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English Improvised Comedy in Barcelona

Por: | 25 de octubre de 2016

For the past three years, and now a fourth, early November in Barcelona has meant one thing to me: IMPROV INTENSIVE with the BIG IF.

“Improv” or “impro” is short for “improvisational theatre” and the BIG IF is the biggest English-language improv festival in Europe. It’s organised by BIG, the Barcelona Improv Group, founded in 2011. The festival has been taking place in the Gràcia neighbourhood of Barcelona on the first week of November since 2013. This year it takes place from the 2nd to the 5th November. In it participants get the chance to take great variety of workshops and watch up to 5 different shows per night. These shows offer the audience the chance to see many kinds of improv styles and groups from all over the world, including mixers that perform for that night only.


The festival has grown enormously since its first edition in 2013. It started with 3 nights of shows and 4 rotating workshops during 3 days and round 100 registered participants, this year’s edition has almost 200 registered improvisers taking up to 29 different workshops led by 17 teachers from around the world and performing shows during 4 nights. The workshops delve on all kinds of performance skills applicable, not just to improv, but to acting in general. These include buffoon, masks, using soundtrack, musical improv, stage presence, storytelling, directing, and performing for children. The shows also present a great variety of styles and formats, making for an evening out in which anyone can find something to their pleasing.


Improv is a type of theatre in which the scenes and stories are made up on the spot, without script, props or anything but the quick thinking and connection between the players. The main point of improv is to “yes and” any situation that comes up. This means accepting what’s going on (YES!) rather than fighting it (negation), and then adding your own personal touch to it (AND…). It has a predecessor in the Commedia dell’Arte of the Italian Renaissance, with its improvised plays based on vague plot outlines and the use of stock characters. Present-day improv comes from the study theatre games for education and developed into a strong network with schools such as Second City and Improv Olympics. Quite a few well-known actors such as Bill Murray and Kristen Wiig started off doing improv.

BIG is the only English-speaking improv group performing regularly in Barcelona at the moment that also offers improv classes and team building workshops for businesses. However it’s far from being the only improv group in the city. There are many other Spanish- and Catalan-speaking groups in Barcelona such as Impro Acatomba and The Modestos which will also be performing during the BIG IF.

In Madrid there are also many Spanish-speaking improv groups (ImproMadrid, Jamming, Impro Impar…) and one English-speaking group. This last one is called MAD Improv and has been going on since January 2014, started by a former BIG performer Benjamin Nathan-Serio. And if you can’t find an on-going improv scene in your town you can always start it yourself…

Photo credit: Alessio Carone

Hay 2 Comentarios

I hope the festival will continue to become more and more interesting

¡Sí Pablo! I'm looking forward to seeing Impro Impar at the BIG IF. I really enjoyed your 7 Words show in the Athens Improv Festival. According to the programme you will open the Saturday show. There are no shows on Sunday.

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Authors (Bloggers)

Chris Finnigan is a freelance journalist based in Barcelona. He writes for Barcelona Metropolitan and is a book reviewer and reader for The Barcelona Review. He is a graduate of the London School of Economics. You can find him on twitter @chrisjfinnigan

Ben Cardew is a freelance journalist, translator and teacher, now resident in Barcelona after growing up gracefully in Scotland via Norwich. He writes for The Guardian, the NME and The Quietus, among others, on everything from music to digital media. You can find him on Twitter @bencardew

Fiona Flores Watson is a freelance journalist, guide and translator who has lived in Seville since 2003, and has been a writer and editor for more than 20 years. She writes for the Guardian, Telegraph and Sunday Times Travel Magazine. Originally from Essex, Fiona is also Consulting Editor of and has her own blog, Scribbler in Seville. She has been contributing to Trans-Iberian since 2014 and tweets at @Seville_Writer

Jeff Brodsky is a freelance writer. He arrived in Barcelona in 2013 via an admittedly indirect route, living in Chicago, Arizona, Seville, Amsterdam, North Carolina and Madrid. Despite not having stepped foot in Seville for over five years, he still speaks Spanish with an Andalusian accent. Jeff’s writing has been published in newspapers and magazines in America and Europe.

Koren Helbig is an Australian freelance journalist and blogger enjoying a life of near-eternal sunshine in Alicante. She writes for publications in Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom, focusing on stories exploring smart and positive approaches to social issues. She hangs out on Twitter at @KorenHelbig and keeps a selection of her favourite stories at

Julie Pybus lives in a small off-grid house on a hillside in Catalunya. She usually focuses on helping charities and social enterprises with their publications and websites, but has also written for The Guardian, Country Living and The Observer. Julie launched and runs a hyperlocal website which endeavors to increase understanding between the different nationalities in her area @JuliePybus

Paul Louis Archer is a freelance photographer, multimedia storyteller and artist educator. A cross-disciplinary worker, who endeavors to encompass the mediums of photography, audio design and writing. Born in Hertfordshire of an English father and Spanish mother. Based in the United Kingdom. @PaulLouisArcher

Vicki McLeod is a freelance writer and photographer. She has lived in Mallorca since 2004. Vicki writes about her beloved island for The Majorca Daily Bulletin, the only daily English language paper in Spain; produces regular columns for the Euro Weekly News, and articles for Vicki runs PR strategies for several businesses in Mallorca and London as well as working on her own blogs and projects. She and her husband, Oliver Neilson, supply photo and text content for private clients via @phoenixmediamlr. She tweets at @mcleod_vicki.

Born in Newcastle upon Tyne and based in Barcelona, Alx Phillips writes about contemporary art, dance and theatre in a way that human beings can understand. For more previews, reviews, interviews and extras, check:

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