Set to perform at one of the most coveted spaces at the Fringe, Kaleidoscope is Berlin's most popular, English-speaking musical improv team. Formed less than a year ago, their spoof, deliciously meta-Broadway-style musicals now perform regularly to sell-out audiences across the capital. Geoff Mills speaks to them about their hopes for Edinburgh and beyond.

The five members of Kaleidoscope—Berlin’s most popular English-speaking musical improv team—arrange themselves around me in an imperfect semi-circle. Blake and Joseph sit with me in the spacious auditorium, while Caroline, Tina and Angie perch themselves on the edge of the vast stage, their legs dangling happily off the edge. I agreed to meet them at the end of one of their twice weekly rehearsals, and during the interview they throw out the same exuberant energy and warmth they have become known for in their completely improvised, Broadway style, musical comedy shows.

Taking audience suggestions for a location as their only cue, they weave a fully realised, often ridiculous, but always gloriously playful plotline, drawn together with show numbers which are sometimes so slick and so beautifully melodic you have to keep reminding yourself that everything is being improvised on the spot. It doesn’t surprise me, then, when Angie tells me that, after the show, audience members “come up to us and they’re like, ‘well that was really good, what part of it scripted?’ or they’re like, ‘wow that was really good, what songs did you write beforehand?’ and you’re like, no no, the whole thing was improvised. We all just made something out of one word!”

Formed only in August of last year, Kaleidoscope has grown to become a formidable new force on Berlin’s thriving improv scene: they perform regularly to sell-out audiences in venues across the city and they have already secured a prime spot at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. This rapid rise in popularity seems to have taken them all by surprise. Tina, a Luso-American musician, comedian and improv teacher, explains: “what we do seems to be resonating in the community in a way that maybe we didn’t anticipate. But, like, in an incredible way. But also in a way we couldn’t have foreseen. I think the response to it has just been so big.”

The five members have grown to become a close-knit team, and they like to spend time together outside of rehearsals. Blake, an actor and voice-over artist, breaks in with his big, booming baritone. "I’ve always dreamed of having a team where we all hang out for fun, and I think we bring all of that to what we do, and that camaraderie goes a long way in producing stuff that’s very fun. We all know each other, we know how to play with each other, in a way that will make each other laugh." Caroline, who is relatively new to Berlin and Kaleidoscope’s most recent recruit, agrees: “I think finding Kaleidoscope, and finding us altogether, has been a very special experience. I feel very lucky to be with these specific people in this specific configuration at this time.”

I’ll make no bones about it, I’m a fan. Beguiling, clever and funny, the team is made up of some of the strongest improvisors I’ve seen, but together they form a kaleidoscopic whole greater than the sum of its disparate parts. Among the irritatingly snooty, musicals have an ill-deserved reputation for frothiness, but conjuring a decent one out of thin air, and all that that involves (an understanding of plot, a wide knowledge of musical genres, quick verbal wit, impeccable timing, comic instincts, songwriting skills, acting skills, a fine singing voice, to name just a few elements), requires substantial talent. To do this with apparent grace and ease, as Kaleidoscope does, is a remarkable feat. But there are precedents. "One of the earliest things we started doing was reaching out to our idols," explained Tina, "people who were doing the things that we want to do, and so very early on in the process we reached out to The Showstoppers, who are based out of London, and they do an improvised musical that’s had West End runs and for which they’ve won Oliviers."

Kaleidoscope are not unaware of their talent, and they have ambitions to match. When the team first got together, they sat down for a “dream session”. As Blake explains, it soon became "very clear that everyone had much bigger aspirations than, like, let’s just have fun on Saturdays, which was really exciting!" A West End run, a rock ‘n’ roll style tour, even a Netflix special, all these possibilities are on their radar.

But they are aware, too, of the fortuitous set of circumstances which have brought their different but complementary skill sets together. Blake tells me: "I like to think about the first time we sold out a big venue a week before the show, and we just couldn’t believe it! And part of why that felt so good is because we all bring something different to the table, both in what we do onstage and offstage. We have people who are naturally amazing at design and graphic work, Angie does all of the social media, and people who are amazing at outreach and community building like Tina, everyone putting in their thing. And so, when we sold out that show, it really felt like it was a collective effort!"

The audience also get a special mention. As Tina says, “the special thing is that it’s new every time, right? And people get to be a part of making that, whether it’s a choose-your-own-adventure-musical that we did, where they actually get to dictate the action of the story or event, or that they just give the location and decide the world we’re going to create.” Joseph, the musical director, who remains largely silent throughout the interview, as indeed he does during the show, is the “magician” or “piano-wizard” who brings the music and therefore the show seamlessly together with his accompaniment. In one of his rare, almost gnomic, comments, he observes: “the thing is the laughter, they [the audience] laugh and that dictates how we respond. It’s an entirely collaborative experience."

I ask them about the Fringe and am surprised to learn, given their experience, how new they are to it all. In fact, when they were initially offered the opportunity to perform at one of the most sought-after venues, at the largest arts festival in the world, they responded with naïve indifference. Tina tells me that, “by the time we came to apply, we had done exactly one show, and it was Land Sharks—The Musical (‘sharks, on land, in Ohio, eating boy scouts’) and I showed up at the next meeting and I was like, so we’ve been offered a venue but I don’t know, shall we go? Shall we not go? We didn’t even realise what a big deal it was.” It was only when they told other people and gauged their reaction that they realised what they were onto. Angie: “now that we know, we’re so excited to see a load of shows, meet other artists, workshop with other artists. We’re so excited for not only what we’re going to share, but for what we’re going to learn.”

The team are going to live together for the first time (Blake: "It’s either the best idea, or the worst idea") in a mobile home in Port Seton, a quiet haven away from the infamous madness of the festival. Just as the interview concludes, Caroline seems to sum up their collective mind: “it feels right because we’ll all be there together. It’s exciting because we all get to experience this magnitude, this crazy, wonderful thing together, and all for the first time. I think it’s going to be really cool!”

You can catch Kaleidoscope at theSpace on the Mile, August 4–19.