Earlier in the month I went to the recording of two programmes in a new series, Showstoppers!, which is due for broadcast starting on the 19th of January. It’s new to radio(although I see on the BBC website that one programme was broadcast last March on Radio 4 – I missed that when it went out), but not new to the stage.

I’ve long enjoyed improv, was a devotee of the late Ken Campbell (back in October 2009 there was an excellent tribute to him at the National Theatre, Beyond our Ken: the Multiverse of Ken Campbell), and Showstoppers! is very much the School of Night stable, a sort of musical theatre meets Whose Line is it Anyway, or Fast and Loose* as it seems to have transmogrified into.

There is one big problem with going to recordings of BBC shows: the pre-show boredom. As the tickets are complimentary some people don’t bother to turn up and they issue more tickets than there are seats, so it’s necessary to arrive early to queue (I hate queuing); admission on site in 6.15, I joined the queue in the pouring rain just before 6 o’clock. When the doors were opened there was airport-style security, so the queue shuffled slowly forward – there was the entertainment of watching people rolling up their trousers and hopping on one foot as the security officers pass their wands over their shoes. Next was an hour or so in a little waiting room reminiscent of Victoria Coach Station during a train strike, and at 7.30 it was into the Radio Theatre. Recording actually started around 7.45.

Dylan Emery was in the chair, and the cast included Pippa Evans, Ruth Bratt, Lucy Trodd, Sean McCann and Oliver Senton. It was the usual improv format with the audience providing a title, a musical style, etc, and then off they went, producing a piece of musical theatre that fits into the 27 minutes or so available. It was all done live, it was very funny indeed, and I can recommend listening to it when the series goes out next week, starting at 1830 on January 19th.

Since Christmas, I’ve also been to the excellent Birdsong at the Comedy Theatre (now finished), and took a second look at the Evolving English exhibition at the British Library (according to someone I overheard there’s too much reading involved); otherwise I’ve been staying at home as our building work is at last underway, having been delayed by the inclement weather in November and December. I’m excused concrete barrowing duties as I managed to break a rib last Saturday; I narrowly avoided impaling myself on a metal pole, luckily my bottom rib took the impact. So, no carrying boxes of books for six weeks.

*update 2220 on 14 Jan – the first episode of Fast and Loose is rather very poor, reminiscent of children playing out roles rather than anyone with any talent at improv or comedy. I won’t be bothering to watch any further shows. Further on 29 Jan – contrary to what I said I watched last nights Fast and Loose and it wasn’t too bad – not brilliant, but better than the first show. Still not great television, but OK.

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