This month is a fantastic one of The Phoenix Remix, as we are interviewing a duo whose show debuted at Brighton Fringe. Meet The Bean Spillers, Sam and Alex, a musical improv show that works by using a single piece of gossip to create an improvised narrative. Today I speak to Sam and Alex about preparing for a show.
Tell us about the sort of rehearsals you do to get ready for a show?
So we do weekly rehearsals just us 2 (often split into half admin half improv!) as it keeps us on the ball and stops us getting rusty between shows.
Sometimes we have a rehearsal before with the guest (if all our schedules align that is!), but sometimes we meet them half an hour before – it depends!
When you first start performing shows, what is your key advice to new troupes to finding the stage time and getting key slots?
Sam: Go for it! We have learnt so much from doing it on stage and, if you can make it work, I think that’s the best lesson.
Alex: We went down the fringe festivals route with a fully formed hour show as opposed to shorter slots working the idea up as, for our show, part of the appeal is that it’s a whole hour off one bit of gossip. That won’t be right for every show, but it’s worked well for us.
Do you have any pre show rituals – if so what are they?
Alex: We do the same classic improv warm ups before every show, but we’ve customised them to make them more narrative (e.g. Doo Doo Run Run but it’s also a story with a 5 act structure!)
Sam: We also tell every member of the cast and crew they are an Aubergenius…
Alex: Compliments go a long way.
Sam: You’re great.
Alex: Stop it, you.
Describe the feeling you have when you host a show and people specifically turn up to see your troupe?
I mean, for us that is every show – so far we haven’t done any mixed bills so when people turn up, they turn up to see us! Or, most probably, they turn up to see the brilliant special guests we’ve had including Ruth Bratt, Katy Schutte and Ali James.
We went down the fringe festivals route with a fully formed hour show as opposed to shorter slots working the idea up as, for our show, part of the appeal is that it’s a whole hour off one bit of gossip.The Bean Spillers
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?
It’s more narrative ideas like the Hero’s Journey, 5 Act Structure and reincorporating ideas from earlier on in the show. That said, shows often go off in different directions as we ‘follow the fun’, and we just have to make sure we tie it together in a satisfying way by the end of the hour!
On the 24th April you have a show at Hens & Chickens theatre, what can you tell us about that?
It’ll be our second show this year at the Hen & Chickens after our sold out show on 27th March (despite it being Mother’s Day!), and we’ll be announcing our special guest and pianist on social media @wespillbeans so head on over there to find out more!
How do you wind down after a show?
Alex: Normally some form of drink in the pub! If it’s the middle show of a run that’ll be orange juice and lemonade, last show probably an IPA! I find the 30 minutes after a show I slowly crash as the adrenaline goes and I decompress, before slowly becoming human enough to socialise again.
Sam: I like to stare at a wall. And then get a pint.
What has been some of the best advice you have ever been given about improv and comedy?
Alex: Don’t double joke (one good joke is enough!) and things can usually be shorter.
Sam: Make the other person look good is a classic but we’ve adapted it to always make the special guest look good (in an ideal performance they are the star of the show).
What would you like to see happen to comedy over the next ten years?