Could you first introduce yourself to the reader?
Hello. I’m Ruth. I’m one of the Showstoppers and have been since the very first Showstopper show in 2008. I never know how to describe what I do, so usually I say I’m an administrator and then no-one asks further questions. I’ve also gone with teacher, security guard and potter. Only one of these is an accurate description.
How would you describe your show?
Showstopper! The Improvised Musical is exactly that - a musical that just happens to be improvised. So, everything you see from the story, to the script, to the dancing, to the lighting, to the songs is completely made up on the spot. There are no structures, no tricks, no plans, just an improvised musical made up from the suggestions on that night from that audience. Every show is completely new and completely different so you can come again and again (please do so you can see that we really are making it up as we go along!) Oh, and we also do a kids’ version in the morning, which is the same, only more anarchic and even more interactive.
Why do you want to perform at Edinburgh Festival Fringe?
Showstopper really started at the Fringe. We began in a 70-seater portacabin and are now in the 700 and something seater Grand at the Pleasance. We started with 8 actors and 1 musician and there are now about 25 of us altogether in the company, with a West End run and Olivier award to our name. It’s a real Fringe success story - and we have our Edinburgh audiences to thank for that. There’s something very special about the Edinburgh crowds that come and see our show and we really have a feeling of coming home. It’s a very meaningful place for all of us.
What differentiates it from other festivals?
More than anything, the sheer size of it!
What first motivated you to enter the industry? Who were your inspirations?
For the show, our major inspiration was the late great Ken Campbell. If you don’t know who he was, look him up. He was a theatre maverick and was utterly fascinating. For me personally. I was going to be a human rights lawyer and then I went to America on my semester abroad and performed in an examination piece as a favour for a friend. The tutor at the end grilled me about why I wasn’t doing any acting classes (I couldn’t - I had to do African American Narrative and the History of Women because acting didn’t count towards my finals) and then said, “But you’re going to do this for a living, right?” That was the first time anyone had suggested to me that mucking about on a stage could be a living.
As for inspirations, Victoria Wood, Josie Lawrence, Mike McShane, Celia Imrie, French and Saunders, The Young Ones, all the Comedy Store Players, Laurel and Hardy, Gene Kelly, Harold Lloyd… everyone’s an inspiration really…
If you didn’t have your current job, what would you probably be doing?
I’d be an administrator, a teacher, or a potter. I wouldn’t be a security guard. I’d be very bad at that.
If you could have any job in the world, what would it be?
I’m doing it. Although I would also love to hang out with bears. Is that a job? If not, it should be.
What is your earliest childhood art memory?
I remember making a bubble painting with my best friend Max when I was about 4. We were blowing through a straw into watered down paint, while our babysitter held a piece of paper up to the edge of the cup so that it made pictures on the paper. I say “blowing”. I sucked in at one point. And that was the end of that game.
Do you ever feel any pressure to be a social commentator, or constantly update material to respond to events?
Not pressure exactly, but because our show is improvised we can’t help but respond to events and to make social comment. What’s in the room, what’s in the world, is on the stage! That said, we tend to steer clear of things like Brexit and Trump - not because we feel we shouldn’t deal with them, but there’s enough of that in the real world - we’re a family comedy show that allows everyone in the room to get away from all that for a bit. If the audience REALLY want it, we’ll do it, but so much of that stuff is divisive, and for me, it’s more fun to be inclusive and bring people together than force them apart.
Equally, do you think there has been a shift in public sentiment that has affected your work?
Yes and no. What has definitely shifted is our desire to create fun, joy and laughter, and most of all wonder. Why create something ugly when you could create something beautiful? We strive for wonder.
Describe the last year in 5 words or less?
Is that even remotely possible?
If you could work with anybody, from any point in history, who would you pick and why?
At the risk of sounding cheesy, I’m already working with them. I spend most of my time on stage being wowed by the other performers, who always do something surprising and glorious. Also, I wouldn’t want to work with someone who I really admire because any time I’ve done it, I’ve turned into a total idiot. I’m not good at being cool. But...Hugh Jackman.
Why would a performer opt to do either a ticketed event or participate in the free fringe? What are the benefits and limitations of both?
That is a huge question! I’ve performed on both. The free Fringe is wonderful. The paid Fringe is wonderful. You just have to weigh up the pros and cons and do what works for you. Both have problems. Both have things to recommend them. Obviously, the financials are a biggie. But with a show like Showstopper, the size of venue etc precludes free Fringe and we LOVE the Pleasance. They have been tremendously good to and for us. It’s just nice to see them working alongside one another. There’s room for everyone. And anything that makes it more egalitarian and makes it possible for people to come up and not bankrupt themselves has to be for the good.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to take a show up to the fringe?
Do a show at the Fringe because you WANT to do one, not because you think you should. It’s a long, hard month and doing a show that you’ve lost confidence in and don’t love can be soul destroying. Remember to eat. Remember that beer and gin are not food. Remember that, really, in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter, and you can’t win Edinburgh.
When and where can people see your show?
Showstopper! The Improvised Musical is on at The Pleasance Grand, 6pm, 31st July - 25th August (not 13th). There’s also a late-night show at 11.15pm on 15th August. And The Showstopper Kids’ Show is on at The Pleasance Two, 12pm, 31st July - 18th August. (I’ll also be guesting in Whose Line Is It Anyway Live so come and see that too!)
And where can people find, follow and like you online?
You can find Showstopper on Twitter @theshowstoppers, on Instagram @showstoppermusical, and our website is www.showstopperthemusical.com
If you want to follow me I’m @ruthbratt on Twitter and @brattbomb on Instagram.
See Showstopper! The Improvised Musical at Pleasance Grand throughout Edinburgh Festival Fringe from 31st July to 25th August 2019 (not 13th). For tickets visit www.pleasance.co.uk
See The Showstoppers’ Kids Show at Pleasance Two throughout Edinburgh Festival Fringe from 31st to 18th August 2019. For tickets visit www.edfringe.com