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Charlie Kemp & Lola-Rose Maxwell - interview

Using audience suggestions to mould an entirely unique play, Charlie Kemp and Lola-Rose Maxwell are collaborating again to bring The Improvised Play back to a London stage. With the potential to be transported anywhere of your choosing, the pair combine their wealth of comedy and acting knowledge to make their production thrive.

Discussing this further, both Charlie and Lola-Rose have answered a few questions.


Can you tell us a bit about your background and how you've come to create this production now?

Well, we’ve been in different teams and improvising together for about 8 years when Lola was asked to do a one-off show at The Royal Court. We wanted to do a show that felt right in that space, rather than just another improvised sketch show, so we decided to try and improvise a play and it was exhilarating!

What draws you towards doing improvised comedy specifically?

There’s something thrilling about not knowing what’s coming next. You can look at it 2 ways when on stage, the 1st is, we have no idea what is coming, and the 2nd is anything can happen, we have so many options. This creates a real combination of terror and opportunity (we call it terrortunity) which is exhilarating. Also, there is a lot of fun as an audience member to be experiencing the creative experience in real-time.


What skills are required to make the perfect improv show?

A lot of people think it’s about the ‘gift of the gab’ or ‘thinking on your feet’ but actually there’s very little thinking involved. It’s purely listening and responding, which is terrifying in a way as you have no control and have to trust each other and the form itself. It requires you to be totally present too, which in this day and age is a nice reprieve from day-to-day life.


How does the uniqueness of each performance impact your preparation to go on stage?

The preparation remains the same whatever we do. The uniqueness of the show is something that takes care of itself. I think it would be much harder to try and do the same show again than to create a new one. I do feel there is a risk we are still retaining names by the next show but I think both of us have usually forgotten the previous performance by the next morning.


What kind of topics do you most enjoy having suggested, and what have been some of your favourites since originating the piece in 2022?

We are grateful for any suggestion but probably the more mundane the better. We had an audience members suggest Adelaide simply because that’s where they were from and it was a great show! We'd encourage any audience member to keep it simple and make it personal, watch your home town become the set of a play! 

Why do you think audiences like being involved in the creation of the performance?

It’s a great feeling to be discovering the choices at the same time as the performers. If you are surprised by what’s happened, you can guarantee we’ve been surprised too. I also think there’s something lovely about feeling like you had some input into the performance you’ve seen. It's almost like you performed the show too.

How do you make the show remain fluid and overcome challenges if something mentioned is unfamiliar or particularly difficult to improvise?

That’s a great question and one that has so many different answers. There are unlimited possibilities with a show like this and all we have to do is make sure we’re investing in our characters and their relationship making them as real as possible so the comedy can be surprising and relatable rather than just ‘random’ and ‘wacky’.


How have you built trust with each other to allow this to work successfully?

It’s really been years and years of doing shows together and a similar sense of humour. The main thing is that we both trust the other is going to accept and enjoy the offers we give to each other. When you know the improviser has your back and is working with you the trust is there. 


What advice would you give to anyone wanting to try learning to do improv comedy?

Do it! Even if you never perform it, it’s a great way to make friends, have some sober healthy fun and learn to take life a bit less seriously. You can even just take a taster class and see if it’s for you. We both mainly studied at The Free Association in East London (where Charlie still teaches) which we’d highly recommend as a great place to learn.


Big thanks to Charlie and Lola-Rose for telling us more about the makings of The Improvised Play. All the best for the run, and hope you have a fantastic time!

Tickets and more information about the show can be found here:

Additional thanks Lorn Elvin for coordinating this interview.


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