Sunday 21 October 2012

Bristol Halloween Sitcom Trials report

Bristol Sitcom Trials team Oct 2012

UPDATE: See videos of all 5 sitcoms


The Sitcom Trials returned to Bristol's Wardrobe Theatre on Friday 19th October for a special "week-and-a-bit-before-Halloween" show, which once again sold-out.  

The evening's splendid host was Becky Brunning, a member of the Bristol team and a terrific stand-up.  Becky made sure the audience was in a Halloweeny kind of mood by regularly encouraging everyone to give their very best spooky noises and evil laughs, and she had a special repartee going with a vocal audience member named Boycie ("You're absolutely in the right place," quipped Becky), and had great fun with the Pitch Fests by asking the audience whether pitches should be placed in her "pocket of opportunity", or discarded to the "floor of regret". 

First out of the gate was "The Brides of Pete-Enstein" by Iain Kellier.  This was one of the more Halloween-y of the sitcoms (featuring a mad scientist and a stitched-together re-animated corpse during a thunderstorm) and was attacked with real energy by the cast. It's a strange law of the Sitcom Trials that the first sitcom of the show  is always the most difficult for an audience to get into, though "Pete-Enstein's" cracking (and very funny) cliffhanger was one of the best of the night. Incidentally, we didn't notice this until late into the rehearsal process, but a fair few of the sitcoms made reference to Einstein - and this was the first, with the theoretical physicist being evaluated on his shagability*.

CALLY - Janet Adams
KEREN - Anna Gallager
LISA - Louisa Smith
PETE - Troy Hewitt

"Three in Tow" by Ioin Carney was up next - a more sedate and character-driven piece about ghosts, and probably the most traditional of the sitcoms.  The audience seemed to get this one immediately - proving once again that a simple plot, strong characters and a high gag-rate is always going to play well in a live environment.  The core Bristol team are a competitive bunch, and actor/writer Lewis Cook has pointed out that he's now been in all three winning sitcoms staged in Bristol this year.  Next time we'll cast him in all five, to give all the sitcoms an even chance.  A line of dialogue from "Three in Tow" -  "We buried your lifeless corpse, so call me Einstein" - was the second reference to the Nobel Prize winning father of modern physics.

RUTH - Naomi Carter
PETER - Lewis Cook
SANDRA - Janet Adams
ROGER - John Lomas

Sitcom number three was "The Princess of Darkness Wants a Tan" by Oliver Ley, an almost pantomime excursion into a fairy tale land populated by evil princesses, put-upon handmaidens, vampires and werewolves. This had the largest cast (who all raided the costume box) and some complicated staging - especially regarding the werewolf.  And just as with "Se7en", David Fincher's block-buster serial killer movie, it seems an audience will always love a shock revelation about a severed head in a bag/box.

CINDERELLA - Anna Gallagher
VLAD - Lewis Cook
LUCIEN - Troy Hewitt
QUEEN - Janet Adams
KING - John Lomas

After the intermission, Becky read out more Pitch Fests, a few of which were amusingly based around cheese or cattle (there may have been dairy workers in the audience), plus a near-the knuckle Jimmy Savile themed pitch that immediately hit the floor of regret. 

"Mid-Afternoon of the Dead" by Kev Page kicked off the second half of sitcoms with aplomb - this one has some nifty ideas and a quirky perspective on the zombie holocaust sub-genre.  A malfunctioning prop aside (actor Troy Hewitt's look of surprise was one of my favorite things of the evening), this went swimmingly from the get-go.  Our third Einstein reference here was a visual gag (supported by dialogue) which had the brains-hungry undead menace distracted by a photo of Bert, the guy who did that e=mc2 thing.  Kev Page was in the audience, with a friend named Matt who very kindly filmed the show; hopefully very soon we'll be able to upload the footage.

GEMMA - Louisa Smith
JULES - Naomi Carter
PROFESSOR - Janet Adams

"Here Comes The Science" by Stephen Keyworth was the last sitcom of the night, and the one that didn't feel like a pilot episode; with minimal exposition we were immediately into a developing plot featuring strong characters . In rehearsal, this very British sitcom suddenly became very American, which seemed to work perfectly. Oddly, despite being a sitcom about scientists, this didn't have an Einstein reference.

FIELDS - Troy Hewitt
YORNING - Louisa Smith
BARK - John Lomas

As the voting took place, the winning Pitch Fest was chosen retro-stylee, with a member of the audience invited on stage to catch  slips of paper as they were thrown in the air, with the rest of the audience joining Becky in singing the theme tune to "The Crystal Maze".   (Incidentally, the winner never made himself known to me, so please do drop me a line if you're reading this!)

The votes were close - closer, I think, than in any previous show at the Wardrobe.  

"Three in Tow" = 14
"The Princess of Darkness Wants a Tan" = 13
"Here Comes the Science" = 12
"Mid Afternoon of the Dead" = 11
"The Brides of Pete-Enstein" = 8

Congrats to Eoin Carney, who sadly couldn't be with us because he lives several thousand miles away in a completely different time zone.

A huge thank you to all the writers; and to the brilliant cast (especially Louisa who gamely battled with a cold so that the show could go on); to Becky Brunning, our marvelous compere for the night; and to our talented director Alistair Hedderman; and to Kev F, as always; and to the Wardrobe Theatre who are a complete delight to work with.

Our next show will be on Friday Feb 22nd - stay tuned for details.

--Vince Stadon

* I've just remembered that we had an Einstein reference in one of the sitcoms in the first Bristol show back in March, so clearly, for reasons beyond my comprehension, this is now developing into some kind of weird in-joke.

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