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Blog: The Sitcom Trials

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On Friday evening I headed up to distant BIRMINGHAM for a flying visit to the Old Joint Stock pub, where Foghorn Improv were performing part of my sitcom pilot "My Boss Was In An Indie Band Once" for The Sitcom Trials.

It felt very strange to be heading out of town for the evening WITHOUT my guitar, but I used the train time wisely to edit ANOTHER script what I'm writing at the moment - SO professional. When I arrived in Brum I was amazed to see that Birmingham New Street Station is STILL awful. I had worried that the recent refurbishment might have changed it to somewhere vaguely habitable by human beings, so was relieved to find that they had DUG UP half of the passageways and retained the classic GLOOMY, DAMP and DREAD that has always made it such a unique transport destination.

Once out of that HECKHOLE I stomped up the road to the Old Joint Stock - I'd been there once before many years ago after a Hibbettfest, but hadn't realised how VAST it is. I got lost traipsing round the various floors and had to ask for help getting to the theatre bit!

I did find it eventually, had a drink in the dinky bar, then filed in with a pretty much sell-out crowd to the theatre room itself. It was a long thin room set out mostly in The Cabaret Style with other seats round the edges and the "stage" along one long side. It was a HOT day outside but very pleasantly cool inside which helped make it a DELIGHTFUL evening.

The first half contained ten minute extracts of three sitcoms with two more in the second half, so it all flew by at high speed, helped along by the compering of the cast. All the scripts were really good, though over the course of the evening it became clear which ones worked best in this sort of environment. Scripts like mine, with lots of characters and scene changes, were difficult to get into when it kept chopping and changing, while slower-paced scripts where it was character comedy rather than gags tended to feel a bit QUIET in The Live Setting. The one that won - "The Cleaners" by Richard Constable & Roger Sanders - was a very straightforward single location set-up featuring (mostly) just two characters, which worked brilliantly, helped by a TONNE of great gags. It was perfect and pretty clear that it would be the winner, so I was very happy that it was - losing is FINE when something that very definitely SHOULD be the winner IS!

It also helped, to be honest, when I found out at half-time that I'm also in the finals of the CARDIFF Sitcom Trials, which are happening at St David's Hall on July 28th - HOORAH!

When it was all done I said a quick cheerio and thanks to whichever cast members I could find and then DASHED back to the station, where I managed to get a slightly earlier train which got me back to London JUST in time to catch the high speed home. Hey, I might not have won at WRITING, but I definitely did at TRANES!

posted 6/7/2015 by MJ Hibbett

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Daw! Just found that I have a Joint Stock shaped hole in my facebook chaos. May have to drag people out of the Welly and across to it next time something like that is on for a bit of alternative entertainment. If stand-up can work nicely in The Station in Sutton... Anyway, good luck for Cardiff... and apologies once again for New Street. The sum total of the changes so far appear to be 1/ making it even easier than before to duck the ticket inspectors, 2/ adding even more competing but somehow still ludicrously overpriced travel-food outlets, 3/ making what was a building that if nothing else was laid out in a relatively straightfoward manner completely impossible to navigate around the inside of and, in some cases, even find the entrance to. Oh yeah and they're making the front look like a shark for some reason. I didn't even know it HAD a visible exterior up until now. I don't know why it needs to be jazzed up. It's essentially an underground station, and most tube entrances are fairly discreet... I'd have just settled for them making it less of a dark, damp and echoey cavern.
posted 6/7/2015 by MarkP

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