COUNTING HOUSE: BALLROOM
Thursday 6th – Thursday 20th August 2015 at 4pm
Lashings of spiffing improvised nostalgia
From the creators of award-winning comedy show Austentatious , International smash-hit Showstoppers! and 5-star sell out show Upstairs Downton, comes a brand new retro improv show inspired by the bumper back catalogue of the nation's favourite children’s author, Enid Blyton.
Precisely 60 years after Mrs. Blyton started legal proceedings to quash rumours that she didn’t employ ghost-writers, the cast of improvisers narrowly avoid plagiarism by creating a new story each day inspired by the audience's drawings.
What inspired this production: did you begin with an idea or a script or an object?
Amy Cooke-Hodgson: Our other/previous shows are long form genre improv shows so we were keen to find a new genre that would sustain at least an hour long story. We enjoy period pieces and knew there was a gap in the market in creating a comedy show that parents could bring children to. Enid Blyton and her canon seemed the perfect place to begin devising a format around. We've spent quite a bit of time reading her works and becoming familiar with her tropes.
Where does your piece at the fringe fit with your usual work?
All the cast members are improvisers from other shows/companies so everyone comes with a wealth of experience in their field - this show however is a new genre for all of us and we've been working together for a few months to become really au fait with the language,etiquette and mannerisms et c (and each other).
What can the audience expect to see and feel - or even think - of your production?
Hopefully the experience of our show will begin before the audience have even entered the theatre space. Whilst queuing the audience will be treated to cream tea, boiled sweets, a cross word and the opportunity to draw or write their suggestions for the show. Just to help get in to the Jubilee spirit!
Because our show is improvised using audience suggestions, we
hope that the audience will feel that they have witnessed a one off show never to be repeated and that they were part of that magic! Hopefully that will make them want to come again and see how the story may be different a second or third time around.
The Dramaturgy Questions
What particular traditions and influences would you acknowledge on your work - have any particular artists, or genres inspired you and do you see yourself within their tradition?
Our show is long form impro which means that we take suggestions at the beginning and then weave our ideas together to tell a narrative [not short form games like Who's Line is it Anyway?]. This art form has been popularised by American Impro theatres and so we often use 'U.S' exercises, formats and techniques to help inform our working patterns.
Impro schools of thought and directors such as Del Close & Keith Johnstone and iO, UCB and Second City have played important parts in shaping our improv brains.Having said that, the show is very British and we have created a 'British' spin on the American style of improvising.
There are of course some super UK impro groups who have paved the way in popularising the art form who we think are great: Austentatious, Showstopper!, The MayDays, Noise Next Door & School of Night.
Do you have a particular process of making that you could describe - where it begins, how you develop it, and whether there is any collaboration in the process?
The process of 'making' happens on stage in front of the audience - everyone is party to it - that's the beauty of the art form. Ideas are used to organically grow character and story with actors listening and building on each other's ideas. If a 'mistake' is made - everyone sees it and joy is found in watching it being dealt with by the actors in a reactionary way - often to great comic effect. Impro by it's very nature is collaborative - not just between the actors but with the audience as well.
What do you feel the role of the critic is?
Improvisers are their own critics throughout the performance [which can sometimes hinder a truly free performance] meaning they are constantly assessing what the story needs, what they can bring, whether their offer was useful or important enough, how they can next best play their part. Because it's a disposable art form, criticism of that exact show is never useful - it'll never happen again. What is helpful is noticing patterns in play, what types of offers/reactions are useful to a narrative and group and which stifle or inhibit the organic growth of the piece.
As a result, it can often be a tricky genre for an outside critic/reviewer to tackle. If there's time, I would always encourage a reviewer to come to see the show more than once - that way they can be convinced it truly is improvised and how the group work together on more than one occasion.
“With her books still selling around 8 million copies a year and with over 750 to choose from, Enid may have written for children, but her stories still delight grown-up children around the world," says Amy Cooke-Hodgson, co-creator of the show. “With the audience's help there’s no telling what kind of stories we’ll discover each show. After all, her work was banned from more public libraries than those of any other author, so a little creative license and a lot of laughs are par for the course!”
The picnic's packed, the eggs are hard-boiled and mother's provided the ginger beer. So brace yourself for a jolly romp through 1940’s nostalgia where it’s always the summer hols and adventure lies around every corner!
Amy Cooke-Hodgson - Chortle Award winning Austentatious, Olivier Award winning La Bohème.
Richard Soames- BBC3's 'Made For Each Other', Chortle Award nominated Beta Males, Monkey Toast.
Alison Thea Skot - Funny Women Finalist, BBC Radio4’s So On and So Forth, The Free Association.
Justin Brett- Showstoppers!, Million Dollar Quartet, Channel 4's Peep Show.
Heather Urquhart- The Maydays, Ten Thousand Million Love Stories.
Olli Izod - Musical Comedy Awards Finalist, Betty Blue Eyes, Battle Acts.
Jinni Lyons - Jinni Lyons is an Only Child (US tour), Destination (Podcast).
Jonah Fazel - Upstairs Downton, The Butcher of Baker Street, The Holiday After Tomorrow (Podcast).