Rehearsals for UnScripted’s first 2019 production, Super-Hero Inc. have been underway at Nottingham New Theatre. In between rehearsals, I chatted to one of the actors and writers, Ellie Eagleton. Superhero Inc debuts on Monday 11th February.
What is Super-Hero Inc. about? Where did the idea for superheroes come from?
It’s an ensemble comedy about an agency that earnestly recruits superheroes to keep Nottingham out of danger, run by the very enthusiastic Wilson Cheese and his secretary Norman. However, the superheroes they recruit have the most useless/bizarre powers imaginable, so they have to work hard to execute their missions properly, particularly when the evil Doctor Nottingham surfaces and threatens destruction on the city. The original idea came from our incredibly talented writer/producer/director Yasmine Dankwah, who simply pitched it to us in October as, quote-on-quote, “s**t superheroes”, which we all voted to develop and then just kind of ran with it.
You’ve co-written this production with the rest of the Unscripted team. How did you find writing collectively? Did you ever alter the script during rehearsals?
Writing collectively was simple in that we developed the rough storyline together, then divided up the scenes between us all rather than the entire group writing it collectively scene-by-scene, because that would have been a nightmare. We did it over Christmas via a Google Doc, which was stressful for me to balance with three coursework assignments, so I only ended up writing one scene out of the total 13 (but it was the key scene for my character, so I like to think I’m fulfilling the “narcissistic writer-performer” stereotype!). And oh yes, we’ve made multiple alterations during rehearsals, albeit little ones, but that’s something I’ve come to expect with devised performances.
“Expect laughs, silliness and the deliberate recycling/satirising of age-old superhero clichés and tropes”
Did you all write your own characters? How would you describe your superhero character?
Actor-wise, we all devised (i.e. conceived powers and personalities for) our own characters, but as only 2/6 writers were part of the cast, the characters’ narrative roles were mainly developed by the writing team as the script was written, leaving non-writing actors to develop their performances from the script. My character is Florence Ressent, better known as the Human Glo-Stick; she’s the arguable leader/straight-man of the group, and her story is one of selflessness, sarcasm and spiritual awakening. Glo-Stick gets her alias from the fact that her body exudes light at will, but that will require her to break one or more of her bones, just like snapping a glowstick. It’s a bit odd and twisted, but that’s my sense of humour to a tee!
What can audiences expect from Super-Hero Inc.?
Expect laughs, silliness and the deliberate recycling/satirising of age-old superhero clichés and tropes; a lot of the storyline was inspired by things like the Marvel Cinematic Universe and old comic books. There are also a couple of original songs/spoken word interludes, and some puppetry sequences too, so although we’re up against it in rehearsals (with less than a week till opening night), it’s nothing if not an ambitious production. Hopefully audiences will have as much fun watching it as we’ve had developing it.
Have there been any funny moments in rehearsals?
So many! Being for a comedy play, rehearsals have basically been one big laugh, particularly due to the chemistry all the actors have developed with each other. A lot of this year’s cast and crew are new to Unscripted and they’ve been such a pleasure to work with as we’ve all got to know each other. One particular source of amusement has been actor Nicolas, who’s brought all the delights and drama of his native French accent to his character Mimic, so much so that Nick (who plays secretary Norman) has developed a hysterical, and scarily accurate, impression of him. Ironically, impressions are Mimic’s superpower and not Norman’s!
Are there any scenes or moments within the play that you’ve been particularly proud of during rehearsals?
Pretty much all of them if I’m honest, to say we’ve only had a fortnight to put it all together, a week of which has elapsed already. However, I do think Glo-Stick’s aforementioned key scene is what I’m personally most proud of, not only because I wrote it, but because the other writers found it funny and it’s a challenge for me as an actor; it’s dialogue-heavy and only involves one other character onstage. More generally, the big group scenes such as partying and fighting have been a challenge to block/choreograph, but they’re all coming together brilliantly!
Can you sum up the show in three words?
Ridiculous. Heartwarming. Yeezy.
Super-Hero Inc. runs from Monday 11th February to Thursday 14th February. All shows start at 7:30 pm and doors open at 7 pm. Tickets are available to be purchased here.
Featured image designed by Amy Crighton.