Preview: The Next Round
Sitting through a play is always easier after a pint or four.
With a couple drinks in you, the jokes are funnier, the sob stories are sadder: the time just seems to fly by, and before you know it, you’re back in the pub, knocking back that ill-advised one-drink-too-many. This week, Corpus Playroom has made it absurdly easy to indulge in some alcoholic art appreciation: for Week 5 and Week 5 only, both shows at the Playroom are set in pubs, and will be serving drinks from the onstage bar for the truly boozy viewing experience. I sat down with some of the cast and crew of the lateshow, ‘The Next Round’, to find out more.
A nun, a children’s party entertainer, an ASNAC student, a werewolf, a quiz champion and a barman walk into a pub. No, this isn’t the beginning of a bad joke. When Lily Lindon and Yasmin Freeman approached John King – ‘they appeared out of the sunset and walked towards me… Okay no, they texted me’ – about working on a devised piece of theatre together, they had these characters (played by Riss Obolensky, Lily Lindon, Matthew Bradley, David Matthews, Colin Rothwell and Henry Wilkinson, respectively), their premise (a pub quiz) and nothing else. The final script is a collaborative effort from the cast and crew, written through improv rehearsals and full of tantalising material: a sentient sock puppet, Catholic merchandise, water guns, and a mysterious young lady called Trisha (the mention of whom incited intense sniggering from said cast and crew. Poor Trisha.)
Rehearsals saw the integration of flashback sketches and real-life anecdotes (‘some of the nun’s lines are just things John’s mum said once’) into the pub quiz framework. ‘It’s not a sketch show,’ Lily explains. ‘The flashbacks have merit in their own way, but the pub quiz definitely isn’t just a facilitator for the sketches.’ The humour stems from the characters themselves – ‘they’re really nice, and fun… Well, they’re not nice, actually; they’re bastards’ – and the way they develop and interact with each other in the setting. Notable character quirks we’ll have insight into include the student’s tumultuous love life, and the quiz champion’s mind palace: ‘the characters are rounded because we’re not limited by scripted reactions: in rehearsals, we could respond any way we liked to different situations.’ Such flexibility in rehearsals saw the exploration of truly strange situations which were eventually vetoed – ‘we toyed with time travel… There’s still a lot of supernatural stuff going on though.’ / ‘More than there should be, probably’ – and the morphing of characters into random extras – ‘homeowners, children… Dogs…’ – which have, luckily for us, made their way into the final script. Woof.
Sitting in rehearsals not only allowed me to observe the unique process behind the development of the play, but also made the genuine camaraderie among the team behind ‘The Next Round’ clearly apparent: it’s the kind of camaraderie that really only appears when you’ve spent weeks in a room together, deciding how a story arc moves from a werewolf being bitten in a dog park to a nun reminiscing about her bowel movements on a bus in Vietnam, and they want to extend that elusive bond of friendship to the audience too. ‘We always had in mind that the audience should enter and feel like they’re just viewing one corner of a pub,’ they explain. ‘As if the tables could be turned: we could be watching the audience, but they just happen to be watching us.’ What, then, would you like this immersive audience to take away from your play? ‘We’d like them to arrive tipsy, and leave tipsier. Also, they’ll learn some genuine pub quiz trivia.’
New friends, booze and previously-unknown facts about the capital of Azerbaijan? I’m sold. Order up.
‘The Next Round’ opens this week at 9.30pm at Corpus Playroom, running from Tuesday 17th February – Saturday 21st February. Tickets available online.