TINSELTOWN is coming to Wandsworth next week with a 50 hour non stop improvised comedy soap opera.
Taking its inspiration from the Hollywood movie studios, Improvathon will feature some of the very best improvisers from the UK and overseas playing a range of characters set in modern day Los Angeles.
They could include screen sirens, budding starlets, struggling writers, down at heel actors, out of work actors, the bar man, movie moghuls and big shot producers – but exactly who and what they are will not be known until the marathon event starts at the Lost Theatre in Wandsworth on 7pm on Friday, May 29.
A core group of about 20 actors and comedians will go without sleep to play the whole 50 hours which will be broken up into 25 episodes of one hour and 45 minutes with a 15 minute break between scenes, with guest performers dropping in from time to time.
This year the line up boasts the likes of improv maestro Mike McShane as well as Cariad Lloyd, Ruth Bratt, Mark Meer, Dan Starkey, Sarah-Louise Young and Sean McCann.
It will run until Sunday, May 31 at 9pm and people can buy tickets for the whole thing, or just for individual ‘episodes’.
It will be directed by Adam Meggido who tells me that anything can and will happen.
“This is the eighth year in a row we have been doing this event and are really pleased to be bringing it to the Lost Theatre,” he says.
“This year we’ve done an homage to Hollywood placing the action in the fictitious Sleepless Studios which is celebrating 100 years in the movie business.
“It’s a fabulous 50 hours in which the actors and comedians turn up with their costumes and an idea of who they are – for example the barman or a director – and an idea of their back story.
“But that’s as far as we plan it. I don't give them any ideas and in fact the less they get the easier it is for them.
“I will call the scene, those in it and where it takes place and that’s it. The actors come on and improvise the episode leading themselves and the audience on a wonderful journey.
“Anything can happen because it’s all made up on the spot. Other characters can come in and out which adds to the fun. Then I call another scene and we go on.”
The idea was originally created by award-winning Canadian group Die Nasty about 25 years ago and was brought to London in 2005.
Every year since it has featured a different setting and a different theme but what doesn’t change is the fact it’s all made up then and there on the stage by those taking part.
Each episode is self contained so the audience can either come and see just one episode or stay for the whole shebang.
The real genius of it though is when tiredness starts to kick in and that’s when things get interesting.
“After the first 24 hours everyone starts to get a bit tired but it’s when they hit 30 hours in that things start to happen,” chuckles Adam.
“After 30 hours the part of your brain that censors you can no longer function - so for improvisation it’s extraordinary and those on stage play with this incredible freedom and abandon,
“When the sun comes up your body kicks in and then you feel tried again. Those who stay awake enter what we call the Gates Of Hell as it becomes weird.
“Some people fall asleep on stage and walk their way through the scene and then don’t remember what happened, some have visual disturbances, hallucinations, get happy, forget what they were going to say and still be hilariously funny.
“Of course we get some of the most absurd, unpredictable and wonderful and hilarious comedy when this happens."
But it’s not just the performers who go through the Gates Of Hell. Anyone who stays up to watch for that length of time will also be affected.
And in a different way, Adam says it’s just as surreal for those who come along wide awake in the early hours and see everyone else fighting their tiredness.
“It’s definitely surreal for everyone,” he says.
“Things that are normally hilarious don’t receive a response because the audience is too tired to laugh. It’s fascinating to see it from all different sides.”
And if that wasn’t enough there is also a family friendly session on Sunday afternoon as part of the show which Adam says is extremely interactive.
But isn’t there a danger that after 40 hours with no sleep some naughty word slip ups may creep in?
Adam laughs and says not.
“It’s a wonderful thing because the cast gets so tired and what they really need is something to focus on, and there is nothing like having to do a family friendly episode to do that,” he says.
“It’s never happened that bad words have come in. In fact it’s always great fun and very interactive with the kids really part of it. It totally reinvigorates everyone for the final stretch. In fact it’s a bit like a love in!
“Whatever happens in the plot it has to be adapted to be child friendly,” he adds. “Even if there is a serial killer on the loose in the main story!
“It’s one of the most remarkable events. It’s what the ancient Greeks used to do, gather together, make up stories and entertain each other.
“It’s a really powerful human experience and for those who come and join in there’s a huge amount to get out of it.
"It’s a joyful way to spend a few hours and you definitely get a form of entertainment that you’d never get anywhere else. It’s brilliant.”
Improvathon takes place at the Lost Theatre, Wandsworth from 7pm Friday, May 29 until 9pm Sunday, May 30.
A 50-hour pass gives access to the entire event for £55.00. Episode passes cost £10. Visit www.losttheatre.co.uk or call the box office on 020 7622 9208.