Lockdown review: Stowstopper! The (Socially Distanced) Improvised Musical

During these strange times we have already seen The Showstoppers put on their Alternative Eurovision, but now they bring their improvision skills to a live YouTube stream. As in their physical shows, a brand new musical is created and performed for one night only, using audience suggestions (via live chat).

This time, the team (tonight, Pippa Evans, Justin Brett, Ruth Bratt and Adam Megiddo) are socially distanced but in the same room.  Arranged in a semicircle, they film inside individual perspex boxes with simple backdrops and minimal props. As Megiddo states in the interval, the safety of all involved is of prime importance, but the situation also energises the group ability to adapt and create.

Usually, the team would pick up on vocal cues, body language, and familiarity with each other at close quarters, but this is quite different. Eye contact is harder with barriers. There is no touching, or picking up on an intake of breath. This is improvision flying by the seat of its pants, taking a risk that would not have been necessary pre-Covid.

The Showstoppers team. Photo credit Hugo Glendinning
The Showstoppers team. Photo credit Hugo Glendinning

Our host (and broadcast director, vision mixer and designer) Andrew Pugsley shares chat suggestions and makes occasional interjections about the plot. The Showstoppers like to run with outlandish location suggestions, so including a hot air balloon in their plot feels inevitable. As a metaphor of escape from the constraints of daily rules and regulations it is eerily inspired.

The quick fire assembly and range of musical styles never felt forced, as dialogue, characters and lyrics were made up on the spot. Musicians Duncan Walsh Atkins and Alex Atty, with facd masks and positioned to interact with the singers, add the melodies suggested by such popular works as Les Miserables, Hamilton, Jesus Christ Superstar and The Boyfriend.

This one-off show, which was given the inevitable title of The Balloon Where It Happens, is sharp and in presenting the four performers in a range of combinations, fun and interesting for armchair audiences to watch. It is also quite subversive at times

You quickly forget the practical difficulties of interaction at a distance, and instead enjoy watching expert show people at the height of their powers, thinking on their feet, relishing the chance to create here and now, together.

Showstopper! The (Socially Distanced) Improvised Musical was streamed live on YouTube on 28 August. If yuu missed out you can catch The Showstoppers live at the Turbine Theatre’s Turbine On The Jetty on 17 September.

LouReviews received a complimentary ticket to review Showstopper!