Monday 2 July 2012

Sitcom Trials Bristol report

The Bristol Sitcom Trials team took to the stage at the Wardrobe Theatre on Friday night for a sell-out show that was packed to the rafters.  The heat inside the room sometimes threatened to lead to outbreaks of spontaneous human combustion, but the audience were absolutely wonderful, filling the theatre with laughter and merrily joining in on the spirit of things. (Read the 4 star review here)

Photo: Left to right - Troy Hewitt, Linda Westmoreland, Alistair Hedderman, Louisa Smith, Ziggy Ross, Naomi Carter, Janet Adams, John Lomas, James Dowdeswell, Lewis Cook.

James Dowdeswell, a former Bristol Sitcom Trials member from back in the day, was the show's brilliant host for the night, and the audience were really appreciative of his superb stand-up comedy.  James is preparing for his "Urban Wurzel" show at Edinburgh, which promises to be an absolute corker of a show.

The Sitcoms:


This started with a bang (a woman sat near to me gave a startled WTF when she heard the shotgun sound effect) as Macdonald the farmer-who'd-rather-be-a-detective bounded on stage, searching for a crime to solve.  Brini, the teenager with attitude, got all the big laughs, and by the time we got to the cliffhanger, the audience were well into this sitcom, particularly enjoying the fluffed lines and technical hitches. 

Macdonald:  Lewis Cook
Brini:  Louisa Smith
Mrs Cutler:  Linda Westmoreland
Dr Blight: Alistair Hedderman

"Can We Get Les Dennis?  The Audition"
A classic from the Sitcom Trials script archive, courtesy of Kev F Sutherland, this was a great chance to get all the cast involved, and went down a treat. The double-act between Naomi Carter (Tara) and Soozi (Louisa Smith) was just delightful, and it would be difficult to upstage John Lomas's scenery-chewing turn as the eccentric Mr Legas, but the cast somehow managed to do so in the auditions routine, which was very funny indeed.   (The bar staff in the downstairs pub told me that the intermission was filled with members of the audience asking to be served a pint and noodles-in-a-bun.)

Tara: Naomi Carter
Soozi: Louisa Smith
Mr Leagas: John Lomas

Scots Actor: Alistair Hedderman
Posh Actor: Janet Adams
Musical Actor: Linda Westmoreland
Perv Actor: Troy Hewitt
Belching Actor: Alistair Hedderman
Nervous Actor: Ziggy Ross
Protest Actor: Lewis Cook
Camp Actor: Troy Hewitt
East End Wide Boy Actor: Ziggy Ross

There was a 15 minute intermission, after which James Dowdeswell read out a handful of Pitch Fest entries.  My favourites were: "The Hills Have ISAs" (One line pitch: "Ageing football pundit Jimmy Hill and renowned film director Walter Hill set up their own firm offering impartial financial advice - hilarity ensues.") and "Cliffhanger" (One line pitch: "Cliffhanger."  Your name: Cliff Hanger), and then we moved on to sitcom number three:

"Wicca's World"

The most visually striking of the sitcoms (a character in full cricket whites is menaced by a black robed and hooded Druid), this was a change of pace and kicked things off nicely in Part 2, with some lovely performances (from Janet, Troy, Louisa and Alistair) and seemed to be especially enjoyed by the more bohemian members of the audience, and/or those on psychotropic drugs.

Caitlin: Janet Adams
Danny: Troy Hewitt
Naomi: Louisa Smith
The Druid: Alistair Hedderman

"None of the Above"
The one with the rude jokes and the very high gag rate, this was destined to win and deservedly so.  The audience loved this from start to finish, particularly the bits involving a character named Mike, who gets to put on and then take off his sunglasses for dramatic effect (this temporarily caused actor Alistair Hedderman to be blinded by the stage lights, to much hilarity). This sitcom was written entirely by actor/writer Lewis Cook, based on ideas the team came up with at a Bristol Trials meeting, and his terrific script was easily the best of the sitcoms.

Tim: Lewis Cook
Freddie: Ziggy Ross
Mike: Alistair Hedderman
Ruth: Naomi Carter

Doris: Linda Westmoreland
Gary: Troy Hewitt
Anthony: John Lomas
Meryl: Janet Adams

James Dowdeswell read out the funniest Pitch Fests, and asked the audience which one they liked the best; the winner was Kev Page's  "Pull the Wool", a sitcom about grannies thwarting a terrorist attack by knitting them balaclavas without eye-holes.  And Kev's prize was to have his sitcom idea performed right there and then by an improv. team!  

"Pull the Wool"

Entirely improvised by John Lomas and the cast of "Closer Each Day", this was a whole new level of insane, and absolutely delighted the audience - particularly the bits involving the terrorists who had to pretend to be American tourists.  

James Dowdeswell clearly thought this was a show-stopper, and promptly declared the evening's entertainment to be over.  But it wasn't, we still had the voting to get through, and then the final scene of the winning sitcom.  And the heat in the room was now at boiling point.  And it had gone ten o'clock.  The votes were swiftly counted and the results are:

"None of the Above" = 14
"Wicca's World"= 10
"Pull the Wool" = 9
"Ee-Eye-Ee-Eye-Oh" / "Can We Get Les Dennis? The Audition" = 7

The cast took to the stage to perform the final scene, and then it was all over, and the bar was still open for more pints and noodles-in-a-bun.

A huge thank you to the wonderful cast who gave it their all after weeks of rehearsal, and to Roz our splendid director, and to James Dowdeswell who bravely stood in for Kev F as host for the evening and did a brilliant job, and to the Wardrobe Theatre who are a delight to work with, and most of all to the audience who were fabulous.

The next Sitcom Trials is in Manchester on July 20th, and the Bristol team will be back at the Wardrobe on October 19th for a special Halloween Sitcom Trials.  See you there!

--Vince Stadon, producer

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