This month we are celebrating comedy and the act at the forefront is improv act Swipe Right. This year they were meant to be performing their very first Camden Fringe as well as holding their annual Summer Fling extravaganza but due to the pandemic that has been put on hold. So to make up for not being able to perform we decided to interview them to find out all about the act! So we have a huge interview with the troupe going out this month! Today we talk about preparing for a show.
Tell us about the sort of rehearsals you do to get ready for a show?
If we’re working on a particular show (like How To Be Human) then we’ll dedicate rehearsals to figuring out what that is – maybe with a coach, an outside eye is always great – but then maybe throw in one where we just muck about to keep things light because otherwise it all gets a bit much. Follow the fun, again.
You are an act on the London Improv scene that is well known – when you first start performing shows, what is your key advice to new troupes to finding the stage time and getting key slots?
That’s very nice of you, again. Be thoughtful, be reliable, put on nights anywhere you can, invite people to play and then hopefully they’ll do the same. And if you want to apply to perform at someone’s night, go along and see what’s like first. Have a chat.
Do you have any pre show rituals – if so what are they?
Not really, so I’ll talk about warm ups instead. Sometimes just a chat, sometimes something big and physical, depending on what we’re doing. Ideally something scenic and something really big and stupid, like Bunny Bunny. Love a bit of Bunny Bunny, and we started doing dance diamonds last year, I think. On the small number of occasions when we aren’t all there before a gig, and only arrive shortly before the set, maybe a really intense stare. And then you go on with that, because that’s what there is.
Describe the feeling you have when you host a show and people specifically turn up to see your troupe?
What I can speak to is the last time we ran Winter Wonderland at the Miller, we had a sign up on the door saying the time we were going to open and, when we opened the door there was a big queue down the stairs and I remember thinking ‘oh my god, all these people are here because we put this on and did this’, and it was just such a cool moment. You spend so long with Eventbrite tickets and schedules and retweeting stuff and then suddenly these people who were previously just names on a ticket list are suddenly in front of you and expecting something that you are, apparently, going to do. Sometimes they say nice things in the bar afterwards. That’s lovely, too. One year we gave away Hawaiian leiis to the audience, and I remember going for a drink after the show and seeing people wearing them in another bar and thinking, ha! Ripples. Cool.
We all know that improv is not scripted but do you have some sort of ‘skeleton script ‘ or format in place that you work towards whilst getting ready for a show? Tell us about it?
In How To Be Human, there is a structure in that the first half is short form games dressed up to look like relationship workshop exercises, and the back half is a long-form set about a single emotion. And we did initially script the opening banter between the consultants to help us figure out what we wanted that to be. But we loosened that as soon as we were confident in the principle of it.
How do you wind down for a show?
A pint? A quick debrief in the bar. I think it’s important to always focus on what you liked, maybe make a cauldron with our thumbs and throw in the things we enjoyed.
Do you remember your first show you did with Swipe Right? How were you feeling beforehand and how did the show go?
Yes – it was a Holodeck night run by Katy Schutte and Jonathan Monkhouse. We’d done a set in the park over the road from the Miller beforehand to get the ‘shit show’ out of us first, so I guess we must have been pretty nervous.
What have been some of your favourite shows you have done and why?
All the Summer Flings and Winter Wonderlands because they’re lovely to create and do, and also Impro Fest because that was our first hour long show.
What has been some of the best advice you have ever been given about improv and comedy?
Do it for fun, but do it well.
What would you like to see happen to comedy over the next ten years?
I can’t think beyond just getting back on stage at the moment!