Q&A with The Bean Spillers

Ahead of their side-splitting show this Friday at our theatre, we chatted to The Bean Spillers (Alex and Sam) and asked the to ‘spill the beans’ (get it?) on their show…

1. Hey Bean Spillers, we’re so excited to welcome your show! Tell us a bit about your company. How and when did you form / how did the show come about?

A: Hey! So Sam and I (Alex) grew up together in Bath before going to different universities where we both started doing improv musical separately. We then worked together on Gigglemug Theatre’s scripted show ‘Timpson: The Musical’ and when we were working on writing another show (what eventually became our RuneScape-inspired parody musical ‘RuneSical’), the pandemic hit. 

We decided we needed a show that was both properly escapist silliness and as Covid-proof as we could make it, so we felt like a small cast improvised musical about gossip was the way to go! We worked up ideas for the show on Zoom (we even did whole shows on there just for one another!) before our first shows at Brighton Fringe in 2021.

S: And thus, the Bean Spillers were born.

2. Tell us a little bit more about the show – what can our audiences expect during a Bean Spillers show?

S: We get our audiences to all have a gossip with one another before shouting out their best pieces of gossip all at once. From this cacophony of stories, we pluck one particularly juicy one and then use that as a starting point for the whole show. 

We always have a different guest performer (this time it’s Anna Kemp from Bristol Improv Theatre’s own ‘This Is Your Musical’), an improvising pianist and someone improvising lights too! What ensues is often a madcap story with twists and turns aplenty. 

A: It’s funny too! 

3. We LOVE the concept of spinning stories from the silliest pieces of gossip, but why turn it into a musical? What does that add to the show?

A: With a musical, you already have this heightened language of storytelling which really suits our style – we like playing big characters who can burst into song at any moment, and it really lets us push where the narrative can go (whilst just about remaining plausible!). 

S: Also, there’s a lot of big musicals that people generally know, which feels like rich ground for us to parody or subvert with our much looser and playful improvised musical!

4. What’s the juiciest piece of gossip you’ve heard during one of your shows?

S: Someone drunkenly left their takeaway noodles in a bush one night and upon returning to them later found that they were covered in slugs BUT ATE THEM ANYWAY.

A: Someone once said their great uncle was murdered after winning £80 at bingo , that was a good one ‘cause it was just so unexpected! Oh also, someone went into a toilet after Beyoncé to try and steal her poo.

5. What are you looking forward to most about performing in Bristol?

S: We both grew up in Bath so we love coming back to the West Country to perform! 

A: Also, we can’t wait to be collaborating with local improvisers (our guest performer, pianist and technician are all Bristolians!) – it keeps the show fresh. 

S: And keeps us on our toes!

6. What’s your favourite thing about performing improv? Any particularly memorable moments on stage?

S: There’s something amazing about creating a totally original show for an audience which will never be seen again, and with a special guest, a different pianist and often a new theatre to play in, that makes the experience even more one of a kind! A highlight for me was no doubt Alex falling off a chair mid-song but it not even slightly phasing him, he just kept on singing.

A: I love it when the guest improviser brings something totally unexpected to the table. When we performed in Bath, our guest was Jon Monie (star of Theatre Royal Bath pantomime), and I remember him saying before the show ‘I’m fine with the scenes but I’ll take your lead on the songs’. Third scene in and he was playing a taxi driver and singing a solo. Brilliant. 

7. And finally, what’s your favourite type of bean and your favourite way to eat them?

S: Jelly, multiple flavours at once, but never the popcorn one.

A: Baked, ideally as part of full English, ideally with toast but not on toast.

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Amy Iles