This week there is a very special show happening at the Omnibus Theatre in Clapham Common and if you are a fan of interactive theatre you really do not want to miss this! The Importance of Being… Earnest? is an interactive twist on Wilde’s classic play where the entire audience and cast come together to create the best live theatre show possible. I wanted to find out more so sat down with the team to hear all about it.
The Important of Being….Earnest?
Date and time:
Tuesday 10th March (19.45)
Wednesday 11th March (19.45)
Thursday 12th March (19.45 – Post Show Q&A)
Friday 13th March (19.45)
Saturday 14th March (19.45)
Sunday 15th March (16.15)
Location: Omnibus Theatre
Ticket Link: click here for tickets
Hello tell us all about who you all are and three unknown facts about your group!
Hello! We are an interactive theatre company called Say It Again, Sorry?, which is the hardest company name to say over the phone.
1- Our company name was created and voted upon by our audiences and can be viewed in this fun video:
2- We meet every Monday in North London, regardless of upcoming shows to keep momentum going. If anyone emails us for advice, wants to introduce themselves or just go for a coffee, our answer is always yes – we will find the time.
3- We’re all big Robbie Williams’ fans.
How did Say It Again, Sorry? form?
The company’s Artistic Director, Simon Paris, was asked by the arts and culture programmer for Nozstock festival to create a fun and interactive show for 2018. At a local coffee shop, four friends met and within a couple of hours had formed an interactive art show, Easel Peasel – which turned out to be Say It Again, Sorry?’s debut show.
What’s the upcoming show and how did it come about?
After touring Easel Peasel to all the major UK music and arts festivals, we were asked to return to Nozstock with another show for 2019. Following Easel Peasel’s ‘aim of connecting people to their inner artist’, we wanted to go much bigger and push the boundaries of interactive theatre a little further through a full scale theatre production. A show that culminates with the entire audience on stage. You know, starting small…
Likened to a delicious mixture of The Play That Goes Wrong, Austentatious and Shit-faced Shakespeare, The Importance of Being… Earnest? is an interactive twist on Wilde’s classic play. The entire audience and cast come together to create the best live theatre show possible after the star actor playing Ernest fails to arrive on cue and with the show being streamed live across the nation – the show must go on. The show is reflective of the audience who participate – which means it is different every night!
How did you all meet?
We all knew each other from various productions, workshops and networks but our main connection was through The LAB workshops. Set up by the Artistic Director of Say It Again, Sorry?, the workshops explored different theatre practitioners and techniques. It was participating in these workshops that many of the company members realised how great it was working with each other and that we all wanted to embark on a bigger creative project.
All the audience end up on stage? How did that idea come about?
In The Importance of Being… Earnest?, we offer the opportunity for an audience member to break every theatre ‘rule’ they have ever been told or adhered to. This includes eating, being on the phone, speaking during scenes and of course, stepping onto the stage. Our whole premise is that the show only succeeds because of the audience and so we wanted to eradicate the separation of actor and audience that traditional theatre spaces encourage. At the finale of the show, the audience deserves the biggest applause – so it is important to us that they should take the final bow, as part of the company. Also – our Director had a recurring dream about audience members shooting confetti cannons as a grand finale so it had to be done.
Also it is a fun way to experience a show isn’t it!
Yes! That’s exactly it, it’s an experience that the audience and actors are sharing in the moment and creates a level playing field. The atmosphere is electric and there is a sense in this show that anything can happen – which certainly makes it impossible to nap to.
What makes a good interactive show?
The actors on stage must be skilled at improvisation – offering the opportunity for the audience to feel that whatever they choose to do or say on stage in the moment, is the right choice. The actors must not set up a sense of right and wrong in the theatre, but one of celebration of being active or participating. When the level of interaction is cumulative – allowing a build to keep interest towards a climactic ending. Where there is something for everyone, no matter where you sit or what character you are playing, that everyone is included and that buying a ticket to the show, makes a difference to the outcome.
What makes a bad one?
There is a common misconception that a bad interactive theatre show is down to a ‘bad’ or unresponsive audience. This is untrue – audiences WANT to have a good time and if they know it is interactive they want it to be good, any problems with communication and effectiveness are purely down to the structure or delivery of the show.
For example, when there are a lot of dead ends and false leads for the sake of ‘being interactive’ instead of taking into consideration the journey, satisfaction and relevance of the audience member actually being there. If it is clear that the story can be told quite easily without audience interaction, participation can seem laborious and or/pointless.
Tell us a little bit about the extra events during show week?
We’re hosting a post-show Q&A on Thursday 12th, where the audience that are cast in the lead roles are also invited on stage to answer (and ask) questions.
How are rehearsals going?
Rehearsals are so fun! A new cast member has joined the team (Alex Phelps who plays the role of Simon Slough, the Director) so it’s been wonderful getting to know him and watching him discover the character. A lot of our work since July 2019 has been producing the tour for 2020, so to get creative and watch the production develop in rehearsals is the icing on the cake for us.
They have been open to the public as well haven’t they? How does that work?
We essentially allow anyone, with any level of experience to observe or participate in a rehearsal of the show. There is no pressure to get involved but feedback and creativity is always welcomed by the team. Afterwards, there is an opportunity to have a coffee and meet the company in a more informal setting, to engage and network.
The first couple of times we did this it was a little bit scary. As a new company we were putting ourselves out there for some serious judgement, but now it feels weird to rehearse without an audience present and we’ve become way more comfortable taking risks ‘out in the open’.
What three things are you looking forward to about performing in this show?
The best thing about this show is that it has a new cast every night. The relationship created with each new cast member is unique and we gain a bunch of new friends after the show!
When it becomes clear that the lead actor playing Ernest is going to be re-cast and a ripple of fear and laughter goes through the audience when they realise that one of them is going to step up and rise to the challenge.
I don’t want to say too much about this one, but there is a pretty epic sword fight…
It is the month of March! Spring is just around the corner, what is the way you keep a spring in your step with your shows to make it fresh for you?
A full new cast every night definitely keeps it fresh!
It is a new decade – what would you like to see happen to theatre in the next 10 years?
We’d like to see more support for young theatre companies taking risks and developing new concepts – via space, mentorship and financial support. Having the chance to take a risk and encourage failure is vital to theatre constantly evolving, it certainly has been vital to us.
We’d love theatre companies to feel like they can be open about their development process in the early stages so the theatre industry doesn’t become a closed entity where anyone is scared of being less than perfect. We’d like a much closer relationship and consultation between potential audiences and theatre-makers in the initial stages of devising, for audiences to be trusted and empowered to have a say in the work that is created and relevant for them.
How do you warm up before a show?
Usually singing Disney songs, a group hug and discussing post-show pub plans. We find the term ‘Wupah!’ has magical qualities.
How do you wind down after a show?
After we clear up an obscene amount of confetti, we usually socialise with our audiences on stage and at the local- some of us go home and cuddle our dogs’.
If people want to find out more about you where can they follow you on social media?
Our company socials on Insta/FB/Twitter: @sayitagainsorry
Our show socials: (twitter and insta) @interactearnest @interactiveearnest (FB)
And Finally in three words – Why should people come and see the show?
An unforgettable experience!