On a light spring evening I nervously enter The Wellington, a strikingly regal building in the centre of Birmingham, three floors high and with beautiful Georgian character. I am here to watch the launch of Jumprov, a BAME improvisation group made up of actors who are also genuine friends. The host and founder of the group, Sunny Dhap greets everyone with a beaming smile and an infectious exuberance.
I am a lifelong lover of the theatre, but this is something quite different for me. As I cautiously proceed to the charming performance room, I am struck by its intimacy. I am lucky to be here on what I have since determined was a special night, even the start of something new and inspiring. The actors excitedly chat to each other. The room holds an air of anticipation, which quickly turns into familiarity as the performers interact with the growing audience. I feel comfortable and at ease.
Following a group selfie, the actors (David Jackson, Adaya Henry, Marius Turner, Chantal Erraoui, Jay Droch, and Jade Samuels) take their places and await their host and co-actor (Dhap) to take the helm. The night is broken up into a number of different ‘games’. It quickly reminds me of the TV show ‘Whose line is it anyway?’, which I used to watch avidly. I settle down further into my seat, feeling more and more comfortable.
It is clear that this is a team effort, between the group and the audience, as they ask for suggestions, locations and problems for their characters to encounter. It is relaxed and informal, and the actors have a likability that leaves you rooting for them even in moments of pause. They can laugh at themselves, and the trust they have with each other is evident and vital to the genre.
Games included Blind date, where the ‘contestant’ has to guess who the 3 potential dates are by their answers. They were Batman, David Brent and Theresa May, which made for a humorous mix. There was a ‘lecture’ by Dhap in Punjabi about Alton Towers (as the audience suggested) which his teammate then tried to ‘interpret’. A game using a text conversation from an audience members phone, and my favourite game, ‘Switch’, where the actors stood in a square, taking turns to act out scenes in a supermarket to hilarious consequence.
All of this is good, but what makes it great is the added dimension of diversity. This ethnically diverse group are free to use and challenge racial and religious stereotypes in ways that a less diverse group may not be comfortable with. They can play whoever and whatever they desire, rather than being stereotyped into a role themselves. There seem to be no barriers and certainly no political correctness!
But it’s the passion and ethos of the group that impressed me the most. During the Q&A, Jay inspiringly stated that ‘if the path doesn’t exist, make it’, which is what I believe makes this already unique group special. Even a potential great success! So I wonder, could this be the next big thing? I hope so!
See below for ticket details