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Ruth Bratt - interview

The successes of the Showstoppers! continue as their current UK tour brings joy to many more around the country. Having been running since 2008, there is no doubt that this is a masterclass display of quick-witted thinking and fun, to immerse audience suggestions into generating a completely unique show at every stop. With this, there is no end to what they can do. Including your favourite musical styles, wacky settings, and creative titles, a fully-fledged piece will form, magically appearing before your eyes as if not just a thought of seconds ago: songs, choreography, humour, and all. You'll be left in awe of their ingenious brains!

Read my full review here:

Ruth is an incredible and integral part of the Showstopper! team- here she has given us more insight about the wonderfully crafted world of improvisation involved in the production.


Can you tell us a bit about how you've reached this point in your acting journey and what specifically drew you to improv?

Well it’s quite a labyrinthine route! I suppose I’ve got here essentially through perseverance, flexibility and sheer bloody-mindedness… I started as a 'serious' actor but got bored of not having enough work so started doing stand-up and then a friend said “Do you want to guest in my improv show” and I said yes and immediately realised that it was the thing I’d been looking for. Then it’s just a matter of keeping on and improving and learning - until I retire and start up an animal sanctuary with a pottery and an art studio. (Let's face it though - actors don’t retire!)

Which element of Showstopper! makes you proudest to be involved in the production?

The fact that we’re never satisfied - we’re always looking for challenges and ways we can improve; to do more and be better. It could be tempting to rest on your laurels once you’ve got to a certain level but none of us ever think we’ve nailed it completely. There’s always further to go and more to achieve!

What skills are most important when tackling improvisation?

The most important skill is listening. Really listening. Everything else will take care of itself if you just LISTEN.


How do you prepare before a show, given that the content is unpredictable?

Everyone has their own individual way of preparing - part of it for me is the chat on the way to the gig. Just seeing where everyone is in their real life helps you get a sense of how they’ll perform that night. Then we’ll do some rhyming games and some warm-up games that tune us into one another (clapping together, throwing sticks, word at a time stories, that sort of thing) - it’s like a football match - practising the skills but not knowing what the actual game will be.


What have been some of the most memorable or challenging audience suggestions to perform, and are there any you wish were reproduced beyond the performance?

That’s a hard question given that we’ve performed so many! The ones that stick are “inside a snow globe”, “inside my mother’s head”, and “big Tesco”. I mean, anywhere is possible and we’ve been everywhere - sometimes the most mundane setting can lead to the most magical story. As for wanting to reproduce it, the joy of it for me is that it is the ultimate ephemera- it only exists in that moment and for that moment - it can’t be written and it can’t be repeated and that is the wonder of it. It will only happen in that room at that time with that group of people - change any one thing and it would be an entirely different show. That is wild and exciting and the stuff of life!


Which onstage mishaps have been the funniest to experience?

The very best moments are when another performer surprises you. I remember one show set in a taxidermists and Andrew Pugsley and I were singing a love duet. He made up the chorus “I will taxiderm you, if you’ll taxiderm me” - it made me laugh in his face and I couldn’t sing and then every time we got to the chorus I’d make an effort and then just cry laugh into his face. Joyful. The twinkle in the eye gets me every time. so there are no real mishaps, more happy accidents!


How does the bond between actors influence the ability to improvise together successfully?

While it’s completely possible to improvise - and improvise well - with someone you’ve never met before, knowing each other really helps! We always feel better when we’ve had a fun journey to the gig or spent a lot of time in each other's company. Chatting and eating together is as important as any other warm-up you can do. It’s not like you always have to like each other, you just have to know each other. That said, I genuinely love all the Showstoppers - it’s a proper tribe!


What would your childhood self think of your career now?

If I told myself as I was watching Whose Line Is It Anyway as a kid, “That’s an actual career and one day you’ll make a living from it and have dinner with Josie Lawrence” I think I would laugh in my own face. I never knew it was a career at all let alone one I could have but it has changed my life (mostly for the better…) and I think childhood me would be very impressed that you can make a career out of pretending and playing. Adult me is pretty amazed that it’s possible.


What advice would you give to someone who wants to start learning improv?

Just do it! There’s no substitute for doing. Workshops are great but you’ll learn more onstage and quicker from an audience reaction than anywhere else. So just say yes to it - apparently that’s the central tenet of improv right? Oh and also? Please just LISTEN and everything else will fall into place.


Huge thank you to Ruth for this fantastic interview - as an avid fan of Showstoppers! and desperate to catch you making a masterpiece again, it's a real joy to hear from you. Best of luck for the rest of the tour and beyond!

Grab your tickets here:

Dates are as follows:


Mon 10th June, Mon 1st July, Mon 30th September, 21st October, 25th November, 16th December


Fri 29th & Thurs 30th YORK – Theatre Royal 7:30pm (plus kids show 2pm 30th)

Fri 31st FARNHAM - Farnham Maltings


Fri 14th & Sat 15th SALISBURY - Playhouse                  

Thurs 20th & Fri 21st  CORBY – The Core at Corby Cube

Mon 24th RUGBY – Festival On The Close

Fri 28th & Sat 29th SALFORD – The Lowry – 29th matinee Kids show

31st JULY - 25th AUGUST (excluding Tues 13th)- EDINBURGH FRINGE – Pleasance Grand


Sat 14th OXFORD – Playhouse


Thursday 10th BANGOR – Pontio Arts

Thursday 24th COVENTRY – Warwick Arts Centre

Thursday 31st POOLE – Lighthouse


Additional thanks to Laura Norton for coordinating this interview.


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