For this weeks Show of The Week we are heading to the Brighton Fringe and to a twoprov act that are performing between the 24th to the 27th May at The Warren. If you get a chance then you should definitely go and see them but in the mean time why not hear what they have in store for you! I spoke to Rachel and Alex to find out all about it.
Hello guys tell us all about who you all are and a little bit about yourselves.
We are Rachel and Alex from Between Us, an improvised play about one couple’s relationship.
Rachel: I trained as an actress at Drama Studio London, where I discovered this really fabulous artform called improvisation and now I’m addicted! I generally perform narrative long-form. Back in the day I was in Upstairs Downton and I also co-created CSI: Crime Scene Improvisation.
Alex: I started doing short-form improv comedy with Shrimps at the University of Sheffield back in 2009. Since then I co-founded and coach Sturike Comedy, who mostly do long-form, co-founded the Sheffield Improv Jam and started teaching workshops and courses, so improv is a pretty huge part of my life.
How did the show come about?
Rachel: When I moved to Sheffield I wanted to start a narrative long-form group, so I teamed up with a group of improvisers from Shrimps and we created Scriptless In Seattle, the improvised romcom.
That show was so much fun, and we got nominated for Best Improv Show at Leicester Comedy Festival 2017. When Scriptless came to an end, I realised how frustrating it is that in a romcom you tell a story that ends with a couple forming, but in real life the interesting stories are the things that happen between couples. So I asked Alex if he wanted to try doing a 2prov relationship drama.
The amazing thing was – to misquote JK Rowling – that the show walked into my head fully formed. When we were building CSI: Crime Scene Improvisation and Scriptless In Seattle, it took several months to winkle out the right format, but Between Us arrived on a platter.
Alex: Rachel reached out to me after Scriptless and asked if I wanted to do a dramatic 2prov show. It felt quite outside my wheelhouse at the time… which was a perfect reason to give it a go! We geared ourselves up for a long development process but at the end of our first rehearsal everything had just worked so well that we resolved to get it in front of an audience of supportive, improv-savvy friends for feedback as soon as possible and the rest is history.
Tell us a little bit about the shows that are happening this week?
We’re performing at The Warren as part of Brighton Fringe. We had such a great time there last year and we can’t wait to be back. Brighton is a great improv town in a stunning location and The Warren is like a festival within a festival where you can get a drink, stay for a show, repeat, for a whole month. Love it! We’re extra excited to be going the same weekend as our buddies at Stealing The Show, the improvised heist movie.
What improv styles do you want to see more of this year and why?
Rachel: I’ve always been all about long form, especially genre-based, and something I’ve really loved over the last year is exploring premise-based improv, including montages, armandos and harolds. This is thanks to Sturike, and also Tom Young at The Same Faces in Leicester and Ben Hall at Fat Penguin in Birmingham. It’s great to explore a type of improvisation which has a different objective and means a different head space for the performers.
Alex: This year I’d really like to see more 2prov groups – I think the unique chemistry between two really close performers adds something special that you don’t see in larger casts. Little Chicago is a great monthly improv night in Sheffield which recently played host to The Clones (Liam Webber and Lloydie from Nottingham) and Squidheart (Suzie Evans and Kate Knight from Birmingham), two funny, heartwarming and utterly captivating duos.
What festivals are you guys planning on heading to this year?
We’re performing Between Us at Edinburgh Fringe with TheSpaceUK, and also Underground at Buxton Fringe in July. We’d also love to go to the Big If in Barcelona.
It is the month of May – What festivals are you most looking forward to this summer and why?
We’re thrilled to be bringing Between Us to Edinburgh. We can’t wait to create a new Rachel and Alex, a new relationship, every single day for lots of days. Who knows what we’ll discover about ourselves and each other in that time?
What advice would you give for people thinking about starting an improv troupe themselves?
Rachel: Just do it. You might have a really clear idea of what you want to achieve and the kind of improv you want to do. If so, do that. But if you don’t, find some people you think you’d like to work with and start playing until you figure out what’s right for you. I met Lee Apsey at a Hoopla weekend and we both went, “Boom! Let’s work together!” We had no clue what we wanted to do, but six months later CSI: Crime Scene Improvisation had its first gig. In 2018 we performed to over 5500 people, so you never know what you might start. The key thing is to start.
Alex: Every group has something that makes it unique. Working out what that is can take ages, but it should be fun! Every time you perform, the show is different and so are you – that’s the joy of improv.
What is the best thing about a night for the audience?
Rachel: One of the review quotes we put on the Between Us poster is “completely engaging”, and I think that’s the best thing about our show for an audience. It’s really compelling. We’ve had audience members cry, yelp with laughter, wince audibly, call things out to the characters and even address the characters as though they were real. You don’t see that behaviour very often in scripted theatre, but we had all of that in just one year. There is something extra special about watching an improvised drama, where you witness the writing happening at the same time as the performing.
Alex: When our audience members walk out arguing about what went wrong in the relationship and who was in the right, I know we’ve done a good job. If our show has a message, it’s that relationships are really bloody complicated and messy. Often people are surprised when we talk about our characters’ decisions and personalities from an outside perspective because they believed so much in the relationship and the people they saw on the stage – that’s the power of improv.
If people want to find out more about you where can they follow you on social media?
On Twitter and Facebook @betweenusimprov
And Finally in three words – Why should people come and see the show?
Compelling. Heartbreaking. Hilarious.
QUICK FIRE ROUND
What is the strangest thing you’ve ever eaten?
Alex: I’m not very adventurous when it comes to food, but I’ll happily eat a green olive and pineapple pizza, which I’m sure will horrify some people.
If you could trade lives with anyone for a day who would it be and why?
Rachel: Alex! Then I could find out what working with me is really like.
Alex: Probably the American president – I don’t know how much I could achieve in one day to mitigate the worst of his mistakes, but I’d have a good crack at it. If nothing else, I’d learn loads of interesting secrets.
If you could paint anything what would you paint?
Alex: I love Bob Ross and his tireless efforts to make the world a nicer place. One day I ought to try painting along!
What is the most delightful word you can think of?
Rachel: Indivisibility. Six I’s!
Rachel: My daughter’s discovered Mary Poppins and we like to sing Let’s Go Fly A Kite over breakfast. It’s a good way to start the day!
Alex: Into The Dark Unknown (The Marriage Song) by Holcombe Waller really captures the bittersweet, double-edge of love in a way that always moves me.
Who is your comedy hero and why?
Rachel: I love Stefan Golaszewski’s writing. Mum is a gorgeous balance of belly laughs and gentle character comedy, all layered on top of real sadness. I’d like to think we achieve something similar with Between Us.
Alex: Nobody has ever blown me away like TJ and Dave.
What is your favourite movie quote?
Rachel: “Greetings and salutations.” Christian Slater in Heathers. Absolute gold!
Alex: “Constantly talking isn’t necessarily communicating” – Joel in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Who is your favourite cartoon character and why?
Rachel: When I was in secondary school we were obsessed with Bill and Harry postcards. I can see that style of humour in the sketch writing I do now.
Alex: Ashitaka from Studio Ghibli’s animated film, Princess Mononoke – despite being cursed by a literal manifestation of the desire for revenge, he’s always trying to find a peaceful resolution to every conflict. I think that’s admirable.
To buy tickets to this show click here