The gags are coming thick and fast at Extempore Theatre’s epic 50hr Improvathon which got under way at London’s LOST Theatre.
This is the first report from Stage Review’s Sarah Cox who is covering the event.
Having packed enough food and water for three days and spent weeks mentally preparing myself for a weekend without sleep, it took me just four hours to flake out of the eighth annual 50-hour Improvathon.
It was ongoing illness rather than the quality of the performance that prompted a quick departure from a show that had me in hysterics from the start.
This year’s 2015 London 50-hour Improvathon comes to LOST Theatre in Wandsworth Road, Stockwell.
An almost legendary event for London’s comedy players and fans, it sees 50 of the finest improvisers from all over the world take to the stage for a non-stop comedy soap opera paying homage to all things Hollywood.
While only 20 of them attempt the whole weekend without any sleep, a rotating cast keeps things fresh for the audience, who are invited to buy tickets in two-hour slots or attempt (hopefully more successfully than me) the whole thing.
The action started on the set of Sleepless Studios, as it celebrated its centenary creating awful rip-offs of other people’s intellectual property, with a cast of washed up actors, aspiring starlets, big-shot producers and a mysterious plumber with a line in fixing toilets and breaking hearts.
Head of Sleepless Studios (after winning it in a poker game) is 1993 Oscar winner (best low budget horror movie for ‘Botany on the Mutant’) Ted Wood, played by Canadian actor and voiceover artist Mark Meer.
With the studio in a bit of a slump, he plans to hit the big time again with a big-budget remake of horror classic.. Botany on the Mutant.
As if I didn’t feel bad enough for disappearing after four hours, Meer’s Wikipedia page notes that he was the first actor to ever complete the annual 53-hour Canadian ‘Die Nasty’ Improvathon, without sleep.
The actor, who’s widely known in the gaming and cosplay world as the voice of several big characters, rightly scored a standing ovation the minute he took the stage.
Episode one also saw us treated to a brilliant performance from a late addition to the bill – US comedy duo The Pajama Men, Mark Chavez and Shenoah Allen, as shoeless Texan executive Shifty Dodgeball and horror actor turned real-life killer Scary Grant.
I can’t say I’d previously heard of the pair, but the acclaimed improv stars have been hailed by the Guardian as the biggest influence on a whole generation of comedy acts, and you can see why.
Allen’s turn in particular, as Hollywood’s scariest actor on and off stage, almost had me in tears, as he played a ten-foot high mutant with plant pots on his shoulders, or explained to the studio’s PR guru that he might need to help cover up an incident involving a woman, shot glasses of blood, and possibly some imaginary dwarfs.
It was disappointing to find the duo were only taking part in the first episode.
Cariad Lloyd is also a standout as the often incomprehensible Mrs Lynch (I particularly liked having my hair groped while she was being given a tour of the studio’s ‘wig room’), while just the name of Seamus Allen’s character Paddy Chan – Ireland’s premier martial arts expert – tickled me from the get go.
The Improvathon veteran’s aiming for all 50, and I’m looking forward to seeing how his character develops over the course of the show as he tries to break into Hollywood.
Yep, that’s right, after a few hours sleep, despite the sore throat, I’m dosing up on a variety of pills, re-packing my sandwiches, and heading back to LOST for a few more hours of action. They do say laughter is the best medicine..
The Improvathon runs at LOST theatre until Sunday night. Drop in and enjoy the fun.
- 2015 London 50-Hour Improvathon
The annual London 50-Hour Improvathon is under way at the LOST Theatre with some of the world’s top improv comics hoping to last the distance. Stage Review is there for the duration.