Interview with The Improv Company

Les Musicables

Following the success of Alt-topia – an event conceived by the Poletariat Poetry Factory and hosted by Centre 42 at last year’s Night Festival – we’ve decided to build on that by presenting Late-Night Texting this time. Held for one night only, it is a celebration of text-based works across different genres, from theatre to spoken word, and features performances by four local companies. In this series of blog posts, we’ll be speaking with each of them to find out what they’ll be getting up to on the night.

Here, we have The Improv Company, which was founded by a bunch of school friends from the National University of Singapore, tell us about how improv can be trained, and what we can expect to see from one of their teams – Les Musicables – at a programme called A Little Night Music at Late-Night Texting.

How did The Improv Company come about?
The Improv Company was founded in 2013 by the alumni of the now-defunct NUS Improvables as a vehicle to establish, nurture and promote improvised theatre in Singapore. We wanted to continue improvising after graduation and the best way was to start a new troupe, but we also didn’t want it to go the way of previous improv troupes in Singapore and see it die out after a short while – and establishing a self-sustaining improv theatre scene in Singapore seemed like the best way to do that.

How often do you guys meet and hold events, and how can people join?
The Company trains new improvisers and supports several improv teams. Our ‘house teams’ – the short-form improv comedy troupe, Part II, and the improvised musical team, Les Musicables, receive the most support and meet one or two times a week. These teams recruit a couple of times a year and anyone who’s interested can register for auditions by emailing us at We also provide three other teams with subsidised rehearsal space rentals. We love seeing new teams start as well, so if you’re starting a team, email us! We’d love to help.

Do you think that improv be trained? And if so, how?
Improv can absolutely be trained. It’s largely a way of looking at things and so can be unlocked by understanding a few fundamental principles and through deliberate practice of those principles, e.g. active listening, making your partner look good, and seeing mistakes as opportunities. Through these principles, the improviser is adept at dealing with change, the unexpected, and making the best of what they’re given.

What do you think about the improv scene in Singapore right now?
It’s a lot bigger than it was when we started out! At last count there are now around ten active teams with more on the way. It’s not quite as vibrant as we’d like yet, but we’re well on the way. While the numbers are encouraging, what we’d like to see is the maturation of the art form – to see improvisers explore newer, more untried areas of improvisation, and seeing it used in other ways aside from comedy and theatre. Improv here is still a bit niche and self-contained. Our end goal is for improv to be accepted in Singapore as a mainstream art form and for its principles to be assimilated and adopted as part of the Singaporean psyche.

Tell us a bit about what Les Musicables is all about.
Imagine your favourite musical. Then imagine it completely unscripted with songs created on the spot. Using music as an emotional weapon, we’ll turn happy moments into ones that make your heart burst with unbridled rainbows-and-unicorn joy, and we’ll morph sad scenes to heart-wrenching ones that slam your tear-stained face into the pavement repeatedly until there’s nothing left of your broken soul. Through our shows, we hope to entertain the crowd with awesome improvised musical numbers, but at the same time also touch our audiences with the emotional depth that can be achieved through song.

What can we expect to see by the team at Late-Night Texting?
Expect a half-hour-long fully improvised musical with a ton of singing inspired by texts from the audience. We’re most excited about involving the use of text messages for our ‘ask-fors’ as we usually just get our audience to shout out random words. Then we create our musical using that word. Having to base our musical on a text message that may or may not be taken out of context when read to us is a challenge that we’re really excited to take on.

Interview by Gwen Pew

Centre 42 is throwing open the doors of its blue house on Saturday, 20 August for the public to enjoy a free evening of exciting textual experiences. Held in conjunction with the Singapore Night Festival, this one night only event is titled Late-Night Texting and features over 15 bite-sized, text-based performances by four local groups. Find out more about the event here.