Mortified London producer Reuben Williams reveals how they put the hilarious show together
Mortified is an amazing international theatre show that sees members of the public take to the stage and read their hysterically embarrassing teenage diary entries out to the world. The show – which has been described as "hilarious", "excruciatingly funny" and "comic genius" – has chapters in New York, Chicago, Boston, Austin, Amsterdam, London, Dublin, Helsinki, Paris, Oslo and many more, as well as a raved-about Netflix documentary. Here Mandy News sits down with Mortified London's producer Reuben Williams to hear all about how the show gets put together and what audiences can expect.
Reuben, tell us a little bit about the history of Mortified?
Mortified started about 20 years ago now in the US by a guy named David Nadelberg. He found this really embarrassing old love letter from his teenage days –that he never sent – and decided that he wanted to share it on stage during a comedy night. The response was amazing, people loved it and wanted to share their embarrassing stories and love letters too. Through that, Dave evolved his show to include people sharing all the dumb, embarrassing stuff they did as teenagers.
Over a period of time, the show became more and more popular and has evolved into its current format where there are chapters all over the world – people get together and share stuff. Out of that, it spawned a podcast which The Guardian named their "Top Podcast of 2016", a documentary on Netflix and as of this year, a six-part series on Netflix called The Mortified Guide which showcases some of the best pieces they have had over the years.
When did you start the London chapter of it? When does it start and how often is it?
The London chapter started in 2015 but we didn’t actually do our first show until 2016. Dave came to the UK and met with some people who had expressed an appreciation for his show and who wanted to be involved in a London chapter. He then picked a little team and trained us on how he created a Mortified piece, what to look for and how to run a chapter.
We did our first show in 2016 at the Leicester Square Theatre and it sold out very quickly. And it was a lot of fun. We had a bunch of pieces and we’ve been doing shows ever since. We did two shows last year, we’re doing three this year and we already have some booked for next year.
How do people sign up to be on Mortified? How does that process work? Once they’re on board, to what capacity do you work with them?
We’re always looking for people who have got stuff that they want to share. Anyone who has anything that is a little embarrassing or funny, they get in touch with us and we organise an initial meeting. From there, people come along and share whatever they have and as long as they have enough stuff to create a piece then we then assign them to a producer. The producer will work with them to turn whatever they have got into a 10-12 minute stage-worthy piece.
Often it’s about finding a bit of a story, understanding why people did what they did and just selecting the most interesting bits for the audience. Then they get onstage and perform it. Normally, it’s diaries but we’ve also had short films that people have made, poetry or this time we have songs – for instance, there is this group of girls who thought they were in a girl band despite the fact they never actually had any gigs.
How many people do you typically have in a show?
We normally have six acts in a show.
From the first submissions to putting on a show, how often do you get to work with the performers?
Usually, a piece will take somewhere between 10-20 hours all together. Once we’ve identified a piece that we think will work, there are normally a couple more sessions of going through their material looking for a theme or a story in their piece. Obviously, none of it is predetermined. It all comes out of whatever we’re working with. Once we’ve found that, we’ll ask the participants to transcribe all that stuff, the producer will turn that into a piece, go through a couple of drafts and then they get up on stage.
Sometimes that process can happen very quickly and we can turn it around in a month or two and other times, it takes a little longer depending on their ability, what show we want to use them for and all that stuff.
Mortified London is this Saturday June 23 at the Leicester Square Theatre – get 30% off Mortified tickets using the promo code mandy here.
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