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Starship Improvise - Dave Hearn and Nell Mooney - Edinburgh Fringe Interview

The 2022 Edinburgh Fringe is well underway now and if you're struggling for what to see then Starship Improvise offers a chance to watch The Avengers of Improvisation assembling for an exciting show.

The show stars members of The Showstoppers teaming with members of Mischief Theatre to create a hilarious piece of theatre in the moment.

Starship Improvise. Photo by Andrew Pugsley

I spoke to stars Dave Hearn and Nell Mooney all about the show.

Dave began by explaining the premise of the show "Starship Improvise is a long-form improv show, the idea is that you are meeting a group of actors from a hit 90s sci-fi and they are going to show you an episode from the series. We ask the audience (the show's greatest fans) if they can ‘remember’ anything from the episode we are about to watch and with that, we improvise an hour-long episode live on stage."

Nell added "Starship improvise is a one-hour play we make up on the spot, set in space. It might sometimes resemble sci-fi shows that you'll be familiar with like Star Trek or Battlestar Galactica - but we never know where the journey will take us."

For both Dave and Nell the excitement of working on the show was clear as we discussed what drew them to the project. For Dave it was co-creator Adam Meggido, he explained "When Adam first asked me if I wanted to do it I was keen, but then he told me who the rest of the team where and I got really excited. I’m so lucky to be working with some of the best improvisers from across so many shows!"

For Nell, it was a similar reason "Working on a show about interstellar travel with the crème de la crème of London’s improv scene? What’s not to like?"

Talk turned to where the duo's improvisation journeys began. Dave explained, "Back in 2007, I did the foundation course at LAMDA, I was taught by Adam Megiddo and immediately fell in love with this very scary and exciting way of performing." For Nell "About 6 Martian years ago, I took an improv course at UCB in NYC. It got me hooked."

Dave Hearn. Photo by Andrew Pugsley.

The improvised sci-fi world opens all sorts of opportunities for fun and mayhem. The pair explained what they'd want an audience to expect from the show. Nell said "Laughter, high drama, a technical dive into how algae can cripple a scarpered warp thruster, disco aliens and a damn good time."

Dave added "It’s a joyous, fun and silly space adventure, well at least that’s what I offer. I’m up there with some incredibly sharp performers so they bring the funny and I follow their lead."

With the sci-fi world I posed to the pair if they'd spent much time researching or watching movies and TV shows. For both that was the case. Dave explained "Yeah Adam has encouraged us to watch old episodes of Star Trek, Stargate, etc etc, and a few of the guys found some old documents laying out the story planning for Star Trek which was so helpful. Ultimately, I just turn and up and try to keep up."

Nell added "This show has allowed me to re-watch, from the beginning, Star Trek TNG and some of Deep Space Nine. Solely, for the purposes of research (I swear!). Also, as a group, we played an iPhone game called SpaceTeam to practice how to get our minds and mouths around some of the more technical discussions typically expected from a star fleet crew."

Being back at the Fringe is clearly a wonderful thing for both. Dave explained "It’s amazing to be here and we’re all so happy to be back. After the first weekend, the city has been buzzing and shows have been filling up which is so exciting!" Nell added, "Thank goodness the Fringe is back. It’s a joy to reconnect with audiences and inspirational to see other shows. There is great work happening around us at the festival."

Naturally, for improvisers, no two shows are ever the same this clearly drives both forwards with Nell saying "We are engaged, excited - and certainly on our toes! Everyday has felt like the most enjoyable rollercoaster I’ve ever ridden."

Our talk turned to the age-old question I ask all my interviewees of 'what does theatre mean to you?'. Dave said "Wow, that’s a big question. I guess to put it simply, for me it’s the coming together of people to be entertained or to learn. There’s something about being in the room that you just can’t get from a screen." Nell said "Theatre is an unsolved mystery. You hope the story will mean something to someone sitting there - in the dark. The show ends, the lights come up. You’ll never know if you’ve done it, but you hold out hope."

Nell Mooney. Photo by Andrew Pugsley.
With lots of shows on offer at the Fringe I asked both if they had any other recommendations of shows to catch. For Dave "well Mischief has a few other shows that I should definitely shout out: Mind Mangler Member of the Tragic Circle, Charlie Russell Aims To Please & our improv show Mischief Movie Night. Also, one of our guys is in Boris III which is an amazing play about Boris Johnson playing Richard III at Eaton."

Nell added "There’s great impro at the Fringe. Mischief Movie Night, Showstopper and Austentatious, the improvised Jane Austen novel."

Our chat ended with the pair simply explaining why anyone should come and see Starship Improvise. Dave said "it’s a really fun and easy show to watch, every day is a different story about these loveable characters, and you could come every day if you like to get the whole soap opera experience."

Nell saying "Improv is fun for an audience because they can sit back, watch people collaborate with little time and zero information – and with luck, conquer the great challenge of constructing a beginning, middle and ending in slightly under an hour. Sci-fi is supreme because there is always a new world, discovery, and exploration (both internally and externally). We do both. Come and see us brazen it out in space."

Starship Improvise plays at Pleasance King Dome at 3pm every day until Sunday 21st August 2022. Tickets are available here

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