When it comes to improvisation, Liverpool-based actor Trevor Fleming never shies away from a challenge. A member of comedy collective Impropriety, he is no stranger to endurance off-the-hoof performances, and will be taking part in the group’s next Improvathon (a 33.5 hour – or 2015 minute – non-stop show) at the end of next month; but before that, he is using his talents to help a cause close to his heart.
Trevor will be raising money for North West Cancer Research with a never-seen-before feat – by creating 300 characters and performing 300 improvised scenes over the course of 300 minutes, all in one go. Suggestions for the scenes will come from the audience, so he will have no idea what will be coming next, and he will have Impropriety chums to bounce off as required.
The event – unsurprisingly titled 300 – is also a tribute to his late parents Joe and Brenda. MADEUP had a chat with the man himself to find out more about this unique event…
Where did the idea for 300 come from?
I had agreed to perform at Embryo, a monthly cabaret night at 81 Renshaw, and needed a ten minute act. I came up with the idea of doing one small scene per minute based on a word – it went down really well, and I’ve performed it a few times since. A friend of mine happened to work for North West Cancer Research, and on a night out it just sort of popped into my head that it could be a good fundraiser. To the best of my knowledge its not been done anywhere else in the UK, possibly the world (but I may be wrong).
So the obvious question is – why settle on 300 minutes/ scenes?
I’d actually suggested 500 initially but as people wiser than I pointed out, that was rather a lot, and I could probably go a bit mad from that. So thinking about the audience’s perspective 300 seemed to be a nice round number, it works out at six episodes of 50 scenes with time for a small break.
How are you getting ready for the event and what about it are you looking forward to?
I’m trying to not think about it too much, if I do I may start planning characters and scenes – and that would negate the whole point of improvising. I’m just going in with an open, accepting mindset, and I hope to build on what the audience offers me.
What is it about improv that appeals to you as a performer?
It’s very liberating in a way. by not having the script there you’re relying on instinct an awful lot. It can be terrifying and amazing at the same time, and it opens up some fantastic opportunities as an actor. Many people have this opinion of improv as just a rehearsal or devising tool, that it isn’t ‘proper’ theatre, and that really upsets me and some of my colleagues in Impropriety. I’ve seen people in the audience crying with laughter one minute and then being stunned into silence the next. Just because the words and actions we use haven’t been written down before it doesn’t make them any less valid. Our audiences validate us, so there!
The show is also a tribute to your parents, so why was that important?
I was born in Newry in Northern Ireland and I’m the youngest of six kids. My dad was a steel fixer and then a postman, he would say he was only ever unemployed for a week in his entire life, so thats something to aspire to. The memories of mum aren’t the strongest but I do remember that she was very caring, I’ve a memory of her delivering groceries to elderly people even after she had been diagnosed.
I think my dad despaired when he heard I was doing drama at uni. I did a bit of youth theatre back home and he probably hoped it was just a phase or something, but he came to see all the shows I did, so he was very supportive then and continued to be during my university life. I got my love of trivia and quizzes from dad, he would always quiz me on actors from films, asking what else they’d been in and things like that.
I’d say its a tribute because even now I always ask them for help when I’m stressed or worried or if I’ve an audition or something, I have a chat and feel a bit better. Now its time to help some other people who are scared or not feeling the best.
Catch 300 on March 7 at 81 Renshaw. The performance will consist of six 50 minute episodes starting hourly at 4pm, 5pm, 6pm, 7pm, 8pm and 9pm, with a ten minute break for audience and performers alike between episodes. Ticket prices are £3 for a single episode or £12 for the full six hours. Tickets will be available on the door, cash only.
If you can’t make the show but would still like to support the cause, donations can be made at Trev’s Just Giving page or by texting TREV94 and the amount (eg £3) to 70070.