Entertainment, Interview, Manchester, News

Behind The Scenes at the Greater Manchester Fringe Festival: Operation Perfect Teaset

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By Lucy Madeleine Watson

As part of the fourth annual Greater Manchester Fringe – a festival that celebrates comedy from all walks of life – Operation Perfect Teaset offers you a well-needed escape from reality. Afterwards, I’m able to sit down with one of the actors and discuss the show in more detail.

“All I know is that I’ve found my niche and I’m buzzing!” Hannah Blakeley explains as she sips her coke. Hannah, 23, is performing in Operation Perfect Teaset, a dark comedy sketch show with weirdly wonderful characters and a wicked sense of humour. “It’s that defining moment [as an actor] when you find something you have a true passion for!”

I walk into Gulivers in Manchester’s trendy Northern Quarter on a Sunday night with no idea as to how the evening is going to pan out. Actors Hannah and Lynne [Payne] greet me at the door in character, and I settle into my seat with a drink in hand just as the lights dim.

Confusion sets in after thirty seconds. The actors are standing in a line on stage, staring uncomfortably into the audience, expressions blank. Nothing much is happening, yet giggles from several audience members interrupt the silence, and I know something hilarious is imminent.

Written by BBC-commissioned writer Sarah Glenister and co-writer Gareth Farnell, Operation Perfect Teaset is surreally wonderful yet darkly disturbing, strongly influenced by the likes of the Mighty Boosh and The League of Gentlemen – imagine an out of body experience set to an addictive soundtrack.

Just 60 minutes short, the show features the actors – Hannah Blakeley, Patrick McConnell and Lynne Payne – in an array of characters, from an anxious dancing Chili, to a domineering therapist shouting ‘Feel your breasts, Lucy!’ A touchy-feely film producer and drunken talk show host, and even an eloquently awkward tap dance that manages to steal the show.

11742697_953378904683209_2711254269943246098_n“I really enjoy playing the character Maureen,” Hannah decides, eventually, when I ask her which character is most fun to play. Maureen is a middle-aged contestant from Gainsley, on their satirical game show segment, What’s the Point? “I have a real soft spot for her naivety and unashamed love for life, even though she’s often in tragic situations.”

Undoubtedly, a highlight for the creative team was a three-week run at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August of this year – the largest festival of its kind – where they were very well received and earned a four star rating from Edinburgh Live Review.

“The Edinburgh Fringe Festival was a fantastic, manic, wonderful, stressful whirlwind of an experience. I enjoyed it so much!” Hannah explains. “Even the hard parts like small audiences and handing out flyers in the blustery, Scottish rain. I love the atmosphere of the festival and hope we can go back.”

Following their success in Edinburgh, Operation Perfect Teaset returned to Manchester at the beginning of November to play three shows, performing in a more intimate setting and adhering to the rules of sophistication by dressing in all black, allowing the writing and acting to take centre stage.

“I love performing in Manchester,” Hannah says, originally from Stockport. “New writing is very much welcomed with open arms. You are always guaranteed a great vibe in a Manchester Fringe venue. Give me a pint of IPA and a reasonably sized audience in a cozy venue and I’m happy.”

Unquestionably, I am excited to learn there may be a future for the sketch show. “We are currently in talk with a director and hoping to film some sketches in the New Year,” Hannah says, beaming. “A tour is possibly on the cards as well but it’s all up in the air at the moment, so who knows what is around the corner. We love what we do and we want to keep pushing ourselves to show people what we can do!”

Visit their Facebook page here for more information or Tweet them @OPTset

Image credit to Nick Edwards.

Lucy is a first year Creative Writing student.

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