The laughs don’t come quite as big and fast on day two of the 50-hour 2015 London Improvathon but the cast’s night without sleep has created an entirely new, utterly bizarre and incredibly entertaining new show, writes Sarah Cox after 10 hours at LOST Theatre on Saturday.
Having left early on Friday night, I returned at 10am to catch up on the action, and a couple of die-hard fans who’d stayed up all night filled me in on the plot. They also explained to me who Jenny Agutter was (you don’t know who Jenny Agutter is?? Ed) You had to be there.
As sleep deprivation caused the actors to lose the plot, the show’s script appears to have descended into surreal madness, with some sort of overnight massacre of vampires and werewolves, and every character now sleeping with someone completely different.
I missed a whole Lord of the Rings bit, a portal, a dragon, and Paddy Chan (Ireland’s leading martial artist) apparently ripping out a heart and putting it into Woody Allen.
There’s now a bunch of new characters – Liza Minnelli singing about lasagne, a miserable French geography teacher turned writer who occasionally pretends he’s a pigeon, Jet Laag (a Swedish film director), and a couple of IRS men who like to play Dungeons and Dragons in a steam tunnel.
Head of Sleepless Studios Ted Wood (the incredible Mark Meer) is still clutching his 1993 Oscar, after violating a whole new load of intellectual property with Glad He Ate Her (cannibals in a competitive arena) and X-Men, a transgender superhero epic.
There are several fast-food themed erotic phone calls (battered balls etc), some so-awful-they’re-brilliant Christopher Walken impressions, a musical squash court, and several scenes entirely in French.
As Saturday goes on, there’s a lot more mumbling, but still some absolutely cracking lines (“We’re not doing stereotypes, we’re just being a nice big Catholic family from Dublin”).
A special mention also has to go to Jonathan Monkhouse’s hilarious improvised film posters – knocked up in seconds then projected on the back wall – my favourite being ‘West Europe Story: Le Jet vs Da Sharrrks’, during a genius Irish and French themed musical theatre scene.
How on earth are the cast holding up so well? I recently spent 38-hours awake, and that involved four different modes of transport, two countries, and an awful lot of coffee.
But isn’t it impossible to spend 50 hours on stage without collapsing with exhaustion?
There’s no big secret, other than the employment of a host of incredibly talented, dedicated and experienced actors who’ve taken part in similar events before and understand how their body reacts and what to watch out for.
If anyone’s feeling awful and needs to drop out, they can do. Performers are encouraged to eat and drink something after every two hour session, with veterans recommending that you don’t try and keep awake with extra caffeine and only have a hot drink when you’d normally do so.
There’s costume changes and occasional changes of character to mix things up a bit as the hilarious Lucy Trodd, as eternally-waving Railway Children actress Jenny Agutter, is killed, returns as a ghost, or occasionally Morgan Freeman, before being reincarnated in the second half as a cockney called.. Penny Agutter) as well as increasingly bizarre orders from the director.
More experienced actors are buddied up with first timers, there’s a group hug at the start of each episode, and it’s vital that supporting crew get enough sleep so they can support the actors, producer Kat Portman tells me.
It’s the camaraderie and support of the cast and audience, combined with a jaunty house band, that keeps everyone going and creates a rather sweaty but absolutely buzzing atmosphere in the room.
That and an occasional Riverdance cast and audience dance along, led by the gloriously hyper Seamus Allen.
Having tried to leave at 5pm yesterday, I found myself still at LOST Theatre at 8.30pm, absolutely addicted to the show and, with a slightly sadistic voyeurism, desperate to see how the cast disintegrated as they passed into the second 25-hours.
The 2015 London 50hr Improvathon ends at 9pm tonight./strong>
2015 London Improvathon Day 2
The cast have been performing for 25 hours and are beginning to crack, while the story has taken a surreal twist, but the 2015 London Improvathon at LOST Theatre continues to entertain.