Saturday 29th March – 7.30pm: Upstairs Downton: The Improvised Episode
After sell-out shows at London ImproFest 2012, Dublin’s Improvfest Ireland, The Dave Leicester comedy festival and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2013; Upstairs Downton quickly gained a reputation for rapid-fire gags, genre-bending and glorious silliness inspired by period dramas like Upstairs Downstairs and Downton Abbey, with all their twists, turns and questionable characterisation.
You needn’t be a fan of coat-tails and entails to appreciate the show’s unique brand of fast-paced period lunacy. So Ring the servants bell, sit back and join the embittered Sir Lord Julian Chappes, creator of everyone's third-favourite period drama, as he introduces an improvised episode, free from distractions such as scripts, cameras and budgets, and created entirely from the audience’s suggestions.
Cast: Jonah Fazel, Chris Shevlin, Simon Lukacs, Mark Nilsson, Dan South, Maeve Malley-Ryan, Avril Poole, Viv Groskop, Vicki Pipe, Leonie Hill, Rachel E Thorn, Rosy Fordham, Lucy Fennell, Justin Brett, Sylvia Bishop
Find out more about Upstairs Downton below . . .
Tell us about your group
We are a large rotating team who all delight in the surreptitiously overheard conversations, tragic untimely deaths and extended meaningful stares of early 20th century period drama. We all met by happenstance in the trenches of the Somme (improv classes) and went on to fight courageously in the battlefields of Europe during World War: Part One. (Touring the UK). Except the women-folk who were of course safely at home crocheting images of cats (crocheting images of cats).
What was the best piece of advice on improvisation you’ve ever been given?
Lucy: Just turn up
Rosy: Get out of your own way & shut the *fudge* up! Dan) Dare to care
Avril: At any one time your only job on stage is to make your partners look fantastic.
Chris: Always start every scene doing an imperceptibly accurate mime of lighting and then smoking a cigarette
Vicki: If someone hums a tune, sing along
Sylvia: Don’t go for a comedic response, go for truth. Build your scene with bricks of truth and then you’ll have license to do anything. Don’t trust a comedic response, it can be derivative to the ongoing scene work. Jonah: Shout it with me; “I SUCK AND I LOVE TO FAIL!”
What is your favourite improvisation exercise and why?
A game we didn’t invent but like to call; “the accepting circle of international brotherhood” , which is essentially a gestural game of Chinese whispers where you must only ever try to mirror what has been given to you, and not to add anything on top. The bonkers stuff happens of its own accord. tip- The exercise is over once somebody has inadvertently become a squealing monster, a giant chicken, a scared cartoon pigeon or all of the above.
What's your pre-show ritual/warm-up?
We just like to check in with each other and make each other laugh before the show- share an honest connection. Its sometimes nice to go round patting each other on the back, reminding them AND yourselves that “I got your back”. OH, also we play VERY loud happy music and make everyone do freeform dancing to it. Usually Me and Julio down by the schoolyard, or The Muppets chickens cover version of Forget you by Cee Lo. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bRY-eAxHyqY
Recommend a book on improvisation ...
The UCB manual, The Improv Handbook by our good friends at The Spontaneity Shop. Also check out the Chicago Improv Associates Podcast. However.. DONT READ IT. DO IT!
Anything else you’d like to add about your show, your group, or improvisation or the world in general ...
If you enjoyed our show, please come again as it will be entirely different. If you didn’t, please come again as it will be entirely different. We also run a monthly night of improv, sketch and stand-up featuring the top tiers of the circuit every month at The Wheatsheaf pub in soho, It’s called Upstairs Downton & Chums. It’s on the third Tuesday of every month. If your’e looking for performance opportunities, we’d love to host you!