Lorenzo Pacitti

The Showstoppers Q&A

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Six-year Fringe veterans The Showstoppers return to Edinburgh this summer with Showstopper! The Improvised Musical and their family production, The Fantastical Story Factory. We catch up with the group to talk comedy.

Hi guys – could you tell us a bit about the setup of your show?

Showstopper! is an improvised musical. Just that. At the start of the show the audience meets a writer who has only one hour to create a musical. Stuck for ideas, the writer asks the audience for help and from their suggestions we collectively create a fully-fledged musical complete with soaring stories and glitzy song-and-dance routines.

Everything we do is entirely made up on the spot. It’s not an improv show with songs – it’s a musical – that just happens to be improvised. People who like musicals say they love it because they get to see a new musical every night and people who don’t like musicals say they love it because the show deconstructs the musical.

Sometimes we hit dizzying heights, other times we crash and burn, but its all done with good humour and a sense of ‘taking on the impossible.’ The audience feels a sense of ownership because the show always comes directly from their ideas.

Our new kids’ show (The Fantastical Story Factory) is essentially the same – but for kids. Only kids are allowed to tell us what to do (and we will basically do anything they tell us to do!). They can get up and join in if they want. It’s their story. It’s their show. And my goodness have we had fun doing it.

What came first for the group – the improv comedy or the singing, and how was the decision made to marry the two?

A bunch of us were working with Ken Campbell. Ken once said ‘there’s no point improvising unless it’s better than the scripted stuff.’ That was the gauntlet. He often got us to improvise scenes ‘as if in a musical’, so we developed those little games and sketches into a full-scale show of its own.

As Edinburgh Fringe regulars, have you noticed any patterns in audience suggestions up here?

Wherever we go (in the UK or overseas) toilets and the moon come up all the time. The former is designed to trick and cheapen the performers, the latter is considered to be ‘whacky.’ But our wonderful Edinburgh audiences know what Showstopper! is by now so they come with all sorts of excellent and surprising ideas.

Do you have a preference for the more surreal suggestions or the ‘easier’ scenarios?

Neither. We like suggestions that genuinely make for a great musical. We want to be inspired by the setting. You can set a musical in a chip shop (‘easy’) or inside a Pixie’s Hat (‘surreal’) but the best settings are exciting – ‘a carwash in Detroit in the 1960s’ or ‘a coven of witches in medieval Scotland’, for example. We want our audiences to dream big and raise the bar for what’s possible.

Who offers the more creative suggestions, the children you perform for or the adults?

The children. Always the children. They are not trying to be clever, they simply say what interests them. They listen more effectively than adults as well.

Does each of you specialise in a musical style or have your own preferences?

We all try to practice different skills. We want to be the improv equivalent of the Dutch ‘Total’ football team of the 1970s – except with longer shorts and better facial hair.

Finally, what can we expect from The Showstoppers post-Edinburgh?

International touring. After trips to Ireland, Italy, China and Canada, we’re off to see more of the world!

Showstopper! The Improvised Musical, Gilded Balloon, Edinburgh, 30 July – 24 August, £15/£14 concessions, edfringe.com