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Six Sitcoms in Salford

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Michelle Brooks | 16:11 UK time, Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Last week, Salford hosted a veritable whirlwind of fresh comedy in the form of the Salford Sitcom Showcase. We caught up with Creative Director Rebecca Papworth who said it had been "absolutely brilliant but I’m looking forward to some sleep!”

Not surprising as the Showcase involved “over 50 cast members, wearing over 50 costumes, in over 50 scenes… on a set that transforms into 24 places… for a three night run of six different sitcoms to audiences of over 280 people.”

Citizen Khan - Photograph by Vishal SharmaCitizen Khan - why plan your daughter's wedding when you can read the paper instead?

There were shows from both new and established writers: Tony Sarchet's Sandwiched; Pippa Evans' Be Our Guest; Jason Cook's Hebburn; Adil Ray, Anil Gupta and Richard Pinto's Citizen Khan; Georgia Pritchett's Up!, and Dan Gaster and Rob Colley's Single White Male.

In the words of Cheryl Taylor, BBC Controller of Comedy Commissioning, there was “something to suit all tastes”, from interfering in-laws to culture clashes, hapless hotel staff, faulty gaydar, wedding nightmares, and dead hamsters.

Hebburn - Photograph by Michelle Brooks

Hebburn - Girl talk... Best tackled with a strong cuppa

The cast and crew had roughly four days to rehearse - this may well explain the recent upswing in sales of caffeinated drinks around Greater Manchester. There were also plenty of new faces, with many of the actors seconded to sitcom from stand-up, radio and sketch, including Chris Ramsey, Jason Cook, Adil Ray, Pippa Evans and Imran Yusuf. As Hebburn’s director Martin Dennis explained, “It’s been a challenge, with not much time and a big cast, some of whom had not acted before, but it felt like the audience bought into the family which was great.”

Single White Male: Pam and Kath out on the town, or in the words of Pam's son Paul - Single White Male: Pam and Kath out on the town, or in the words of Pam's son Paul - "mutton dressed as mutton"

The new breed performed alongside established screen stars like Ardal O’Hanlon, Sophie Thompson, Shobu Kapoor, Russ Abbot, Kris Marshall, Pippa Haywood and Les Dennis. As Imran said to us after the show, “I grew up watching the likes of ‘Ledge Dennis’, Pippa Haywood and Ardal O’Hanlon so it’s been wonderful working with them.”


Up! - Photograph by Michelle Brooks

Up! - The six housemates scramble to nab one of the five remaining rooms

What set the showcase aside from other sitcom performances was the fact there were no TV cameras, no retakes, and no long pauses while the lights get adjusted. Just 6 x 30 minute theatrical performances in front of live audiences with no distractions. Peter Salmon, Director of BBC North said on Wednesday night, “It takes guts, nerve and a sense of humour to present new comedy to an audience.” And after three nights of hard-core chuckling, it’s clear that the gamble paid off.

 

Here’s a selection of highlights so you can laugh along with us (and don’t forget – there are more pics on Facebook too)…

Be Our Guest - Why talk when you can text?

Jack commenting on his extensive culinary experience in Be Our Guest: 
"I've cooked for huge events - International Scout Camp 2003, IInternational Scout Camp 2004..."

The impromptu warm-up act, Mr Russ Abbot:
“They can’t afford a warm-up, so they’ve got me!”

Sandwiched’s Sylvia reminiscing about Leonardo DiCaprio in That Film:
“Sad isn’t it?  He loved her enough to sink!”

Citizen Khan, musing on his daughter’s impending nuptials:
“Maybe we should do English wedding – twenty minutes in register office, cup of tea, cucumber sandwich, bye bye thanks for coming.”

Jason’s Mom and Dad in Hebburn, frantically cutting holes in bread rolls with the aid of an apple corer.  Why, you ask?  Because that’s how you make bagels!

Ian, aka a Single White Male, affectionately referring to his personal website:
“I like to call it ‘sit on my Facebook’ dot com.”

Rebecca from Up!, following a recent break up:
“He says I’m obsessive.  I’m not obsessive. I’ve told him that like 50,000 times!”


Tune in later in the week for more from stand-up stars and newly turned sitcom-writers, Pippa Evans and Jason Cook, who’ll be giving us the lowdown on the writing process… and in Jason’s case, telling us how it felt to watch his life story on stage, with his best mate, Chris Ramsey, in the title role!

Sandwiched - Photograph by Vishal Sharma

Sandwiched - Sweet Dreams as Sylvia  casually brings up the chinese brothels...

Photographs by Vishal Sharma and Michelle Brooks

 

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