoom, starting (and stopping) new hobbies (don’t talk to me about knitting).
If one thing is certain, during these uncertain times, it’s that we’ve all been on a ride.
Coming back to work and seeing people face to face after seeing them for so long on my laptop screen is WEIRD. My brain and body seems to be working twice as hard again to get used to reading the body language of 6 to 8 people. I’m remembering how to make small talk with people I’ve just met. I have to put on clothes which aren’t pyjamas from the waist down.
It’s made me incredibly grateful for the art form which is my trade. One of the many reasons I love improv is that, when we learn it, we get to practice socialising.
As someone who experiences social anxiety, when I got into improv, I lapped up the opportunity in classes to follow a clear structure by which we are gently encouraged to interact with and talk to people we don’t know. Any awkward lulls or moments are navigated through by the instructor, the exercises and the focus of the session.
I was really anxious about the return to work. I’d gotten used to the 10 second commute to my living room for Zoom classes and primarily meeting people in person that I knew. I thought I might have forgotten how to words say right people understand so.
Interestingly… I felt electric after the first class. Tired, for sure, but electric having been able to safely make contact with real live people in a Covid Secure way.
One of my fears was that the 2m distancing during class, handwashing or wearing a mask on arrival would kill the playful side of improv…turns out practicing ‘acceptance’ and resilience through the improv tools of ‘happy fail’ helps us to navigate these new elements in a graceful way. I have been charmed and delighted by the stories and moments which have come up in physically distanced improv so far…
- Groups of people connecting over zoom fatigue
- Two people wearing giant hats as the reason why they need to keep their distance
- Improv poetry- ‘my love is like a face mask, I carry it everywhere I go…’
And so much laughter!
By the end of the first class, the room felt relaxed and comfortable. People left smiling. Feeling a little nervous or anxious at the start was ok because everyone was feeling a little nervous or anxious.
If you are craving social or community connection in a structured and supportive way, where distancing measures are put in place, why not sign up for an improv class?
It’s the ‘social rehabilitation’ of the COVID era.
Scenework Skills is a 4-week course capped at 7 places which starts on Monday 12th October. It is suitable for beginners and students with some improv experience looking to shake off the cobwebs. For full details of what the Theatre is doing to make the space Covid-Secure, please read this blog.
During these strange and unprecedented times, the Bristol Improv Theatre is committed to finding creative ways to bring people together in an online environment.
We are experimenting with online improv classes. These will be shorter than our usual classes but will provide an opportunity to have some social contact and connect with others through playful games and exercises which will leave you laughing and (we hope) lighter in the midst of everything.
Our trial drop-ins will be 90 minutes, 18.30 – 20.00 and we are open to all feedback on timings and delivery.
For the time being, they are free to attend with a recommended donation of £10 to support the Bristol Improv Theatre and the instructor’s time. Places are limited to 12 and you must register your attendance.
Please see below for some FAQs with much credit to our friends at the Nursery theatre.
WHAT PLATFORM ARE YOU USING?
We will be using a platform called Zoom, which is very stable and has some useful features for improv classes. These include direct messaging, break out rooms and a gallery view so you can see everyone at once. You will be sent a link to click on about an hour before the class starts, then all you have to do is follow the on screen instructions.
HOW WILL THE CLASSES BE DIFFERENT?
There are of course, some things which are harder to do in the online space, but there are also many things that we have discovered work really well, and we are sure we will find more as we experiment. In order to provide the best experience, we will be limiting spaces to twelve to start with. We understand that people may be feeling anxious and isolated, we will be being careful about the nature of the scenes we play. We are looking to provide much needed social contact as well as improv training.
IS THIS JUST FOR DROP IN SESSIONS?
For the moment yes. We want to understand better how this could work, but if the situation goes on for a long time, we may look at longer courses or classes at different times. Do tell us your thoughts on that on the email address below.
IS IT JUST FOR UK PARTICIPANTS?
Classes will be conducted in English, but we are open to sign ups from anywhere. If we receive requests for classes at other times, we will provide them if we can.
WHAT DO I NEED TO DO BEFORE THE SESSION?
When you click on the link, your computer should do the rest for you. We highly recommend that you use a laptop rather than a tablet and please be in a private room where you will not be disturbed and make sure that your device is well charged. That’s it!
WHAT ABOUT THE MONEY?
Classes will be pay what you can afford with a recommended donation of £10 to go towards covering teachers and keeping the Bristol Improv Theatre afloat. You can donate to the campaign here
WHAT INTERNET SPEED DO I NEED TO TAKE PART?
Zoom’s minimum bandwidth is 600kbps (up/down) and recommended is 1.5 Mbps (up/down). You can test this with https://www.speedtest.net/or by Googling ‘speed test’ and clicking ‘go’.
WHAT IF MY CONNECTION DROPS OR I HAVE OTHER TECHNOLOGICAL DIFFICULTIES?
This will no doubt sometimes happen. If it does and we are unable to sort it out in time, we will either refund you or roll your place over to a new class.
WHAT IF I NEED TO TELL YOU SOMETHING?
Zoom has a facility for private messaging, so you can always message the teacher during the call, and if you have anything to suggest, or any feedback of any kind afterwards, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org
You can see all of what’s coming up and how to join in with the online sessions here