It’s with a heavy heart that I drive out to the desert and bury another character there. Four graves. each made of stone and etched perfectly with the names of the characters I’ve dragged out the back of a pick-up and dumped in the ground, along with their costumes – Tim Ropp (Bell Hop), John Doe, Denim Elliott and the freshest of them all Brillo Paddins / Poblin.
Now the dramatics are over, it’s a time for reflection. Over the weekend I was lucky enough to be a part of Southend’s first ever 48 Hour Improvathon. Two days and two ngiths of absolute insanity, music, comedy and pathos with an incredible team before me and behind me. The effort that goes into an improvathon is incredible by all concerned but the work that has to go in before we even arrive is what gets me the most. Our director, Ali James, is an unstoppable improv machine. I can see the cogs turning as she threads it all together, helped along the way by John, Cat, Jess, Lily, Alex, Lauren, Rhys, Vicki, James, Chess and Jeremy. We were also lucky enough to have two guest directors in – Jonathan and Ross Bishop, who brought their own angles to proceedings and ensured that the body count and mutilations were ramped up during their hours.
Two things always astound me about these shows. The first is the sense of camaraderie that comes from the team. Some of them are friends I’ve known for over a decade. Others are friends I’ve made specifically through improvathons, and that bond is unwavering as a result. Then, new people will slot in and add another string to Sticklebricklas’s bow (you had to be there). The way that the cast and crew carry one another through the light and the dark is so touching, human and wonderful that I couldn’t help but burst into tears at Hour 44 when we were asked to talk about the experience and compliment our scene partners.
As you can imagine, over the course of 48 hours, there is a lot of content. So many inside jokes. If anyone has the mental capacity to later callback to something that occurred in the days before then it is rightly heralded as a triumph. Some of the key memories for me include:
– That first rollcall
– Never learning the words to Neverending Story
– Magic Sandals
– The Elders’ Theme
– Karaoke at The Dancing Phony
– An unexpected pizza delivery from Twenty One
– Baking A Cake song
– The Air Fryer beard
– Tim Bimblebum losing his memory
– Gormless getting angry about the giant dice
– Gwenneth’s accent work
– The Golden Gonad
– Jon Sleet
– Going full Poblin mode
– Killing Cuff (with absolutely zero consequences)
– The failed hobbit incest storyline
– Prince Asprey forgetting his own name
– The power of Malevolience
– Anyone having to ride on Rowan
– The twenty year polygamy
– Helob and their spider children at the water park
– Bubbles song
– Heavy Is The Head That Wears The Crown being a certified ballad
– Watching anything Flabbergast did with full commitment
– Porridge for breakfast
– Stumpy Rumpy breaking half the cast
– Fighting the Balrog
– The Wall
– The Death of The Itcher
– Uberiyon driving us all around Middle Mirth
There are so many more moments that return like fever dreams and I question how much of it happened or was just the panic when I slept for six hours and worried about missing out on anything.
What an unexpected journey. Here’s to the next one.
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