Improvisation for Page and Stage

In this five-day workshop, Co-Artistic Director Lee Simpson looks at how Improbable brings the philosophy and practice of improvisation to performance improv, devised theatre, plays, operas and social activism. 

Improbable’s approach to improvisation has created work on a wide range of scales and in many different forms. It also underpins every aspect of how we run the company. Improbable have developed this philosophy and practice by adapting and creating hybrid techniques from both within and outside theatre, as well as through originating our own processes. It is this approach to improvisation and theatre making that will be the focus of the workshop.

Over the five days we will work on, among other things, improvising live onstage, various devising techniques, creating and shaping narrative, Open Space as a rehearsal tool, Process Work and improvisation with a script. In other words, it will be a chance to spend time working through an Improbable process and take whatever works for you away to your own practice.

This workshop is for anyone interested in developing their improvisational experience, whatever the form in which you work – you could be a performer, director, designer, writer, improviser, actor or none of the above. This will be a supportive environment that will attempt to be responsive to the individual and collective needs of the group. There will not be a teaching method as such, but a series of invitations to step into a space of not knowing, where you are encouraged, supported and given strategies to notice, nurture and make manifest the scene / the story / the show that is already happening, but that hasn’t yet appeared in the world. 


This is a workshop on Improbable’s approach to improvisation, which has been shaped by the work of Keith JohnstonViola SpolinArnold and Amy MindellMichael Checkhov, and Harrison Owen. No knowledge of the work of these great teachers is required (or necessarily helpful). We provide this list in case it helps you imagine the sort of landscapes we will be traveling through.


Lee started improvising in 1979 when his English teacher read Impro by Keith Johnstone and from then on, in lunchtime Drama Club, they worked through every exercise in the book. He’s been performing and teaching impro since then – for the past 30 years as one of the Comedy Story Players. It is through impro that he met and began working with Phelim McDermott, a theatrical partnership that led to the formation of Improbable.

He has been director, devisor, writer or performer for Improbable’s productions of Animo, 70 Hill Lane, Coma, Lifegame, Cinderella, Sticky, Spirit, The Hanging Man, The Stars Are Out Tonight (with Amici), Theatre of Blood, Satyagraha, Panic, No Idea, The Still, Still No Idea and The Paper Man. His directing outside Improbable includes Paul Merton: And This Is Me…The Two Faces of Mitchell and WebbTravels with my Virginity by Guy Dartnell, My M.S. and Me by Jim Sweeney and Palace Dreams, an outdoor show on the site of the Crystal Palace.  Having taken improvisation to the liveliest comedy clubs, the grandest theatres and everything in between, there can be very few people in the world with this breadth of improvisational experience.

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Dates: Mon 18 Mar – Fri 22 Mar
Times: 10.30am – 6.00pm
Venue: Toynbee Studios, London
Cost: £390 plus VAT (£468)
Capacity: 20 places

Applications for pay-what-you-can bursaries are now closed. We will be in touch with all bursary applications shortly.

If you have access requirements, or if would like to pay the workshop fee in instalments, please get in touch with us.

Current Productions