Screwball Q&A

Q: Hey Screwball Team! How are you doing? How have rehearsals been going?

Hey! Can you imagine if you dreamed up a musical supergroup a year-and-a-half ago, and now your wish came true and you’re watching them play? It’s like that! Every hour is a joy, working with your heroes…

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about the show and what audiences can expect?

It’s an all-star improv tribute to the fastest and funniest romantic comedies of the golden age of Hollywood. Crazy scenarios, heart-stopping dialogue, songs in the style of the great American songbook, and a cast who look gorgeous in white tie. It’s glamour in a bottle! No, glamour in a martini glass! Did we mention the cocktails? 

Q: How did the idea for the show come about? What is it about the Screwball genre that you thought would mix well with improv?

We’d toured genre improv shows for years, and when we were alone in the theatres together we’d sing these songs and act these characters to show off and have fun. Caitlin, the Bristol Improv Theatre artistic director said that was something we shouldn’t keep to ourselves. We were delighted to make it a show.

As for why the genre: the best screwball films are about razor-sharp wits, about surprise and delight, about a battle of the sexes where the women have the upper hand – they’re champagne for the mind, which is why they still top the polls for the best comedies and romances ever made. What a challenge to offer great improvisers, to talk and sing like that…

Q: How are you turning a film genre into a stage show? 

Well, lots of the classic screwball comedies started off as plays – or were turned into them – so it’s easy to capture the same spirit. Plus we’ll incorporate some projections into the show as a way of capturing that style. We can’t say more at the moment but we’re really excited about those. 

Q: Is this show a good fit with the Bristol Improv Theatre? 

The Bristol Improv Theatre team is fantastic, they’re not afraid to make their main theatre into a nightclub-mixed-with-screening room to put on the show. Plus, we have to mention Bristol as the home of screwball comedy – its greatest (male) star Cary Grant was a local boy and you can see that spirit survives in the Slapstick and Cary Comes Home festivals. It’s an honour to join that madcap tradition…

Q: What’s it like to be back performing again after the last 18 months? How are you feeling about things getting ‘back to normal’? 

Well, we’re still being COVID-safe backstage – with regular testing, masking when moving around the theatre, and the rest –  so it’s more “on the way to normal’ than all the way there. That said, it’s great to discover that the atmosphere of the BIT is the same as it was. Audiences will always have that same thirst for the live experience, and good improv is the best way to slake it (aided, of course, by a themed cocktail from the theatre bar). 

Q: Has the pandemic changed any aspects of the show from when you were originally meant to perform it in 2020?

It’s less a case of the structure changing than the mood – in a strange way, being apart for 18 months has made us more of a company. We all appreciate what we’re doing a great deal more; we’re more joyful, more willing to dive in, and that has had incredible results for the show.

Q: What part of the process are you most looking forward to/have enjoyed the most?

We’re still devising the show for its premiere at the Bristol Improv Theatre, so if we’re allowed a cheat answer, the best part is always the next rehearsal, trying the new things we found! So far, though, the most exciting thing has been the music – Tom [Hodge, pianist from Paul Merton’s Impro Chums and Dragprov] has helped us find a style that’s rooted in the jazz age but still sounds fresh today. 

Q: Why should people come and see the show?

Timeless romance; timeless glamour; timeless music; watching the quickest wits in Improv win your heart. There are few better improv casts you could see in the whole country, and it’s a thrill to be able to show them at their best.

Buy tickets for Screwball: An Improvised Misadventure. 23rd, 23th, 25th, 30th September; 1st, 2nd October. Time: 20:00