Have you ever attended FEATS: Festival of European Anglophone Theatrical Societies? It’s a Festival that takes place every year at the small independent theatre Bats in Paardenmarkt. In Spring 2018 I had the chance to watch for the first time an improvisational performance of Swaajp, a small local theatre society that performs in both Dutch and English. The act was called “You’ve got mail”. The idea behind the play was to bring back to life hand-written letters that for far too long have been forgotten.
Every actor would browse the audience looking for a few information to write down that he/she would use to re-create a letter from which the whole improvisation would start. They improvised around 7-8 times during those 60 minutes, and every time they would read out loud the letter first and then start improvising around the topic of the letter. I found this idea incredibly original and difficult to perform, thinking that every line they play wasn’t rehearsed nor prepared, that takes a lot of skills and preparation. Most of all it’s about synergy. You need to perform with the same people for quite a while to have the type of chemistry that these guys have. You never know what to expect from one of their performances! And as also the presenter said during the evening at Bats: “You will hear and see a performance that has never been rehearsed before and that never will be played again.” A unique act of which even the actors don’t know the outcome.
Swaajp is an improvisational theatre (or ‘improv’) group from Antwerp that performs both in Dutch and English. Improv is a form of theatre in which all stories, characters, plot twists and soundtracks are made up on the spot. Every show is thus always unique, though of course there are different types of show depending on how the stories are built or how much the audience is invited to influence the show. Swaajp has its own narrative and theatrical style in which stories and emotions are priority number one, but humour is never far away.
Swaajp was founded in 2014 and has grown ever since to a group of 12 men and women, performing regularly in Antwerp, the rest of Flanders and even abroad. In 2016 they found their home at the BATS Little Theatre where they perform their own English shows each time with an international guest performer. Their shows in Dutch vary in location, notably since they started being booked by theatres to perform there.