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TINSELTOWN The 2015 London 50-Hour Improvathon

Improvathon 2015In the English language there is a well-known linguistic method used for comparing different levels of things – nominative, comparative and superlative – let me give you an example. To put on a live theatre show is hard, to put on a live improvised theatre show is harder and to put on a 50 hour live improvised theatre show is the hardest of all and yet is happening as I type at the Lost Theatre in Stockwell where Extempore are presenting a 50-hour London Improvathon – “Tinseltown” An improvised comedy soap-opera in twenty-five episodes.

Obviously, as the show is improvised it is really difficult, if not downright impossible, to describe anything in this show but the most basic plot, however, I will try. Picture the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, a town where everyone loves everyone else. Where actors wish each other well in their new films and where producers and studio executives make movies to inform and entertain. Now, throw that imager away and picture the real Hollywood, where naive young people get off the bus thinking they will be the next big thing and end up waiting tables. Where one actress would cheerfully sabotage the career of another to get a particular role and where studio execs care about nothing but ‘bums on seats’. This the true Hollywood where ‘Sleepless Studios’ are making a remake of their most successful – and Oscar winning – movie “Botany on the Mutant’

Every actor, wannabe, eccentric and freak wants to be involved in what will be the biggest movie in town and will do whatever it takes to get on board. For some, this is their last chance to be in a big film, for others, it is the vessel that will catapult their career out of its doldrums and for still others, it will launch them on the road to fame and fortune. Then there are the ‘backroom’ people – producers, directors, hair, costume make-up, janitors, interns – all of whom will do everything in their power – from fixing toilets to hiding the bodies – to ensure the movie is made and protect the studio.

“Tinseltown” is an amazingly ambitious project in so many ways. A core team of sixteen actors perform continuously for fifty hours improvising various scenes of the soap opera and building a story that goes – well nobody really knows where. Each episode lasts around 1 hour forty five minutes and the first the actors know about the scene is when Directors Adam Meggido and Sean McCann announce who is involved and the basic premise of the action. Indeed, watching the Directors, it was obvious that whatever happened on stage came as a complete surprise to them as well – in fact I’m guessing while they have an overarching story arc for the show as a whole, they will often have to amend details as they go reflecting what the actors have given them. In the first performance, there were New York Jewish rappers (on the streets of LA), vampires, Kung Fu techniques used to master a goat and A Railway Child busy waving, waving, waving.

As well as the core team of superbly talented actors/improvisation artists and musicians (yes there is music too) the weekend will be filled with various guests dropping in to add their own help or hindrance to the story and make ‘Tinseltown” a prime contender for the next Soap Opera Digest awards – not that anyone in Hollywood does things just for the gongs.

This is the eighth year that the Lost Theatre has presented the 50-Hour Improvathon and my first time visiting it and I have to say I was really impressed. The quality of the acting was amazing and, considering nobody on the stage knew what was going to happen each time the scene changed I was astounded how well this unbelievably talented team reacted to each other and even sounds around them. They supported each other wonderfully well, adding details to scenes – such as lying on the floor being a bowling alley (you had to be there) – and when not on stage, being in the audience leading the applause as each scene finished.

It is not often that you can go to theatre anytime you like, so whether you are leaving a club, out for a morning jog, getting your lunch at Tesco (other supermarkets are available), want to avoid the FA Cup or just fancy doing something different over the weekend, then the lost Theatre should be your destination of choice. Whether you go for one, two or the entire run of twenty nine, based on what I saw at the opening, “Tinseltown” is going to be an amazing theatrical experience for the audience and I’m planning to be back there a couple of times this weekend to make sure I get my fill of the lives and loves of the inhabitants of Sleepless Studios.
5 Star Rating

Review by Terry Eastham

Back for an 8th extraordinary year.
An improvised comedy soap-opera in twenty-five episodes.
Welcome to Tinseltown! Where Sleepless Studios are celebrating 100 years in the movie business.

A hilarious homage to all things Hollywood, featuring leading improvisers from the UK and overseas, playing a range of lovable and eccentric characters in modern-day Los Angeles. Screen sirens, budding starlets, struggling writers, crazed directors, big-shot producers… it takes all sorts to make the most successful movie studio in the world!

A core group of around 20 actors will play the whole 50 hours, going without sleep, with guest performers dropping in from time to time. There will be a band throughout and all night bar! Come for an episode, or a few, or stay for the whole thing! There is also a special ‘Family Episode’ (Sunday 11am-1pm) where the action is suitable for children.

Originally created by award-winning Canadian troupe ‘Die Nasty’, the event was brought to London by maverick theatre genius Ken Campbell and since then has been produced by Adam Meggido and Extempore Theatre as an annual event (Hoxton Hall and The Park Theatre).

As the performers become increasingly sleep-deprived they lose the ability to censor themselves and an extraordinary new playing style emerges. Wild, unpredictable, funny and engaging, this is live theatre at its most exciting.

Saturday 30th May 2015

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