Edinburgh, famously the location of the Fringe Festival and renowned hub for the arts scene, has surprisingly never had any festivals solely celebrating the art of improvisation. This year, the Edinburgh International Improv Festival has finally come into existence, with four days full of events such as performances, workshops, and free improv jams. The opening night of the new festival featured two improv performances; Spontaneous Potter, a group of five performers who deliver an entirely improvised Harry Potter story based on a fanfiction title supplied by the audience, and the second by Irish hip-hop rapper, Abandoman. The event took place in Assembly Roxy, a venue which serves as the perfect location, creating an intimate atmosphere between the audience and improvisers. On entry, one is greeted by complimentary drinks – Pickering’s Gin or Stewart Brew beer, kindly supplied by the event’s sponsors. The energy of the night is immediately set by the host and co-founder of the festival, Jason Perez, who excitedly introduces the evening’s acts.
First on stage are the Spontaneous Potter improvisers, consisting of four actors and an accompanying pianist. The skit is based on a suggested title pitched by the audience, aptly selected from the sorting hat. In the past, titles such as Harry Potter and the Ostrich, tsunami and Birth of Jesus have been included, among others. The theme for tonight ’s opening show is revealed to be Harry Potter and the Unexpected Accusation, which sparked a trip to Paris fashion week as well as a love affair between famous nemeses Harry and Draco. The talented performers manage to keep the audience in a permanent fit of laughter, enthralled in the authentic nature of improv. Spontaneous Potter performs every Thursday night at the Monkey Barrel Comedy Club, a weekly platform for wizards and muggles alike to enjoy comical improv at its finest.
The second performer, the Irish Abandoman, brings a contagious energy to the Assembly Roxy theatre, following on from the hilarious nature of the previous act. The rapper flawlessly improvises hilarious songs based on audience suggestions and interactions, from silly newspaper headlines such as ‘France: a first world problem’ to stories of small adversities, exaggerated into life-threatening situations by the charismatic musician. Abandoman interacts extremely well with his audience, even selecting a few spectators to improvise themselves – not always voluntarily – on the stage. As he moves through the audience with a flashing DJ panel around his neck, Abandoman brings a new, contemporary type of improv to the evening, further enriching the experience of the crowd.
The first Edinburgh International Improv Festival is an event which will hopefully continue for years to come. If the opening night is anything to judge by, the festival will hugely further the artistic scene in Edinburgh and can be enjoyed by all, both the experienced improv lover and first-timers!
Abandoman supported by Spontaneous Potter
7 February 2019
Image: Steven Millar