Caro Meets Comedy Interview

Lewis Dunn and Charles Deane: Any Suggestions, Doctor?

By | Published on Wednesday 7 February 2018

I love improv, and have done since my teenage years, so I am always interested when I hear about new troupes, especially ones doing extra interesting things with the format. ‘Any Suggestions, Doctor?’ is one of those, offering improv with a Time Lord theme, and they’ve won many fans up at the Edinburgh Festival in recent years.

Lately, however, they’ve ventured London-wards to give us a taste of their intergalactic wares, and have two dates upcoming at the Museum of Comedy. To find out more about the shows, and the troupe, I arranged a quick chat with two of the players, Lewis Dunn, who also produces, and Charles Deane, who also directs.

CM: Right, let’s start with the premise of your upcoming shows at Museum Of Comedy – what type of performance can improv-lovers expect?
LD+CD: ‘Any Suggestion, Doctor?’ sees us creating a brand new episode of ‘Doctor Who’ made hilarious with absurd parody elements, a fantastic live score, and a box of wigs and hats, to help take you around the universe and home in time for tea.

CM: What made you decide to do shows with this theme?
LD+CD: We love ‘Doctor Who’. We really, really love it. So much so that when we were watching a series of it some members of the troupe joked about taking the episode titles and inventing our own storylines just based off that. From there we realised that with our combined years of improv skills and the help of a talented musician, we could actually make up new episodes of Doctor Who, and from there the show was born.

CM: Did you have to prepare differently for a show like this with a specific theme, as opposed to a more general improv show?
LD+CD: We have the benefit of over 50 years of the show to help us find new and hilarious ways to create adventures in time and space, so a fair bit of our time is dedicated to revision. We love to use classic and modern Doctor Who monsters and heroes to make our show not just a fun parody, but also something that has that feeling of a real episode. Plus our musician has to spend a lot of time keeping up with the action, so we often find ourselves in the company of a Casio keyboard.

CM: Tell us about your troupe now: how long have you been performing together, and how did you come together as a group?
LD+CD: The troupe was formed about 2 years ago, but in truth we’ve been performing together now for well over 6 years. We met at the University of York and did improv together in The Shambles, York’s Premier Improv troupe. It was only after most of us had graduated and were looking for a way back into improv that the idea of Any Suggestions Doctor was formed, and from there we’ve been to two Edinburgh Fringes together and had an absolute blast.

CM: What drew you to this kind of performance, and what do you love about it?
LD+CD: Improv is like doing real magic. When we run out on stage we sincerely have no idea what on earth is going to happen (so much so it’s often not on Earth). We create entire storylines and characters out of nothing but quick wit, imagination and team work. It’s fantastic to perform and act, but it’s even more amazing to create, live, with no idea what the end product will be. By the end it feels like a miracle has happened.

CM: What do you think makes a person great at improv? Is it an inbuilt talent, or do you have to work at it?
LD+CD: Natural talent is helpful, but there’s no substitute for hard work. We rehearse regularly, and even the most seasoned of us learn new things at our sessions. It’s fair to say that a certain element of improv is a knack and confidence that comes from yourself, but really if you want to be good doing it will make you far better than any fortunate natural inclination to it.

CM: What else do you all get up to? Are you doing other performing work as well as this?
LD+CD: The members of the troupe have a number of different, separate performance projects: Lewis, for example, does stand up comedy as Stanley Brooks (a character act who inspires audiences to chase their dreams… despite the fact he is a total loser). Matt Stalls recently made headlines as Crudi Dench, his drag persona, running his regular Lip Sync Lollapalooza night in York (as well as popping at a few gigs with Sasha Velour recently). Harry hosts local radio on Minster FM, Louise can be found reviewing for lots of publications, and quite a few of us have also contributed to ‘Presented in Mono’, a monologue podcast that produces original audio dramas.

CM: What ambitions do you have for Any Suggestions in the future?
LD+CD: We’re currently trying to muster up the finances to head back to the Fringe again, but we’re also looking into getting a short form/long form hybrid show on the go. We’re really hoping that we can create something that’s original and fun, and that breaks the formula of improv over the last 30 years.

CM: What’s coming up next? Will you be performing in London again soon?
LD+CD: No current plans, but we’ll be heading to The Great Yorkshire Fringe, the Edinburgh Fringe and hopefully heading out to more touring locations soon. Keep an eye on our website for more details.

‘Any Suggestions, Doctor?’ is on at the Museum Of Comedy from 10-11 Feb, see the venue website here for more information and to book.

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