Blog

5 minutes with Lucy Fennell | Dirty Picnic Club | January

In this week’s blog we spoke to Lucy Fennell, the creator and director of Dirty Picnic Club. This new show is part hidden camera show, part social experiment, part improvised performance so we were intrigued to find out more!


1. Tells us a bit about the show, how did it come about? 

I had a residency at the Bristol Improv Theatre last February and created a show called ‘Is it improvised? Does it matter?’ which gave me a chance to scratch an itch I had about the results of smashing together improvised and scripted content and getting audiences to guess which is which. It was a revealing experiment and Dirty Picnic Club is an evolution of what I uncovered with that project- that improvisers raise their game when they are trying to pretend that they are working from a script. I loved seeing improvisers off balance and out of their comfort zones in a different way to usual. I wanted to know what was next. What would happen if the improvisers know nothing other than the start time of a performance?

2. Who’s in the cast? 

The inimitable improv jedi Caitlin Campbell of Murder She Didn’t Write and Adventures of the Improvised Sherlock Holmes, man of the and indeed ALL moments, John Gallagher Portero of Jazz Police and One Board Man, one woman cyclone of clown and subversion Imogen Palmer of The Delight Collective and  IMOGENÉ, wordsmith, scholar and bacchanalian wizard Sam Hall of Steamed – A Dickensian Improvised Christmas Tale and sublime wrangler of fiction and fact Alison Cowling of Riddlestick Theatre.

In addition, there will also be new esteemed guests each month from groups such as Impromptu Shakespeare, Bumper Blyton, Whose Line and Austentatious.

3. What exactly is a “dirty picnic”?

Yes, well, it does sound dubious doesn’t it? I would love to be able to tell you a meaningful story behind that name, but in truth it’s just what I call it when I eat a picnic of reduced items from the deli in my car (who doesn’t enjoy an onion bhaji and a pork pie eaten off a warm dashboard?)

In all seriousness though, the title reflects the diverse selection of challenges and provocations used to tip the performers into chaos for the audiences’ pleasure. And I think it sounds cool AF. 

4. How have rehearsals been going?

The performers know nothing about the night including the format, the suggestions or the surprises we have planned for them, so rehearsals have been very general and aimed towards getting the performers working together to create the flavour of performance I like best; authentic, highly ambitious and dense with subtext and poetry. 

We all know that improvisers are unprepared in terms of what is going to happen, but I think that most improvisers are unprepared in a way they are utterly prepared for. I want to see what happens when you push improvisers off balance and they have to react and maintain composure (or not) in response to the completely unexpected. Expect an improv show crossed with a social experiment, crossed with Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway.

5. What are you most looking forward to doing on the night of the event? 

I’m really looking forward to secretly colluding with the audience in the run up to the show and to seeing what happens when an audience have the upper hand over the performers. I’m excited to see the performers in their own personal ‘free fall’.  Exhilarating, terrifying. 


Dirty Picnic Club is on Sunday 12th January. Tickets are £7 and can be purchased here.

We are currently online only due to the pandemic. Follow us on https://www.twitch.tv/bristolimprovtheatre.