Observations: Phil Kay and Beardyman set to improvise at Bristol Jam

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The Independent Culture

The UK's first major festival of improvised performance, Bristol Jam, opens today at Bristol Old Vic. It was the bright idea of the theatre's new artistic and executive directors, Tom Morris and Emma Stenning. Topping the bill is the god of improvised comedy, Phil Kay. "He swore at me as he has been trying to set up a festival of improvised performance for years in Scotland," says Morris.

The Sticking Place, who were taught and inspired by the great improviser and British theatre artist Ken Campbell, will create a live improvised soap opera lasting 29 hours, in episodes of two hours, throughout the night. The Mercury Prize-nominated jazz group Portico Quartet and the world champion beatboxer Beardyman are also on the bill, while The Factory will perform their thrilling improvised versions of Hamlet and The Seagull.

"Within the last five years there has been a renaissance in serious improvised performance, thanks to companies such as Improbable and people like Ken Campbell, who have created very high quality improvised work and inspired a generation ," says Morris. "Lots of theatre makers have realised that theatre is most exciting when it's doing what only it can do. There's an increasing interest in spontaneity."

To 24 Oct (www.bristololdvic.org.uk)