In 1988 I started working with Spontaneous Combustion.
We were improvising full length plays – partly out of boredom with the same old games, partly out of wanting to do something different, partly because all of us in the company have always had an interest in story and form and ways of storytelling – and partly because no-one else was doing it and it was fun.
Our earliest shows, True Confessions and Outrageous Lies, gave me the courage to begin my first book. Performing an hour-long improvised play, with no format, no narrator, and five people, all creating together and individually, often getting it ‘wrong’, often screwing up each others’ great ideas, often not quite knowing what to do next to help a scene – and doing it all in front of a live audience – taught me so much about what people want from story, what audiences (and readers) love, what bores them, what they expect, what they want, and what can surprise them.
I learned too, from my fellow performers, many and varied (including writers Jake Arnott and Patrick Marber) and finally becoming a fivesome that was me, Luke Sorba, Niall Ashdown, Phil Whelans, and Alison Goldie.
And we have two gigs coming up.
One is a little tryout, with just 3/5 of us available (me, Luke and Phil). It’s at The Miller, SE1, THIS Wednesday 27th Feb, 8pm.
The other is all five of us, the full-on thing, for the Bristol Improv Festival on March 7th, 7.30pm, The Bierkeller.
We’d welcome a warm and friendly audience. We’re honestly not sure how it will work or what it will be like, it’s at least ten years since this five of us have worked together. It will be interesting, it should be funny, it might be a bit poignant. It’s likely to be a bit mad.
For the London gig I’ll still be a sprightly under-50, by the time of the Bristol one I’ll be a grand old dame. I fully expect this to show in my improvisability.
ps – if impro/v interests you (or MS, drugs, life, comedy) you want to watch this video blog from gorgeous Jim Sweeney :