We chatted to the playwright and performer about his new interactive show Open Mic that puts its audiences at the centre of the show.

Hi Rob – could you explain a bit more about how Open Mic works? Audience members can choose whether they want to watch the live stream, appear on screen in the space or actually perform an open mic slot – whether that be singing, poetry or juggling knives. If you’re on screen with me in the space then you might be asked a question or two as the night progresses but if you don’t want to participate you don’t have to. The night features lots of genuine audience members performing and interacting with me as I tell them a story from my own life, so no
two shows are the same. We’ll be talking about lockdown, naturally, so expect it to be funny in places and darker in others. It all depends what the audiences want to share.

How did you come up with the concept for the show? It was important to me that whatever my digital show was going to be, even though the audience is not in the same space as me physically, they are active and vital to the show nonetheless. I wanted to give them the time and space to share their own thoughts and feelings on what has been a dreadful past year. An open mic night does just that – it’s a place where stories and songs can be
shared and the tone of the night can range from comedy to tragedy depending on the contributions.

What kinds of reactions are you hoping for from people taking part? I hope they thoroughly enjoy it. We’ve been starved of fun and play for far too long. Some people might just enjoy it as a good old knees up and others might find something even more meaningful there, depending on their own state of mind.

Do you hope that Open Mic will help make people feel connected with each other and the outside
world a bit more?
I think it would be a hell of a claim to say that this show can do that in any huge way – but if it just gives them an hour or so of connection then that will be something.

How easy has it been to put the show together? It’s been rather odd rehearsing on zoom. And even in the space it’s been masks and distancing so I’ve not even touched a single human being I’m working with on this show. But all these things are the truth we’re all living through right now, which is one of the things about this show that is
actually easier than usual. I know for a fact that every single audience member will ‘get’ the inquiry
of the show. That’s so rare – everyone who sees this show will be unified in that respect.

What are you most looking forward to about Open Mic? Being surprised. When you do semi-improvised work there are always moments that take your breath away – whether they are hilarious or poignant – that you could never have dreamed of scripting. It’s just about letting people talk and genuinely listening.

By Emma Clarendon

Open Mic will take place from the 1st to the 3rd April. To book tickets visit: https://ett.org.uk/our-work/open-mic/