May 22, 2019

Filming Botany on the Mutant – 50 hours of Extreme Theatre at #improvathon 2015

First impressions of the 50 hour improvised play on now at Lost Theatre

Improvising is a great skill. Making a one hour improv show is remarkable ( Austentatious are the experts – and there are a couple of actors from that cast in this production). But the Improvathon laughs at such short durations. This weekend Extempore theatre are putting on Tinsel Town, an improvisation that makes theatre an extreme sport. It lasts for…50 hours. Even the Oberammergau Passion only lasts for five.


It started today (Friday) at 7pm and will continue until 9pm on Sunday. It sounds lunacy and I would say it was a one-off never to be repeated event – except that this is the eighth such comedy extravaganza. Some red-wrist-banded dreamers in the audience are aiming to watch all fifty hours. You don’ t have to be that mad committed, but why not join them for a couple of hours? Pop to the Lost Theatre in Stockwell and get a slice of the excitement.

The premise was decided at least far enough in advance to get flyers printed and judging by the fluency of the opening lines the actors weren’t given their characters at 6.59pm. The play is based around Sleepless Studios in Hollywood.  Sleepless has the motto the future is redoing what we did in the past and they are working on their new film, Botany on the Mutant. From what I saw this is a work unlikely to become a cinematic classic. Tinsel Town has a large cast, including silly names (Kitty Litter, Beverley Hills) and silly characters (Paddy Chan – Ireland’s top Kung Fu actor). It seemed there were too many characters when they were all introduced at the start, but they will all be needed over the length of the show. Actors aiming to make the whole 50 hours include Mark Meer, Joseph Chance and Charlotte Gittins. They and the rest of the troupe will be joined by guest performers throughout the night (and day. And night. And day.) The Pyjama men and Mike McShane are promised, and if you hurry you might catch Cariad Lloyd who is already on stage.

I’d imagined a gang of actors muddling through but Tinsel Town has a CO who describes each scene and announces who will be in it. We move now to the offices of…who is with…talking about… I suppose some structure is needed with such a huge undertaking but it does take away from the flow of the action. Actors can and do jump into scenes, but only in minor roles. The two directors Adam Meggido and Sean McCann take turns in moulding the action in this way and planning the basis of each scene. Within that structure the actors decide what happens and improvise their dialogue. It is in these verbal flights of fancy that most of the humour is found. I like to leave, only so I can return, explained one character, whilst another explains his murderous tendencies by a hospitalisation he suffered as a child. Born without shoulders he needed a transplant, but the only shoulders available were from a killer.

The actors run with any mistakes and incorporate unexpected occurrences into the script. The theatre’s squeaky chairs have already led to a running gag about noisy loo seats.

As sleep deprivation kicks in the mood and direction of Tinseltown will change, but an appreciative audience enjoyed the start of the play and its good natured hilarity. It will be interesting to see who survives to the end – which is not something you usually think when going to the theatre.

A unique theatrical experience. And lots of it.

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