The Scene




Who are Improbable?

Improbable is a theatre company led by Artistic Directors Phelim McDermott and Lee Simpson and formed in 1995. Throughout that time Improbable have made a large body of work. Although it has been diverse in nature there has been a through line of improvisational practice.

The artistic directors work together and sometimes indepedently. They are directors, makers and also performers. Improbable is a set of values and informed practice as well as a company; It is a place where Phelim and Lee can create in a way that is Improbable.

What is an Improbable way of creating?

We are about following our curiosity. This means we work in different ways, and on different scales. We use such things as improvisation, ensemble and puppetry in exciting combinations. Some of the things we’ve made have been epic spectacles, like STICKY, an outdoor piece with giant Sellotape structures and fireworks. We also make smaller delicate pieces like ANIMO, or THE STILL, which are improvised live. You may know us for bigger theatre pieces like THEATRE OF BLOOD, at the National Theatre, and SATYAGRAHA at ENO and the Metropolitan Opera in New York but we will have tried out the ideas you see in those shows in our smaller scale work.

What else do we do?

For the last ten years, we’ve been nurturing a nationwide community of artists and theatre practitioners through our programme of Open Space events. “Open Space Technology” is a self-organisation process that enables large groups to tackle complex issues with no formal agenda. At these events people discuss important issues and work together to take action. We have seen people start shows, festivals, form collaborations and new new venues. We run these under the banner of Devoted and Disgruntled. We also have a regular Mentoring Fete, and run workshops and other events that strengthen and nourish the talents and aspirations of our fellow theatre-makers.

Who inspires us?

Lots of inspirational teachers and artists have influenced the evolution of Improbable. Some of these people are Keith Johnstone, Viola Spolin, Arny and Amy Mindell, Wesley Balk, Jeremy Whelan, Harrison Owen and Michael Chekhov.

Where might you have seen us before?

We’ve performed all over the world: in the Sydney Opera House, on the steps of the Sydney Opera House, at the National Theatre, the Royal Court, ENO, Metropolitan Opera in New York, the Barbican, the South Bank, Camden People’s Theatre, Syria, Quebec.

Can we sum up Improbable in a sentence?

Perhaps the thing that ties all our shows together is an intention to focus on what’s really happening in the moment - our shows are live events encouraging conversation between us and our audience.

One of the things we can say about Improbable is:

“We don’t know what it is. Because it hasn’t happened yet.”

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