The year 2020 has been a very unusual one and the fact that a lot of festivals have been postponed this summer we wanted to do things a bit different. Due to the fact we cannot use this time to interview and promote acts heading to the fringe, we thought we would use this time to celebrate all forms of comedy! So over the next month we are interviewing an array of acts with some fun questions so you can get to know them a little bit more! Today we talk to an act that this time of year they are usually dominating the Edinburgh Fringe with their fun improv show that is inspired by the world of Enid Blyton – Bumper Blighton: The Improvised Adventure.
Hello there tell me all about your group!
Hallo Holly, We’re Bumper Blyton: The Improvised Adventure, we perform an Enid Blyton parody play for grown-ups in roughly 100 minutes. We invite our audience to cast themselves back to their childhood whilst taking a sideways glance at childhood favourite books like The Famous Five and Mallory Towers. The audience can expect to delight in lashings of ginger beer, grab a cheeky tongue sandwich or wrap their lips around a nice spotted dick! We perform the show on tour up and down the UK, and every now and then we perform a 30-minute preview version at Hoopla Impro in London. The Theatre Company that creates the show ‘The Make Em Ups’ are a cast of some of the UK’s best-known improvisers (as seen in; Austentatious, Showstoppers!, Newsreview, The Maydays, Dreamweaver Quartet and TV’s Doctor Who) so they are all going to takes turns in answering your pop-quiz!
What are your favourite things about being in your troupe?
Vicky Hawley: Myyy favourite things about being in Blyton are the times when we all make each other laugh and delight each other. We all know each other really well and it’s lovely to have a group of fun and funny folk on your wavelength you can spend time with outside of shows! Plus, I always learn something new. I also love that the show gives us a good excuse to wander round dressed up with silly hats, but maybe that’s just me!
Describe each member of the improv acts by describing their characters by what animal they would be?
Amy Cooke-Hodgson: A Hen
Susan Harrison: Baby Chameleon
Liz Peters: A (rampant) Rabbit
James Irving: Yellow Labrador
Rhiannon Vivian: Quokka
Vicky Hawley: A loquacious Peacock
Ryan Murphy: Muttley from Wacky Races
Dan Starkey: Grumpy Cat TM
Sally Hodgskiss: A Wiley Fox
Jonah Fazel: Wile E. Coyote
John Oakes: A Koala Bear
Ali James: A Bright and colourful Macaw
Philippa Carson: A Ferret
Kieran Stallard: A Piglet (in mud)
What has been your favourite show so far?
Amy Cooke-Hodgson: We recently did a tour gig at the Theatre Royal in Margate, which is I believe the second oldest stage in the UK. It was the first time we’d played on such a large stage space and it had a huge impact on the story, the characters and the show was really playful and silly as we *literally* had the space to experiment. The show had a few scenes with little old ladies on push-bikes who were also spies. They kept coming back over and over again with little actual semblance to the main plot, just a row of 6 old ladies on mimed bikes going stage left to right over and over again running behind the huge backstage curtain and reappearing stage left with another piece of irrelevant silly business. It was utter nonsense and a bit of a cheeky move to make in a narrative show, which is probably why it tickled me so much.
How was your group founded?
We actually started out with a very different idea back in 2014, Amy and Jonah had intended the show to be a family friendly- kids improv show, but during our first EdFringe festival we fast found out we had a lot more fun playing when we were not restricted by family friendly themes and language so we took a little while to figure it out and then came back with more of a satirical comedy show that leans into the many strengths our 14-strong cast have.
What is your favourite thing about performing improv?
Susan Harrisson: My favourite thing about performing improv is that anyone can be anything. I like having the freedom to play anything from an old man to a young piglet! My other favourite thing about improv is connecting and creating with other people live in the moment.
What is the most important skill you have learnt and why?
Dan Starkey: We’ve all got our particular strengths and “logic” as improvisors, but I think it’s been lovely as part of a group like ours, when we’ve developed as an ensemble over the course of years now, addressing your own “skill set” and, for me, forcing yourself out of the familiar patterns you can find yourself playing. Given that we’re working within a strong and defined genre, it’s been great to develop the group mind to the extent that we can find the beats and heart of a story together, which will contribute towards a satisfying show narratively, as well as maintaining that sense of fun and bollocking around we enjoy as improvisers and friends who enjoy playing with each other. That, and playing a monkey. I always enjoy that, given half the chance.
Describe your group for people who have not seen you live in 5 words beginning with the letter L?
Kieran Stallard: Lashings of litigious, lascivious and Loquacious Landlubbers
You can only watch three other improv acts for the rest of your life – who would they be and why?
Ryan Murphy: This is a really hard question, but I think I’d pick acts that I’ve only seen once or twice (so I’d like to see a lot more of!) that blew me away by being both laugh-out-loud funny & having fantastic scenework & characterisation. The ones that come to mind all happen to be US groups that came over to perform in the UK – Hebecky Drysbell, Dummy and Parallelogramophonograph
What makes a good improv scene?
Liz Peters: Good improv scenes happen when effort is removed and the players are totally present, discovering what emerges. Which means listening like a thief to every tiny offer and letting that be part of the unravelling. It’s easy (especially in a narrative form) to get stuck trying to push your agenda on your scene partner, but this can halt the flow as you both go through the motions of ‘getting it right’. It results in scenes being played at a distance, as a task to be figured out rather than fun to be co-created. If we can hold our ideas lightly and keep our sense of playfulness and curiosity, we often find that the magic comes from unexpected places
What has been the best suggestion you have been given by an audience?
Jonah Fazel: Because all of our suggestions are hand drawn doodles by the crowd we have a wide spectrum of some amazing doodles and some utter shite. One of the most memorable we had was when we invited people to draw a bothersome modern day trend and at first glance the drawing looked exactly like a Gorilla farting onto a book, we asked the person who drew it and they agreed this is what they’d intended, after the show they came up and told me that it was actually meant to be Boris Johnson but he felt that our interpretation had the same result…
Dream location to perform a show and why?
Rhiannon Vivian: My dream location would be somewhere exquisitely Blyton like a super old, quaint theatre or even an old Victorian school. I think the closest we’ve got to that have been places like The Shelley Theatre Bournemouth It was both plush and ancient in equal measure and 100% haunted and definitely an evening destination for Uncle Quentin and Auntie Mildred, with ice cream in the interval.
If people want to find out more about your group where can they go on the socials?
@BumperBlyton on FB, Instagram and Twittter and we’re on a huge 30 date national tour this Autumn/Winter so well worth a follow to see the nearest theatre to you!
Finally, which improv group would you as a team love to do a collaboration with and why?
Amy: The Italian company I Bugiardini who perform SHHH! AN IMPROVISED SILENT MOVIE really impressed me a few years back when I last saw them. Their storytelling is so clear and precise, and the addition of the silent movie title cards provided by another improviser makes for a hilarious jump and justify game.
Jonah: Probably another one of our friends, Rob Broderick AKA Abandoman- the one-man global improv Hip Hop legend. I just think trying to improvise a full-length narrative Enid Blyton show and mixing in a little Jay-Z, Nicki Minaj and Biggie would be some kind awesome of acid trip that I’d want to go on. Also, Rob is the cheekiest monkey and I think we’d have fun messing with each other on stage.