Showstopper: The Improvised Musical
Our Fringe reviewer explains what it’s like to be part of the show.
This article is from 2010.
As a critic, I favour stealth and subtlety. Get in quickly, do not sit in the front row or anywhere else where the cast can see your notebook, and sneak out the back during the curtain call. I certainly don’t usually sit on stage, with the director stopping proceedings to ask me what I think, or take centre stage during the curtain call, serenaded by the cast.
Every night in the Gilded Balloon Teviot, the cast of Showstopper! The Improvised Musical sweat their socks off to come up with a different, er, improvised musical. Usually they build up each show from audience suggestions but Sundays are Critics’ Shows, where the show is created around a review of an imaginary musical. For this, they need one critic. Hello.
From a checklist of suggestions from The List’s Twitter followers (‘a llama!’ ‘Meatloaf!’ ‘a Greek chorus of evil City bankers!’) Big Society: The Musical, set in a dystopian near-future Newcastle ravaged by public-sector cuts, was born. Director Dylan Emery had encouraged me to write anything I want to see on stage, and to be honest, this Fringe has been far too wimpily apolitical for my liking.
I wasn’t prepared for just how good the Showstoppers are, though. From my 250 words evolved a moving, bloody (and bloody hilarious) story of socialist revolution, complete with villainous Tories and David Cameron having a Bowie moment astride a llama.
At times, I had to remind myself that the songs I was hearing hadn’t existed before that moment – how could they? I’d made them up. Equally impressive was the way the cast created genuinely emoted characters and movement sequences from a line or two of suggestion. Had I actually been reviewing, I would have slapped five fat stars on the Showstoppers (then docked one for that excruciating curtain call moment).