The Nursery Theatre has set up London's first dedicated Improv space in Theatre Deli Broadgate. It's got a fantastic programme of improv theatre that you can find on our what's on page. 

We asked the team there to tell us more about what they do. 

Improv? So, it’s just like Whose Line Is It Anyway?

That’s the form of improv most people know best, but improvisation can be lots of different things. On Whose Line… they do what’s called shortform, which involves a series of fast, fun games designed to put improvisers on the spot. There’s also longform, where improvisers create longer scenes based on audience suggestions. Sometimes the scenes are interconnected to create a story, sometimes they are connected by a theme or character or just a random thought from a previous scene. One company well-known for longform improv is Showstoppers!, who create an entire West End musical based on audience suggestions – and they’ve even won an Oliver Award!

It’s all about being funny, right?

Not necessarily. Often improv is naturally funny because it involves people making things up on the spot and, as it turns out, our brains come out with some pretty random things! Also, when you remove those few extra seconds it takes to talk yourself out of saying something stupid you’re more likely to come out with something unexpectedly truthful, which can take both the improviser and audience by surprise! But there are improv groups whose focus is on exploration and emotional depth, and these shows are fascinating and immersive, but not always laugh-out-loud funny.  

Is it really ALL made up?

Yes! Different shows have specific structures, but the one thing they have in common is they are all made up on the spot – so you can watch the same group night after night and see a completely different show every time! For instance, one of the most famous formats is called a Harold and involves three unrelated two-person scenes, which are revisited three times throughout the show, and broken up with group scenes inbetween. This format will be the same each show, but the characters, locations and content of the scenes will be completely different depending on the initial suggestion. You will never see the same improv show twice! 

Will I get picked on or pulled up on stage?

No! Don’t worry. Improvisers often ask for an audience suggestion from which they’ll draw inspiration for the show. They may request a word, relationship, location, genre or emotion. Audience members will be invited to shout out their ideas, so if you don’t have one or you don’t want to, you can just keep quiet – nobody will force you to take part in the show against your will! Occasionally an act may ask for a volunteer to share a story or something similar, but they won’t put anyone on the spot. Relax – there’s always someone in the crowd who wants to volunteer and have their five seconds of fame!

I’m not an actor, so what’s in it for me?

Lots of improvisers don’t come from an acting background. It’s not a pre-requisite. In fact, a lot of actors find improvising pretty hard! Improv can be a great way to build confidence by putting yourself out of your comfort zone and it also teaches you to remain calm under pressure and react on the spot without worrying about failure. In addition, it’s a useful tool for unleashing creativity, by taking away the filter in your head that tells you your idea isn’t good enough. There’s a strong sense of community in the improv world, so it’s the perfect place to meet new people and, most importantly HAVE FUN!

It sounds great! How do I get involved?

Come along to a show at The Nursery Theatre and check out some of the best improvisers around! We also have a weekly jam night where you can get up on stage and try it for yourself – if you’re scared, don’t worry, someone will help you out! The Nursery runs courses aimed at all levels, including beginners, as well as weekly classes where you can just drop-in whenever it fits in to your schedule. If you’d prefer to meet people first, head over to one of our social events or come to a show and have a chat with us at the bar. Just remember, everyone is nervous the first time, and they’ll all tell you it’s not as scary as it sounds ­– so give it a go!