This week we are heading to Cambridge for our show of the week. The Improvised Heist show Stealing the Show are hosting their monthly show, on the 8th November at Thirsty Cambridge. I caught up with the troupe to find out all about it.
Hello Hugh tell us all about who you all are at Stealing The Show and a little bit about yourselves?
Hi there! Stealing The Show is the Improvised Heist Movie based in Cambridge, UK. I’m Hugh, I started STS by getting in touch with some great Cambridge based improvisors back in April 2017 and convincing them that we should pull an Ocean’s 11 style improvised heist. 18 months later we’re 5 members strong, hosting guest improv troupes at our monthly nights in Cambridge and gearing up for the festival season early next year!
How did Stealing The Show form?
Hugh: I’ve been to a few of the British Improv Project’s residential improv co-op weekends. (If you can, go to one of those. They’re fantastic value for money and great fun.) I attended a workshop run by Kit Murdock of Foghorn Unscripted on building your own longform improv show. During the workshop she asked us to come up with a concept to work with as an example. The idea of an improvised heist movie struck me just as she asked, a bit out of the blue really. I worked on the basics there with a group of improvisors from Leicester and all over. It was such a gem that I knew I had to get something together back in Cambridge and keep it going. I got some improvisor friends together as soon as I got back, booked a room and got to work! It took a good few months for us all to get to grips with the format, improve and refine it until we started performing. We got it on stage in December 2017 and haven’t stopped since. The show in November will be number 15.
Tell us a little bit about the show that is happening this week?
This will be the second of our new monthly night at Thirsty Cambridge. Having organised a couple of shows in their great little back room, we have started doing a monthly show “Stealing The Show Presents…” where we get guest improv troupes in from all over the country for 30 minute slots. Last month we hosted the amazing Bendy House from Norwich. This month we’re staying a bit more local and getting The Impronauts from Cambridge University in. I know I’m totally biased but it’s such a great night! The venue is great. It’s a craft beer and wine shop in a great part of Cambridge. They’ve always got a great food van on outside. Once you’ve got a trendy beer and some street food, you can come into the cosy back room and check out a new guest act each month and our high energy improv heist. Second Thursday of the month if you’re ever in Cambridge. We’re only 45 mins by train out of London, so you’ve got no excuse!
With the Festival season just finished – what have been some of the best acts you have seen this summer and why?
Hugh: Sean and I managed to get down to N16 to see Between Us for their residency there a few weeks ago. Oh. My. God. What an exhibition of what improv can be used to achieve. Alex and Rachel build the story of a relationship from suggestions of an Alex or a Rachel that an audience member knows. It’s spectacularly touching, funny, heart wrenching and beautiful. If you can catch their show then do, they’re really breaking new ground.
Sean: Yeah Between Us was fantastic, I’m a big fan of Rachel and Alex. I better pick another show though, well if you’ll allow me to go beyond Summer, we were fortunate enough to see North Coast from New York on the Cambridge leg of their UK tour and they were phenomenal. I see them every time they come over and I’m always so inspired by how fierce they are how much fun they’re clearly having.
Catherine: I was lucky enough to go to Chicago in September and saw some outstanding musical improv at the Chicago Musical Improv Festival! After Hours from Oklahoma City, ImprovBoston, HAM, Preach, Anarchy – so many amazing groups from across the US, and of course North Coast when they came over here were so great too, one of my favorite groups.
What advice would you give for people thinking about starting an improv troupe?
Hugh: Any show needs to appeal to a team and an audience. I set up STS about 6 months after moving to Cambridge for the first time. From that position, my first step towards starting a troupe was to embed myself in what’s already there first. You’ve got know what shows are already on offer and who’s got time to commit to something new. To secure a team and an audience then your show must offer something new to the team members and the audience. There’s no point in producing another harold team when your town is saturated with them. Improvisers won’t want to commit to it and audiences can already see it elsewhere. Once you’ve got a team, agree on an aim and don’t be afraid to change what you’re doing in pursuit of it. After that, just make sure you’re putting in the hours and chasing goals. Don’t just mindlessly turn up to the workshops every week. Produce a show, apply to a festival, go to the jams. Keep it interesting for you and everyone involved and you’re sorted.
Sean: Make peace with, or try to enjoy, doing the admin. We’re really fortunate that Hugh is such a machine and is just project managing the frig out of us. Every group needs at least one person who’s willing to do the non-fun admin work like getting rehearsal spaces and gig spaces. But then you can also need people for running rehearsals, booking coaches, balancing the finances, submitting to festivals, finding accomodation, sorting out travel and keeping the calendar organised. It can be a lot and it’s the unglamorous work that keeps all the fun stuff happening.
Catherine: Surround yourself with great people – you’ll be spending a lot of time with your fellow improvisers, and I find that the best bit of Stealing the Show is the fact that I get to spend time with some hilarious, talented, wonderful people!
What is the best thing about a night at Stealing The Show for the audience?
Hugh: I can’t speak for the audience, but when I’m on the sideline and in tears of laughter the best bit is definitely the personalities of the team. Everyone’s got such a unique take on any suggestion or scene and it never ceases to floor me.
Sean: A lot of the feedback we’ve received is about how much fun our audiences have, but also about how much fun we’re clearly having too. That’s the absolute best thing that I hope for because seeing people having so much fun improvising is what got me to try it myself.
If people want to find out more about you where can they follow you on social media?
/showtheft, @showtheft, or http://www.stealingtheshow.co.uk
What is YOUR favourite Stealing The Show show you have done this year and why?
Hugh: My personal favourite was a show we did with Stürike Comedy up in Sheffield. We had Alex Keen guest with us and the show just flew. I love being able to get guests in to a format, it gives it such flavour for us and for the audience. It’s a great perk of improv that doesn’t get spoken about enough.
Sean: Sheffield was outstanding and Alex was a real pro but the show we did at Dogface Improv in Norwich was so much fun. I never thought I was going to be some kind of militarily inclined silkworm, or that I’d get David and Catherine to start slowly kneeling down with me as our improvised elevator/lift descended into the floor at a glacial pace, but I’m glad I did. We all really enjoyed getting to jam with audience before our set too, there are so many cool improvisers there.
Catherine: We did a show in Cambridge at the Corpus playrooms earlier in the year, and it was one of my first with the group, and I didn’t know anyone in the audience. I was feeling a bit nervous before it started. However, almost every time I walked on stage, I could hear a woman commenting to her friend “Who is that girl? I love her, she’s so funny!!” And it was such a confidence boost, I had so much fun!
Also with not long left of the year – where else can people see you this year?
Come see us at C3? On November 25th where we’ll be debuting our 20 minute format. Then you can get yourselves back to Cambridge for our monthly night on December 20th. Keep an eye out for us at the festivals next year too.
And Finally in three words – Why should people come and see the show?
Hugh: Quick Fire Funny
Sean: Strange Fun Heist
QUICK FIRE ROUND
If you could be any animal what would it be and why?
Hugh: Pistol Shrimp – It’s the Karate Kid of the sea.
Sean: Animal from The Muppets
Catherine: African Fish Eagle – I have known it to be my spirit animal since I was 14
Who is your favourite superhero and why?
Hugh: Spiderman – it’s the original theme tune
Sean: I know it’s cliche but Batman, because he used to be the comparatively less strong one who outthought the baddies.
Catherine: Squirrel girl – In the original comics she looks absolutely terrifying, and who doesn’t want a squirrel army?!
If a movie was made of your life what genre would it be, who would play you?
Hugh: Con artist movie – Hugh Grant
Sean: Heartfelt indie comedy – Willem Dafoe
Catherine: Musical Blockbuster – Sutton Foster
If you could go anywhere in the world where would you go and why?
Hugh: Hate to be cliche, but Chicago.
Sean: Japan, I love the imagery of the intricate cities and the juxtaposition of the countryside.
Catherine: Costa Rica – jungles, turtles and zip lines, perfect.
What would you do with your “15 minutes” of fame?
Hugh: “You can follow us @showtheft, or at our website www.stealingtheshow.co.uk, come see our monthly shows…” etc. Eyes on the prize.
Sean: Sell the frig out and make mad cash.
Catherine: Finally get the attention of a top producer and make my musical based on the life of Dmitri Mendeleev a reality!
What is one item you could NEVER live without?
Sean: A computer (and I hate that fact).
Last time you laughed very hard out loud?
Hugh: My sister made me laugh, now that I’m an improviser I’ve realised we’ve been playing game all our lives.
Sean: This is tough… I do that all the time. I guess it was last night when I was running a Dungeons and Dragons game for friends. Some new in-jokes were born that I’ll be abusing for a while.
What is your favourite movie quote?
Hugh: P.Sherman, 42 Wallaby Way, Sydney.
Sean: You’ve got red on you.
Catherine: Oh My God, Karen, You Can’t Just Ask Someone Why They’re White