In this interview, the company of 'Occupational Hazards' tell us about their strangest experiences at work, what we can expect from the show, as well as the occupational hazards of being an improviser.
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
Mark: Footballer, rockstar, or scientist. I guess that would have made me Brian Cox if he’d also played for Barnsley pre-’97.
Erica: Interior designer. I used to write off for catalogues from companies at the back of Ideal Home magazine, which is a bit odd for a nine-year-old.
Carla: An actor or a vet. I did work experience at a vet’s and helping them to castrate rabbits put me off for life.
James: First I wanted to be a wizard. Then a clown. Then a barrister. Maybe as an improviser, I'm combining all three...
Why did you decide to set the show in the workplace?
Carla: Work is where we spend so much of our time and there is a bunch of status and awkward familiarity that goes on every day that most people don’t give much thought to. There’s some great truth and comedy in those moments. It's something Victoria Wood explored brilliantly in Dinner Ladies.
Erica: People behave differently in the workplace to how they do with their friends and family, and it’s fascinating to explore that contrast. Also, I love the different sense of proportion people have at work: mugs, staplers and room temperature don't tend to have the same importance in the home.
Why is the show called ‘Occupational Hazards’?
Erica: At work, we are expected to get along with a range of personalities while at the same time embodying the values of the company which may or may not have been decided by a committee. I mean, what could go wrong?
James: We spend 80% of our time in work navigating the river in a creek where you don't get to pick the crew of your canoe and no-one's quite sure who has the paddle.
What are the occupational hazards of being an improviser?
Erica: You have to let so much go! You might come up with something amazing in a rehearsal and afterwards you think 'an audience is never going to see that...'
Mark: It doesn’t have a mainstream following so it can be difficult to talk to people about. On the other hand, there’s something very exciting about doing an artform which is on the fringes.
James: I once did my knee in tripping over an imaginary ball whilst playing an indie-kid version of Harry Potter.
What is one of the funniest/most unexpected things to happen to you at work?
Erica: I teach Performing Arts to teenagers and I once heard shouting coming from the corridor. "It's Tina!* She's had a fight with Nick!* I think she hit him!" Through sobs, Tina says "H- H- He said something m- mean... S- s- something mean about..."
"Who, Tina, who did he say something mean about? You? Your mum?"
"B-Barbara St- St- reisand." (She dissolves into howling tears.)
It's the most Musical Theatre thing that's ever happened. *Names changed to protect identity.
Mark: I once had a team leader who told us it was so cold that morning, he had found it hard to get out of bed. It was only when he rolled up his trouser leg to reveal he was still wearing crimson pyjamas that I realised he’d solved the problem by just wearing them underneath his clothes. I have a fondness for that.
Occupational Hazards runs at the Corpus Playroom from Thu 4 to Sat 6 July at 7pm. Book your tickets here!