My tenth Sydney Fringe Interview is improv group Joint Custody, consisting of Lara Newman, Jordana Wegman, Tyler V Dias and Georgie Daniels. All Improv Theatre Sydney graduates, the group were runner-ups at the ITS Smackdown Finals last year.
This Fringe, Joint Custody are performing at The Factory Theatre from Thursday 29th September—Sunday 2nd October. I met up with Jordana, Tyler and Lara to talk about long-form improv, performing together, and how much of their scenes are planned in advance (spoiler alert: none of it!).
Please note, interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
So, you four are Joint Custody and you’ve been performing improv together for a while now?
Jordana: Yeah. We all went through a number of levels at Improv Theatre Sydney together.
And just for the benefit of readers who don’t know what long form improv is: this is not something that is rehearsed, you guys just know each other really well, and are well-practiced at performing together?
Jordana & Lara: Yeah!
And you’ll use a prompt from an audience member or a guest, to inspire a story that you make up on the spot, and tell on stage?
Tyler: Yeah! We are just really good at what we do. So, it may seem rehearsed, but we’re all too disorganised to rehearse a show. (Laughs)
So, for people who aren’t familiar with improv what should they expect from the night?
Lara: Lots of fun. A lot of laughter. We try and have as much fun on stage as we can.
And I think that’s because we have known each other for a while. We have really good relationships, that we’ve developed, and so going on stage with any one of us is always a good time. So, we hope to emanate that, and have the audience enjoy that as well.
I think the best thing that I find when we do improv is that people just are so in shock that it’s made up. They’re so in shock, they’re just like, “So, how much is planned? How much did you write?”. We get asked these questions after weperform and it’s just like, “Nope! None of it. None of it.” So, I think (people can expect) shock and fun, but mainly fun.
Jordana: To me, improv feels a lot like when you’re a kid and you’re playing with your sibling or your friends, and you’re like “Okay, I’ll be the witch and you be the princess.” And then you just go from there and you play for two hours just off that. It feels like grow-up make believe.
Lara: Yeah, I love that.
That’s a really good analogy.
I have a little bit of knowledge about long form improv, but not a lot. So, tell me a little bit about your show, and maybe explain what long form improv is for people who don’t know.
Jordana: I think we’re going to be doing a mono scene, which is where we first take audience suggestions. And then we set up a location, and that location stays on stage and we have different characters coming in and out in real time. So, if it’s an office, we might have the receptionist come in with the boss, then we might have a client come in with the boss and we can see that the boss like acts differently with different characters. There might be secrets that happen, different relationship dynamics.
Lara: I think a good way to portray it to an audience that probably hasn’t seen long form improv before—and a mono scene in particular— is its probably similar to a bottle episode of a sitcom, in that it’s one location. And like Jordana said, it’s happening in real time. Obviously, we don’t have a room of writers to make us funny. It’s all up to us, but we do try our best and I think one thing that’s really fun with this is that we can come on as many characters or as few characters we want.
So, it’s really up to us in the moment. It is a lot of fun for us to do, and I think it’s a lot of fun to watch as well.
And your show goes for about an hour?
And that will be one mono scene for the entire time?
Jordana: We think we might have some story tellers or one storyteller at the beginning. That’s going to inspire our, our mono scene. So, we wouldn’t have heard their monologue or what they’ve got prepared. And we kind of just have to go off what that inspires.
And that will be one of you four, doing that storytelling role?
Jordana: No, I think we’ll get some other people.
Lara: Yeah. We’ll have some guest storytellers. And we can then draw inspiration from them, asking specific details about certain people that are mentioned or things that are brought up, so that we can kind of draw on more detail from that as well.
Jordana: We’re not replaying their stories. We just use them as jumping off points, and kind of associate, like, “What does that make me think of?” and use that as inspiration.
How long have you guys been performing as a group?
Jordana: Probably for a year.
Lara: I think our first group thing was the ITS Smackdown, which is a competition that Improv Theatre Sydney do, and we came runner-up for that.
Cool. So, you’ve been performing together for about a year. You’ve done a series of competitions and gigs. Apart from your upcoming Fringe performance, do you have other performance dates coming up that you want me to mention?
Jordana: No solid dates at the moment.
Lara: The best way to keep track is to follow us on Instagram (@jointcustodycomedy)
Joint Custody are performing at The Factory Theatre from Thursday 29th September—Sunday 2nd October. Tickets can be purchased here. To keep updated on their latest gigs, follow them on Instagram here.
Interview conducted and edited by Jo Bradley.