Turning our boozers into Assets of Community Value
When I started Insert Laughter Here in 2019, we were focusing on short form improvisation games, but I always knew in the back of my mind that I wanted to get into long form. Outside of performing I’m a huge gaming nerd, so D&D and other role-playing games had already opened my eyes to what could be possible in collaborative storytelling. I also knew that I wanted to do something a bit different to what was already out there.
I’ve seen and loved shows by other long form practicing companies like The Showstoppers, Austentatious, Degrees of Error and the Comedy Store Players, and every time it spurred me on a little more to take the leap into developing our long form format.
In late 2022, I finally hit the eureka moment and Spin-a-Play was born. We’d been using a spinning wheel for categories of suggestions in our short games, but I wondered what it would be like to create a whole play based on the spin of a wheel. We started developing the new format in January of this year and it has absolutely blossomed since.
The chaotic joy of having no idea what the audience are even going to put on the wheel in the first place, never mind what it’s going to land on, is indescribable. It’s one of my favourite parts of the show because the ideas that people come up with are constantly delightful – at a recent performance someone said “propaganda film” and I was very disappointed we didn’t land on that.
I feel very lucky to have an absolutely fantastic team of performers in the group. We get together as regularly as we can to practice and hone our skills – but a big part of those sessions is about building the camaraderie amongst us. Obviously it’s impossible to know what’s going to happen in any given show, but that’s sort of the best bit.
Everyone who performs is ready to accept and work with whatever comes up, and I do mean anything – our last play had us performing a “lovely dance” to appease a hungry princess-seeking dragon.
Because we all have that collaborative mindset it isn’t really that scary – well I don’t think so, anyway. Before a show we do warm-up games together, flexing the comedy “muscles” to get them ready. When it comes to the point of bringing the audience in and letting them loose with suggestions, it’s pretty much a case of being in the moment and not worrying about feeling silly because there’s always six other people on that stage with you who are ready to move forward with whatever happens. It’s a lot of fun!
A confession: I don’t like singing or dancing in front of people, I find it really difficult to overcome when I think about it in advance. But, there have been several occasions where a suggestion has come up which means I have needed to do one or both of those things in a scene, and so it just happens without me missing a beat.
It’s like a weird anxiety override I’ve discovered that gives me the power to defeat the demons and just do it – and even weirder, I’ve enjoyed it every single time! (The other more specific fear of mine is that my trousers will split in front of an audience, but thankfully that has never happened…yet.)
Insert Laughter Here has 22 members in total now, and every single one has a completely different approach and style. It’s fascinating to discover what they come up with and what they find funny – often I am caught off guard by something they’ve thought of that my mind never would have gone to, and it’s brilliant.
For the Camden Fringe performances of Spin-a-Play there are going to be seven of us; I will host the show and guide the audience to the suggestion points, but along with me are Adrian, Adrienne, Jen, Mark, Nick P and Nick R.
Adrian tends to find brilliantly obscure connections between characters, Adrienne is fantastically adept with her facial expressions, Jen is hilariously bubbly and chaotic, Mark can always find the best (and often incredibly specific) lines for a scene or moment, Nick P is amazing at impressions and mischievous characterisation, and Nick R (a bit like me) is very high energy with his physicality.
It’s a really great bunch of people to spend any time with, but when they are all working together to create a play from nothing, it’s wonderful. Absolutely mad, but wonderful.
Brilliant question! My immediate instinct is to say a cat. Cats are always presenting themselves as being so calm, dignified and graceful, yet they can switch to zoomies-goblin mode at any moment, plus they often get themselves into stupid situations that are probably quite tricky for them to navigate personally, but to anyone watching they are hilarious. Plus, hosting a show does feel a bit like herding cats sometimes – but in a good way, of course.
You’ll help us create nonsense.
Camden Fringe 2023 // Insert Laughter Here present Spin-a-Play at The Museum of Comedy, Thursday 10th and Friday 11th August, 8.30pm
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