Musical brand

Impromptu Shakespeare back in Bristol with their unique brand of The Bard

Shakespeare may not have written for over 400 years, but Bard lovers need not fear: impromptu Shakespeare return to Bristol with their irreverent style of improvisation and verse, creating “a tumultuous new Shakespeare play every time”.

The company will perform at The wardrobe theater for two nights, but with two very different shows – each unmistakably Shakespearean in tone, characterization and language, and inspired by audience suggestions.

Impromptu Shakespeare was a smash hit at the Edinburgh Fringe, as well as Bristol Shakespeare Festival; they appeared on BBC Shakespeare Live and won Best Comedy Event at the Buxton Fringe.

As a company, they are made up of leading theatrical and comedic improvisers with a wealth of experience and education in classic texts, and many Shakespeare acting credits.

The cast includes some of the UK’s most experienced improvisers, including: Ailis Duff (Netflix: The Improvised Musical, String of Red Roses), Sylvia Bishop (Screwball, Peablossom Cabaret), James Irving (Blyton Bumper, The Concept), South Daniel (Upstairs Downton, Dirty Picnic Club, Screwball), Lucy Fennel (Blyton Bumper Dirty Picnic Club), Jules Munns (The Maydays, ten thousand million love stories), Rebecca MacMillan (The Maydays, the adventures of improvised Sherlock Holmes, on steam! The Improvised Dickens Novel).

Photo: Shakespeare Impromptu

Bristol 24/7 spoke to the team’s Tom Wilkinson, ahead of their upcoming dates at The Wardrobe Theater on March 9 and 10, to say a bit more about what audiences can expect:

What is the pot story of Impromptu Shakespeare?

“We are a group of actors, writers and comedians who have been creating shows in the style of Shakespeare for almost a decade.

“We were selected as a sort of super-group by a producer who wanted to bring this style of long, soulful improvisation to the UK, and we’ve been on the go ever since, with more and more incredible additional players.”

For an audience that may be new to improvisation, or Shakespeare, can you describe how the mashup of the two works?

“If you are new to improvisation, everything is invented! There are no planned stories or characters, and all the verses are spoken before your eyes.

“If you’re new to Shakespeare, this is a fun and unpretentious way to get into its vast themes and beautiful imaginative and linguistic world. Love, war, death, everything in between: we think he is the greatest poet and playwright that ever lived, his thoughts about us are not recorded.

Image: Shakespeare impromptu

What is the degree of interaction between the audience and the performers in the on-stage creation of the story?

“We have a fun, fast-paced prologue (ping pong balls and a jig feature) where we talk to a few audience members and put together our show ingredients. Then it’s all up to us: we go where those suggestions take us for about an hour.

“It’s enough to make the show special to the audience, and totally unique to that time and place, but no one is ever picked. Improv at its best is a soft art.

Can you outline the rehearsal process, given that the shows are improvised?

“Improv training is like practicing sports: you’re perfecting the moves, not the games themselves. So we can insult or seduce each other in verse or weave in incredible stories, without those exact words or scenes n never appear on the shows.

“Plus, everything happens that you would imagine if you put a group of Shakespeare enthusiasts in a play: literary argument, silly games, declamation and a few songs. We’re either the best or the worst group of people to hang out with after the show, for that reason.

What do you most want your audience to feel when they leave the theatre?

“Delighted, amazed, wanting to return to the theater; or even better, back to our shows! After all, every night will be different…”

Impromptu Shakespeare (age recommendation 10+) is at The Wardrobe Theatre, Old Market Assembly, 25 West St, Old Market, Bristol, BS2 0DF on 9 and 10 March at 7.30pm. Tickets are available at

Main photo: Shakespeare impromptu

Read more: Review: Impromptu Shakespeare, Théâtre de l’Armoire

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