COMEDY improvisation heavyweights Richard Vranch, Suki Webster and Tony Slattery, will be taking to the stage with Southend's very own John Oakes and Lee Tearrell - comedians and producers of the Laughter Academy - to bring you Scared Scriptless, an evening of improvised comedy.

It takes place on Thursday July 19, at Sands By the Sea, as part of the Southend Comedy Festival.

Tickets are limited so you are advised to "grab yours quick" via or

This show is being brought to you as part of the Southend Festival.

JAMES RAMPTON meets Richard Vranch and Suki Webster.

Richard Vranch (Whose Line Is It Anyway?, Comedy Store Players, Paul Merton's Impro Chums) and Suki Webster (Paul Merton's Impro Chums, Comedy Store Players) and I are sitting round a cosy open fire in the sitting room at a central London hotel discussing improvisational comedy. The room echoes to the sound of repeated, loud bursts of laughter. It is a rare privilege to be on the receiving end of such a dazzling off-the-cuff show.

Richard and Suki of course know each other from being part of Paul Merton’s Impro Chums, a show he is taking back on the road next year. They have been wowing theatres across the UK for years now with their utterly compelling spontaneity. They are able to conjure out of thin air the most breathtaking routines.

And now they are coming to Southend, as part of the Southend Comedy Festival, to appear in Scared Scriptless along with Tony Slattery.

The joy of the show – for both performers and audience – lies in the fact that it is totally unplanned.

Basildon Standard: Richard Vranch

"The only skill you have to learn for impro is don’t plan and don’t worry. The key is simply listening and reacting to what the other person has just said" explains Suki.

The comedians close friendship and mutual understanding, built up over the last 25 years of working together, is almost telepathic and endows them and the rest of their troupe with a wonderful on-stage chemistry. Audiences get a rare thrill, too. They revel in the fact that they can make suggestions that the comedians immediately act out. They also relish the fact that the performers are clearly having the time of their lives up there on stage. And they are delighted that the show is being created uniquely for them – they know it will never be repeated.

According to Richard, who also made a big splash on Whose Line Is It Anyway?, “people love the sheer fun and the teamwork".

"They can see that the team is more important than the individual. Audiences also adore the fact that it’s different every time. They are really pleased to be hearing this material for the first time. They know that a great scene involving, say, a nuclear bomb up the Eiffel Tower isn’t going to happen again" he says. “That’s why it stays so fresh. We would have got tried a long time ago if we were doing The Mousetrap every night. The audience is also part of the show – they literally get what they ask for. By the end they feel like they’ve done it with us.”

Audiences also tend to remember the best routines – even if the comedians don’t!

“Someone will describe to you a scene that you did in a previous show, and you simply don’t remember it,” continues Richard, who provides musical accompaniment to some of the Merton's Impro Chums’ most memorable routines. “People come up and say, ‘you were so funny as a penguin that time,’ and you have no idea what they’re talking about!”

Basildon Standard: Tony Slattery

Suki adds that, “I was in the ladies the other day, and a random woman came up to me and sang me a song in its entirety that I had improvised a year earlier and had completely forgotten about. You don’t remember a two-minute routine you did in Preston a year previously because your brain doesn’t need to store it or analyse. As soon as you’ve said it, it’s gone.”

The comedians have established a very loyal following. They also like to play lots of great games on stage. One of their favourites is “the fish bowl” where they read out audience suggestions plucked from a fish bowl and instantly have to perform them. It leads to the most inventive scenes they say. They see no reason why the fun should ever end.

"Last night we were performing to an audience that stretched from an 18-year-old to someone celebrating his 80th birthday" says Richard. "They were all rocking with laughter at the same jokes. You do not get that with stand-up or TV comedy. I think we’ll have longevity because our humour is not niche, it’s universal.”

Suki concurs that the show will go on. “It’s just enormous fun,” enthuses the performer, who co-wrote the documentaries, Paul Merton Looks at Alfred Hitchcock and Morecambe and Wise: The Show What Paul Merton Did. “We get paid to go on tour in a lovely big bus with all our mates. What could be better than that?”

Catch them at Sands By the Sea, Western Esplanade, Southend, at 7pm.

Tickets are £11 including a booking fee.