The Nursery had a roller coaster of a ride at the end of last year and whilst there was a lot of sad things that happened they are opening up the new decade and new year with an absolute bang! The really popular performance show TNL returns to the Capital this week and to celebrate it’s return, I caught up with Jonah to find out all about it!
Hello Jonah Happy New Year! How was the end of 2019 for you?
For me personally it was quite jammy, as I finally had more than two days off work since the Edinburgh Festival so I took myself to Asia for a very extended holiday. There’s nothing like spending Christmas Day with a slew of hotel staff singing “ Happy Birthday Jesus” to you whilst they set of some very dodgy looking fireworks 6 inches from your face to make you feel like an entitled westerner. HASHTAG so humbling HASHTAG blessed HASHTAG firstworldproblems
There was a lot happening with The Nursery at the end of last year – for those who do not know – lets briefly talk about it?
Yeah, that’s putting it lightly! So we were JUST in the process of closing the first training centre in London Bridge which was hugely successful for us, and saw thousands of theatre makers and improvisers flowing through the doors, whilst setting up a brand new rehearsal space/photography studio/hot-desk office/ podcast studio and more at Euston Towers. The size and scale of the plans and the build were genuinely epic. We were one month in and just starting to settle into the building when the Landlords informed us that they’d been approached by a commercial tenant and we would have to move out. The ‘Meanwhile space’ model has worked really well for the Nursery for 7 years, lots of landlords, and i am sure it will continue to do so, but things like this will happen from time to time.
The Nursery Team were truly gutted and of course lots of plans that we never got to announce were suddenly without a base to launch them from. Personally I’m pretty pragmatic in crises and the way I see it The Nursery has gone through so many evolutions and through many more trying circumstances and bounced back in a big way each time, as it will again. However, whilst I wish I could give you some amazing scoop right now and share the hot goss on the next phase… as there’s lots more that ALMOST ready to announce, I have been told to plead the fifth by the Artistic Directors!
However, you have some very exciting news for us don’t you! TNL is returning!
You bet it is, From January 16th we’ll be upstairs at the Comedy Pub in Piccadilly Circus every week. Our friends at Hoopla run an awesome jam at that venue on a Sunday and Both Steve Roe (Hoopla’s Big Narsty) and I both thought it would be nice if that building had even more improv. Fun Fact for non-London centric improvheads, The Comedy Pub is 2 doors down from The Comedy Store aka Home to the Players, so maybe we’ll turn that little corner of central London into an improv Mecca.
How do people get involved if they want to see the show or apply for a spot?
If they want to rock up and get stuck into the Jam, they just show up at 7.30pm- we’ll put them on the list and warm up together for 15 minutes, then pop some banging tunes on the speakers and get cracking. If they want to bring their team to play- head to TheNurseryTheatre.com and they’ll find the application for in the TNL show section. There’s a full breakdown of what to expect over there too for anyone who’s not yet been to an improv jam night.
TNL is like no other night on the London Improv scene why do you think it is so unique?
Short answer: Evolution and mystery meat.
Real answer: I think what makes TNL unique is that I’m constantly developing it and I really try to listen and take on board all the feedback we’ve received over the years, both from the guest teams and jammers and from all of the hosts.
TNL has been going for over 5 years now and every time it has a little break I try to evolve what it is we are offering by trying to work out what might be missing in the scene. In the beginning I noticed that other jams were good fun, but players just found it hard to riff together as they were strangers, so TNL introduced to the scene the idea of warming up together before the show even starts. Later we noticed that many jammers were either totally brand new or just out of a level 1-2 class so still needed something akin to teacher support on stage, so we started to really curate the jam sections and give people the best chance of success. We’ll be continuing that and of course the patented MYSTERY JAM section where each week the host devises some devilishly silly concept or artifice and the people jamming don’t know what to expect until they are onstage.
This season it’s all about letting ideas grow. So rather than offer lots of one-off slots I’m offering 3-4 week residencies, which I hope will give the acts selected a good amount of time to work on what they do. This does mean there are just less open spots now, but they are more quality rather than quantity. I’ve never said no to an applicant before- it’s more of a WHEN I can fit people in rather than IF.
New Year and a new decade!! What does the Nursery Have in store for 2020?
We’ve got Monthly shows at Katspace in London Bridge, starting Sunday January 26th with well-known acts like Impromptu Shakespeare and Ten Thousand Million Love Stories, and those will be on Sundays each month, on top of that and TNL restarting, we’re also relaunching the Nursery Originals programme. Readers may remember that is the model that accepts submissions from people in the community who want to direct a more conceptual show and are given a chunky rehearsal and r&d period as well as lots of full-length shows so they can freely experiment.. Nursery Originals have given us; ‘Open Roads’, ‘United’, ‘Carmen ’‘Unbridled’, and of course ‘Dreamweaver Quartet’ to name check just a few. The idea of giving individual creators space to plant a seed of an idea, and a hothouse to grow it and the stage time to see those seeds come to fruition is deep seeded in the Nursery Ethos. Yes, I know, I just used agricultural metaphor to describe the Nursery…
Fun fact, when The Nursery started out a decade ago our slogan was “making ideas grow”, so we’re bringing everything that represents back both in Originals and TNL. The New Season of Originals will launch in the spring to much fanfare but also down the pipeline something that’s been worked on for over a year is… next question.
Also there is a Nursery app on the way as well?
You whaaaa? You mean a free app making improv tools and training available to those who would otherwise struggle to access them, whilst also providing invaluable virtual coaching, suggestions and tips to improv teams and individuals around the globe?
Yeah we’re doing that. It’s called IMPROGO It’ll be live very soon, and with lots more bells and whistles people will be able to access via a patreon (how 2020 of us!) bookmark improgo.com and you’ll be the first to hear more.
What have been some of the best suggestions that you have been given in a show and why?
This makes me think again of the MYSTERY JAM section, one of the things that really makes TNL stand out. Because the hosts have free reign to come up with any wacky concepts for the jammers to try out there have been countless bizarre experiments. Some of our favourites have been; Blackout- jamming with all the lights off, Everyone speaks french- though the host made sure no one in the room could actually speak any French, Arnie- Playing Arnold Schwarzenegger movie clips on a projector and getting the jammers to continue the scene in their own way, Twisted- using the game Twister to begin scenes in contorted positions, There was also one which still makes me laugh, where I gave a different length of string to pairs in scenes and asked them to hold them taught, some scenes were played almost nose to nose, some at arms length and one very memorable prank was when I gave London improv maven Arfie Mansfield a length of string that was deliberately longer than the length of the Theatre and he just left the room, being an outstandingly good egg, he obviously just carried on with the scene regardless. Sorry Arfie (not sorry)!
It is the month of January! What are your new year improv resolutions for this year?
So for the last few years I’ve been doing lots of behind the scenes architectural stuff within improv like producing TNL or my touring show Bumper Blyton, or writing the syllabus for improv in universities and so on, but now all those projects are at a place where they are successful and just work, so I cannot fricking wait to jump back into the melee of the London Scene and experiment again with new forms, and ideas, it feels like a long time since I’ve done improv without having to worry about who’s stacking the chairs at the end of the night, and i just learned that those chairs were mimed.
If people want to find out more about you where can they follow you on social media?
@NurseryTheatre on most social platforms to see new announcements, show line-ups and world famous guest teacher workshops.
To see me post photos of my mums dog wearing costumes, or generally smug holiday photos. They can find me on @mr_jonah_fazel on Instagram. I wouldn’t recommend it. Try Following my main improv show @BumperBlyton instead, its way less smug and a lot more twee and is soon to embark on a 25+ date UK tour!
And Finally in three words – Why should people come and see the show?
SUPPORTIVE . SILLY. SPECIALSAUCE