Showstopper! The Improvised Musical, has become a firm audience favourite, promising a different show every performance based on suggestions from audience members. Ruth Bratt has a wealth of experience when it comes to performing and improvisation. Ruth spoke to Theatre Weekly ahead of the final two performances of the show this year.
How did you first get into performing?
The first show I did was when I went to a new 6th form, and it seemed like a good way to meet people. Then I was on the usual path to university and probably becoming a lawyer when I did a semester at Middlebury in Vermont, and did a performance for a friend’s directing course. His tutor then told me that I should pursue performing as a career, which gave me the permission to do what I really wanted to do.
What attracted you to do Improvisation?
My first experience of it was on stage in front of an audience, and it was like something just clicked in my body that went, “ahhh THIS is it”. I love the liveness, the community, the communal creation, the ephemeral nature of it, the hilarity, the truth of it, the honesty of it, the stupidity of it. Everything.
You’ve performed at the Edinburgh Festival – what did you learn from doing that?
I learnt that I never need to do a one-woman show again. I learnt that hard work gets results – not necessarily the results you were expecting, and not when you were expecting them, but you get them. I learnt that people are hilarious and awful. I learnt never to read reviews. So many things.
What can the audience expect at ‘Showstopper The Improvised Musical’?
Whatever they want. The show is entirely up to them. Where it’s set, what musical styles are in it, the title. They can definitely expect to laugh, and maybe cry. What they can definitely expect is that it will never happen again. That show, those songs, that story, is for one night only.
What’s the strangest shout-out you’ve had from the audience?
The weirdest one I remember was in response to the question “What’s a beautiful, soaring musical theatre style for this scene?” and a man replied, “He sticks his head up his own bum”. I wonder a) what question he heard and b) how he thought we would achieve it.
What’s been your favourite scenario to play in Showstopper?
It’s really hard to answer that! I loved the suggestion of being trapped inside a snow globe, but equally, we had a hilarious show set in an IKEA so you can make something of anything! Also, I find it really hard to remember what we’ve done – often immediately after we’ve done it. When we were doing matinees in the West End, after the evening show, we’d have forgotten what the matinee was about.
Doing improvisation, does your mind ever go blank and what do you do?
Of course. The best thing I ever learnt was that everyone, no matter how long they’ve been doing it, has moments of blankness. If you go blank, there’s always someone else there who hasn’t! And you can just relish your blankness. Any action is better than no action, so just do something, and then things can happen, even if you don’t know why or what you’re doing! I tend to just have an emotional response and then build from there…
You really need to work as a team in improv – how do you get to that level of teamwork?
Nine years of working together! Meeting every week and spending way too much time In each other’s company. There is no short cut. You just have to put the time and the work in.