The Wedding Reception – Two of the show’s creators on development, touring and creative chaos

It’s all confetti and chaos as The Wedding Reception goes back on tour – trotting around the UK in the lead up to another full month at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival (2-27 August). Some amazing venues are opening their doors – and their hearts – to our completely unique theatrical experience and saying ‘I do’ to plenty of laughs in this totally immersive comedy. You can too! – scroll down to see where we’re going next.

Ever wondered what it’s like to be on tour with a show? Or how a team of creatives work together to develop a five-star show? Perhaps you wonder how performers keep a show like The Wedding Reception fresh night after night? Don’t worry. We have you covered. Interactive Theatre International’s Caitlin Page sat down with Becky Norris (performer and co-creator) and Suzanna Hughes (performer and associate director) to get the scoop!

ITI: Hi Becky and Suze! Thank you so much for talking with us. Let’s start with something easy – can you tell us a little bit about the show?

Becky: The Wedding Reception is a unique immersive theatrical dining experience. It invites you to be a guest at a surprise wedding reception for newlyweds William and Kate. You join the family (and a few uninvited guests) through two hours of a muddled attempt at traditional wedding celebration rites where nothing seems to go as planned. They cry, laugh and dance, and hopefully you will too! (maybe not the cry bit).

You both play Lynn and Marge in the show – what’s that like?

Becky: Four actors play nine roles in The Wedding Reception. Lynn is the mother of the bride and Marge is the groom’s aunt.
Suze: Lynn is this classic Northerner and a great role to play!
Becky: Yeah. She’s a wonderful and warm lady. A bit of a mum to everyone and will talk about anything. Nothing is off limits with Lynn.
Suze: Aunt Marge is much colder. A stuck up ‘wanna-be’ who’s faked most things in her life to get her where she is today.

What is life like backstage on tour? 

Becky: Backstage on tour can be a bit crazy, really, because we have so many quick costume changes throughout the show! Especially when we are out and about on tour and the size of our changing area can vary quite some bit. We’ve all been very close together in some shows!

Ha! Sounds like close quarters! And we know how demanding touring can be – how do you keep the performance fresh and look after yourself when you’re having to travel as well as perform on stage each night? 

Becky: Keeping this show fresh isn’t so much of a challenge, as it’s very different to traditional theatre shows. The audience members are not just watching a show, they become an integral part of it, so with their input we never perform never same show twice.
Suze: Exactly! We aim to design experiences that are unique every time they are performed and we have been lucky enough to attract some of the best performers around, skilled not just at acting, but also at reading the comedy potential in a room and improvising spontaneously. That style of comedy really is what we do best.
Becky: It certainly does keep us all on our toes though! I also think good planning and keeping it all in good fun is key to staying healthy and fighting fatigue on the road. We spend a lot of time in each other’s company so trying to find ways of making long journeys and mundane jobs fun is really important.

What about making the show… was there any particular approach to the making of TWR? 

Suze: I came on as director of the show in 2017 after being a performer in it for a year. By this time The Wedding Reception had already been written and was heading towards its second Edinburgh Fringe.
Becky: I was apart of developing the original script. Alison Pollard-Mansergh (Interactive Theatre International’s Artistic Director) came up with an idea to make an immersive show around a wedding reception. This ended up becoming a year long project where Ali, myself and David Tremaine (another The Wedding Reception performer) all worked collaboratively to create the show from scratch!
Suze: And they did an amazing job! What I do now is look to the show being performed – interactively working with the audience means a new element presents itself every single show: a joke, a one-liner, a look, a comment, or a physical move. You think ‘that works’ then do it the next night and so on, until it’s added to the script. A lot of The Wedding Reception has evolved organically over time through trial and error.

Wow! It sounds like quite a process… What do you hope people will experience if they come to the show?

Suze: What we really hope is that the audience will feel they’re part of the invited guest list coming to surprise Kate and Will as friends and family. We want them to forget they’re at a show right from the start. We want them to have a wonderful time, to laugh, groan, be surprised and have a damn good night out.
Becky: That’s really what we want – we want them to have a damn good night out.

How do you think The Wedding reception fits with our other productions?

Becky: The Wedding Reception is definitely in line with our other ITI shows. We are all about immersive comedy experiences – our flagship show, Faulty Towers The Dining Experience (which Suze and I also perform in), is a case in point: it’s a loving tribute to the BBC’s Fawlty Towers that itself has been travelling the world for 21 years. Audiences are served a 3-course meal and a show by Basil, Sybil and Manuel in one of the funniest shows around – it just keeps getting great reviews. And The Wedding Reception is going the same way: it’s new, but we’re already getting great feedback from audiences and venues, and great critic reviews too!

What do you think ITI does that’s different from other theatre companies today?

Suze: I think performance and theatre is so multi-faceted. It has a long history of confronting and discussing the societal boundaries of its time and that hasn’t gone away but right now in the high-pressured world that we live in, audiences are searching more and more to find places of peace and joy. Sometimes, that’s all a show needs to be. A place of fun. And that’s what Interactive Theatre International brings to the table – something fun and freeing and joyful for audiences to come see and play with. Our shows rip people right out of the stress of their world and right into the playfulness of ours.

That almost answers my next question… Why should people come along to see the play? And where can they see it? 

Suze: Everyone should come to see this play! – though it’s PG, because it has some adult themes but it’s all very funny, and while audiences react in various ways to being swept up in the raucous action, they all love the humour of it.
Becky: It is definitely an unforgettable experience for both the audience and the actors! It’s the most madcap marital celebration of them all and everyone gets to eat a 3-course meal!

If all that sounds like something you’d love to be part of, follow the link to all our shows and dates here. We look forward to seeing you there!

This season we are lucky to be joining

Birmingham REP, 11 May

Carmichael Hall in Eastwood Park Theatre, Glasgow, 12 May

Greshams in Ipswich, 18 May

AFC Portchester Club House, 22 June, and

Nottingham Theatre Royal, 6-7 July

 

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