Hello tell us all about who you all are and three unknown facts about your troupe!
I’m Lucy Fennell, an improviser, director and theatre maker and founder of the monthly ‘Dirty Picnic Club’ night at the Bristol Improv theatre. Things you may not know about our Bristol collective are: one of us cheated death, one of us programmes robots for a living and one of us should technically be in prison. Between us we have broken twelve and a half hearts, a dozen eggs and enough ice for a slush puppy.
How did your troupe form?
I have gathered excellent performers from Bristol: the inimitable improv jedi Caitlin Campbell of Murder She Didn’t Write and Adventures of the Improvised Sherlock Holmes, man of the and indeed ALL moments, John Gallagher Portero of Jazz Police and One Board Man, one woman cyclone of clown and subversion Imogen Palmer of The Delight Collective and Imogené, wordsmith, scholar and bacchanalian wizard Sam Hall of Steamed – A Dickensian Improvised Christmas Tale and sublime wrangler of fiction and fact Alison Cowling of Riddlestick Theatre.
In addition, there will also be new esteemed guests each month from groups such as Impromptu Shakespeare, Bumper Blyton, Whose Line and Austentatious.
How did you come up with the name of your troupe? Was it difficult?
Dirty Picnic Club is about a diverse selection of challenges and provocations used to tip the performers into chaos for the audiences’ pleasure.
And yes, it is that. But it also could have been truthfully called ‘I’m an Improviser get me out of here’. Instead, I’ve chosen to fulfill all my dreams of directing an obscure cult club night and named it the obtuse title Dirty Picnic Club*.
* Rejected names include: Pi**about Lab, Salvage Yard, Club Tryhard and Mock Pig Society.
How did the show come about?
The Bristol Improv Theatre is a great incubator of new and experimental projects. I had a residency there last February and created a show called ‘Is it improvised? Does it matter?’ which gave me a chance to scratch an itch I had about the results of smashing together improvised and scripted content and getting audiences to guess which is which. It was a revealing experiment and Dirty Picnic Club is an evolution of what I uncovered with that project- that improvisers raise their game when they are trying to pretend that they are working from a script. I loved seeing improvisers off balance and out of their comfort zones in a different way to usual. I wanted to know what was next. What would happen if the improvisers know nothing other than the start time of a performance?
How did you get into improv?
I came to improv through clown training which I think is unusual as it meant I had already experienced the joy of failure and the brutal rejection of clown. Improv is a beautiful and playful escape and I thrived under the tutelage of Steve Roe from Hoopla and then joined Impromptu Shakespeare and was directed by Jules Munns. I’ve also learnt from many other fantastic teachers and scene partners along the way.
Tell us a little bit about the show that is happening this week?
This show is the first in a series of 5 monthly club nights at The BIT. It’s a highly secretive show that releases information to the audience via email when they buy a ticket and join the club. By joining the club you are entering into a world of silliness, authenticity and dramatic irony. The performers know nothing about the night including the format, the suggestions or the surprises we have planned for them. We all know that improvisers are usually unprepared in terms of what is going to happen, but the improvisers are unprepared in a way they are utterly prepared for. I want to see what happens when you push improvisers off balance and they have to react and maintain composure (or not) in response to the completely unexpected. Anything could happen as we embark on the ultimate prank show and invite you to watch it all unfold. Expect an improv show crossed with Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway.
What three things are you looking forward to about performing in this show?
Secretly colluding with the audience
Throwing improvisers into unchartered territory
Playing with incredible guests each month
It is the month of January! What are your New Year improv resolutions for this year?
To develop a new format that: secures a consistently entertaining performance, heightened emotional authenticity and requires a live audience.
It is a new decade – what would you like to see happen to improv in the next 10 years?
I think improv is on a great trajectory already but I’d like to see it recognised more by the industry, therefore eligible for more awards and more funding opportunities. I’d also love to see more young people getting a chance to take part in improv at school.
How do you warm up before a show?
For Dirty Picnic Club the warm up includes some meditation, some pulse-building and adrenaline expelling physical exercise and a really good check in to gauge where everyone is at.
What have been some of the best suggestions that you have been given in a show and why?
The suggestions in Dirty Picnic club will be pretty unconventional, the audience might be asked to bring something along to the show, or prepare something in advance. The suggestions will come in all forms, everything is a suggestion.
If people want to find out more about you where can they follow you on social media?
@lucyfennelltheatre and @dirty_picnic_club on insta and @lucyfennell1gm1 on twitter.
And Finally in three words – Why should people come and see the show?
The Dirty Picnic Club is: Wild, Brutal & Live
QUICK FIRE ROUND
If you could have any three people (dead or alive) over for dinner – who would they be?
Tig Notaro, Roberta Colindrez and Jill Soloway- queer artists of my head and heart.
Sorry Sue Perkins. And all the great dead people.
What’s the best piece advice you’ve received?
Extinguishing someone else’s candle doesn’t make yours burn brighter.
Do you have any pets?
Yes, I have stoic little pug x patterdale terrier called Douglas. I love him more than is strictly healthy.
If you could be from any other decade (or era), which would it be??
I like now. The time is now.
If you had to have a tattoo to represent improv what would you have and why?
‘Don’t fuck it up’ somewhere on my thigh, cos what the hell.
What’s on your music playlists right now?
Music is integral to the work I make and so I love to be challenged and moved by my playlists. A talented friend of mine, Bobbie Twaddle, produces odd and eclectic playlists that I use for devising and inspiration. When I’m not working, I love singing musical theatre to my dog. He loves it.
Who would play you in the movie of your life?
Me. I’m available. Please call me.
If you had one superpower, what would it be?
To understand tax.