The improv scene in Newcastle is ever growing with new acts appearing all the time. The group Spontaneous Wrecks have been going since 2014 and next week are set to perform a show which is going to be X File themed. I sat down with some of the guys from the group to talk all things Improv, performing and dinosaurs!
Hey guys! So, how did you come up with the name Spontaneous Wrecks?
Seb: It started with trying to come up with a group name that involved the word improv, or something that intimated that we were making it up!
Dan: We tried all sorts of plays on the word ‘improv’…
Seb: Someone mentioned Spontaneous and someone else mentioned Improvasaurus, and I thought that Spontaneous sounded like the first part of a dinosaur name, like Tyrannosaurus Rex. So I said Spontaneous Rex! We then said that having it spelled Wrecks would imply that (being improv) it can swiftly go wrong! It stuck.
“I have to wear a red jumper on show days. I don’t know how it started but now I worry about what will happen if I don’t. “- Dan
How did you form and when?
Seb: Myself and Michael spoke after an Improvisation Foundation ‘Rat Race’ gig in December 2013. I asked Michael if he fancied putting a group together to try and do gigs on our own.
Dan: The others and I received a message from Seb and Michael in January 2014 asking if we’d like to be part of the group. Being improvisers, we said ‘yes’!
Seb: We first jammed in February 2014 and had our first gig in July 2014
Tell us about your X Files themed show on the 2nd of March
Geoff : We like to have movies or TV shows as themes for our gigs. It’s fun being part of the posters and can be good inspiration for the night.
Casey: We’ve been doing some themed shows for a while, and seeing as the X Files is on its way back, we thought that it was only natural to give March’s show a paranormal twist. It’ll be great!
Geoff: Looking forward to this one as I’m an X Files fan myself.
Dan: Expect aliens, FBI agents and other supernatural happenings… the joke is out there!
For anyone that does not know what Improv is, how would you describe it?
Casey: Simple answer: making it up!
Geoff: It’s acting without a script.
Casey: None of it could happen though without the audience’s suggestions though.
Dan: We do what they want us to do, creating characters, environments, stories and jokes on the way, all completely spontaneously!
Jon : It’s about collaborating with both the people and stage and the audience to create something unique and funny, that’s in the moment and will never be repeated.
“Some of the answers Matt and I come up with really take us by surprise, and we’ve both genuinely cried with laughter sometimes.” – Casey
Before you go on stage and do a show, do you have any rituals or traditions that you do?
Dan: I have to wear a red jumper on show days. I don’t know how it started but now I worry about what will happen if I don’t.
Casey: We play a few warm-up games to get our minds and bodies warmed up.
Geoff: I try to relax and remind myself what things I need to do for the show to help my fellow improvisers and I have a good show.
Jon: Beer and pizza. Group huddle. More beer.
Geoff: Just before the show I have a Brown Ale. This has become a personal tradition for two reasons. Firstly, I like Brown Ale and secondly, it’s easy not to spill in the bottle.
Casey: Personally, I make sure I’ve got a glass of water just off-stage; no booze before the show for me. Getting wasted is for after the show!
Seb: Most importantly we each say one thing we’d like to see from the show that night. Then we all put our hands in together and chant Spontaneous Wrecks!
What’s the most nerve wracking thing about performing improv?
Casey: Mainly the number of audience members! The bigger the audience, the more suggestions we get, and a larger variety of them too.
Geoff: Being an American that has lived in the UK since 2003 I still encounter English things that baffle me. Some suggestions catch me completely off guard but we have a very supportive team and fantastic audiences that make those moments scary but fun.
Dan: For me, it’s always beforehand… are there people there? Are they happy? Are they going to laugh? Will they have fun? Once we get started, I’m usually okay, and the audiences are always lovely!
Seb: For me it’s hosting the show, I find that really challenging!
Jon: Honestly, after the first few shows it’s not that nerve wracking. We all trust each other on stage and our audience is so warm and supportive they stick with us even when it goes wrong!
Tell us about the worst and best shows that you have done
Geoff: It’s hard to pick a worst show as all of them have been great fun.
Casey: For me, the best would probably be the 2015 ‘Wrecksmas’ show. Having such a large audience was great; a couple of The Suggestibles came along too!
Dan: My favourite was probably our first anniversary show in July 2015. We had a huge audience, full of people who’d supported us through the year, and it was just a fantastic atmosphere.
Jon: I realised for the first time how far we had come as a group.
Seb: A real celebration of all we’ve achieved so far!
Jon: And there was cake.
Geoff: There have been some tricky scenes I can remember. For example playing ‘PC Obvious’ and trying to guess the name ‘Margaret Thatcher’. That took a very long time but got lots of laughs.
Seb: The worst for me is probably a private gig we were booked for, a tough drunk audience that forced us to change our approach to win them over!
Dan: I agree, that was much more of a challenge –far tougher than our regular audiences!
Casey: Before I joined the group, I did a show in a very remote location to two audience members. As far as gigs go, that was probably my worst, but we still had fun!
Jon: My worst show was not with wrecks, but guesting with an improv group at the Fringe. Who I quickly realised had very little experience. Most of the audience had left by the end, including my friends!
What are your favourite games to play on stage and why?
Casey: I absolutely love playing ‘2-headed expert’. Some of the answers Matt and I come up with really take us by surprise, and we’ve both genuinely cried with laughter sometimes.
Seb: Accent Coaster for me, I love doing accents!
Dan: I’d have to go with ‘Attenborough’. I can’t say I’m any good at impressions but it’s a regular part of our repertoire and people seem to enjoy it!
Geoff: I love acting things out in Attenborough.
Jon: I love ‘Lines of dialogue’ – having to try and incorporate the ridiculous lines our audience come up with.
There are so many of you! Were you all there from the beginning or has it grown along the journey and if so how?
Dan: It started off with 7 of us, and has gone through a few iterations due to people moving away or having babies, but any former players are always welcome to perform if they’re around!
Casey: We’re a bit like Spinal Tap, but with less drummer incidents.
Seb: We’ve 9 at the moment as when Michael Barrass moved back from Canada we had to have him back in the group as he was a founding member. He never got to play a gig until our February 2016 show!
Geoff: I am one of the founding members that Seb and Michael kindly chose. We are fortunate to have lots of talented improvisers but we all have day jobs. You don’t want to know mine… Trust me.
Seb: We started having large numbers thinking that not everyone would be available all the time, but it seems we all make the time for the gigs!
Have you played the fringe? Do you have any plans to do so in 2016?
Casey: Not yet, but we’d love to.
Jon: A few of us have guested in shows and open-mic slots there over the last couple of years.
Casey: Watch this space!
Why a dinosaur? Does he have a name?
Seb: Because Spontaneous Wrecks sounds like a dinosaur of sorts, when Blánaid, one of our members, drew our first poster she drew a clumsy dinosaur. He sort of stuck as our mascot and he’s called Wrex!
Geoff: We have a stuffed version of him that a fan made that we put on one of the speakers for each gig.
What’s in store for Spontaneous Wrecks for the rest of the year?
Dan: We’re doing a Star Wars-themed show on May the 4th, which I CAN’T WAIT FOR, and of course we’ll be celebrating our second anniversary of shows in July.
Geoff: Lots more shows. Every first Wednesday of the month at the Bridge Hotel for the foreseeable future.
Dan: We also have a few more private bookings lined up, so if you want to book us, get in touch!
Spontaneous Wrecks play the Bridge Hotel in Newcastle on 2nd March. Tickets are £4 but if you book in advance you can get two for one for £5 by clicking here
For any more information on the Improv group visit their Facebook page by clicking here
Or follow them on Twitter @spontaneouswrex