We all have that juicy piece of gossip that we’re just desperate to share, and while we’re probably guilty of whispering those dirty little secrets in the local pub, or by the office water cooler, we’ve possibly never considered making them the plot of an improvised comedy musical. Enter The Bean Spillers, the latest invention of Gigglemug Theatre, the team behind the hit Edinburgh Fringe success Timpson: The Musical.
The Bean Spillers premiered at Brighton Fringe this weekend, but will undoubtedly go on to have a successful future life. Gigglemug was formed from a love of improvised comedy, and although the team have branched out in recent years, The Bean Spillers is a welcome return to the company’s roots.
As is the norm for this format, it falls to the audience to provide the inspiration for that particular performance, but rather than random suggestions, we’re asked to shout out the juiciest tittle tattle we can think of. I was poised to share the story of a friend of a friend who accidentally stood on a dead pigeon after one too many Aperol Spritz, and unknowingly walked around wearing it like a slipper for the next hour. Alas, it was an audience member who found themselves in the local paper for having a number two in the swing park that gave us Sunday afternoon’s plot.
While other improvised musicals might need a bit more information to get things going, The Bean Spillers waste no time in creating an epic and irreverent adventure from the smallest of suggestions. Sam Cochrane and Alex Prescot have an uncanny knack of finding comedy in the unlikeliest of places, and it’s clear just how well they bounce off each other. Some of the funniest moments come when Alex tries to put Sam on the spot, only for Sam to veer off on an entirely different, but equally hilarious, direction. With little margin for error, the team succeed in creating an engrossing comedy narrative.
Of course, the concept means that every show is completely different, but to add another variable to the mix, for this Brighton Fringe run, The Bean Spillers were joined by a series of guests. At this performance Jordan Clarke provided the musical accompaniment, whipping up an appropriate tune, in a variety of stylings, no matter how inappropriate a turn the storyline happened to take.
Katie Pritchard, the second on stage guest, gave a rip-roaring performance, filled with funny one liners and superb vocals. On one hand the small cast makes for a more intimate show; one that allows the audience to truly feel part of it, but there were times when it felt the group were limited in what they could do without more bodies on stage.
In the space of an hour, The Bean Spillers take a piece of salacious gossip and turn it in to a perfectly imperfect comedy musical, with more twists and turns than any of us could foresee, not even the cast. It helps immeasurably that the focus on comedy isn’t at the expense of the musical theatre element, with Sam Cochrane in particular showing an adeptness for the genre.
As live theatre returns, there is very much a place for this tongue-in-cheek kind of performance, one that puts large smiles back on people’s faces. Improv is an artform in itself, and if I were one to gossip, I might say The Bean Spillers has the potential to be one of the best improv shows you’ll see…just don’t tell anyone it was me that told you.