The Miss Behave Gameshow
This week, Rosie spoke with Amy Saunders, the creator of The Miss Behave Gameshow, a "part gameshow, part freewheeling disco party" direct from Las Vegas and following sold-out seasons across the globe. Amy shared with Theatre Travels the excitement of an unpredictable audience each night, what cabaret culture is like across the world, and some of the weird and wonderful things she's seen on stage. Have a read below:
Amy Saunders, performer and creator of Miss Behave Gameshow
This show is known for its unpredictability and reactivity, but relies on your guidance to keep to a structure. How did you develop the necessary skills to keep the show from going off the rails?
The most boring clinical way to describe what I (and many of us, cabaret, stand up, street, improv etc) do for a living is non fourth wall short form entertainment.
We know the audience is there, we’re not pretending they aren’t and we can react and respond to what is happening in real time. If we don’t we are doing our craft a disservice. My favourite thing to witness and play with is responding to the unplanned.
I’ve been in this medium for a long time now. I have never been someone who feels the need to impose their ‘art’ or ‘message’ on people. I have no issue with those that do, but for me I’ve always felt we are there for the audience. We serve them. We facilitate other peoples good times. So I have honed my ability to play with what is happening, not what I would like to happen. That is the sweet spot. When things go wrong it's a gift. When things go right I get bored.
Unlike many comedians, one of my favourite things for an audience to do is heckle me…they’re often funnier than I am, and who cares what one person has to say…we’re all in a room together, lets have an experience. Lets all walk out of that room knowing we had a truly unique experience that will not be the same as the next night. I want to feel ALIVE!
You must have seen a lot of weird and wonderful things over the run of this touring show! Could you share a favourite moment or two?
Here’s two very opposing ones.
Las Vegas. An audience of 50+ year olds, a tad dour at the start. Midway thru, in a game called ‘do anything for a point’ two ladies (celebrating their 60th anniversary together we later learnt) lean over and give each other the most romantic kiss. This leads to a hetero couple (also celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary) do the same. The lesbian couple then one – upped them by standing up, waltzing each other and one dipping the other into a classic movie star kiss. The hetero couple stood up and applauded them…. the rest of the audience followed suit.
Edinburgh Festival. Same game. An acrobat jumped up onstage ripped all of his clothes off and butt naked did a standing back somersault and landed in the splits. Not to be out done, a lady on the opposite team jumped up, ripped her shirt off revealing her breasts and chest bumped him off the stage. She won the point.
We are very fortunate to have so many moments of beauty and absolute chaos on an almost nightly basis. Audiences are the most ingenious performers I’ve ever met.
Having toured around the world for several years now, how has your approach to the show evolved from when you first started?
Initially the show was very much about enabling people to roar, riot and embrace anarchy. After the referendum in the UK and Trump being voted in in the US, I realized that we needed a message of kindness and communication within there.
That has been the main shift.
Regardless of where one comes from, what one believes, if we cannot debate, discuss or converse we’re f***ed forever. I have some hope, but we’re on tricky ground. Part of how we start is by not judging each other and by listening.
How did you find your glamorous sidekick Tiffany, and how did you know they were the one for you?
Without giving my age away, we’ve known each other a long time. We met in Montreal while I was playing La Clique at the Just For Laughs Festival. He was a divine baby faced aerial hoop artist (one of the best I’ve ever seen).
We met again in Berlin a few years later, he was in a circus, I was living there at the time. We both got veeeeeeeeeeeeeery drunk on white wine and had a hoot. I asked him to come and play in my Variety show at the London Roundhouse. He did, and smashed it, of course. Brett Haylock then brought him into La Clique/La Soiree and we toured for years together.
Tiffany makes me laugh – like a drain. When the Vegas opportunity came up I couldn't think of anyone else in the world who would be more fun to play with. We took a chance. It paid off. We’ve been making each other laugh onstage and off for 2 years solid and counting.
Las Vegas is definitely known for its strong Cabaret and Burlesque culture and The Miss Behave Gameshow is a long standing show there. Have you found the Cabaret and Burlesque presence and culture is different in other parts of the world?
Vegas has a strong entertainment culture. Neo-burlesque and cabaret is relatively thin on the ground. We’ve been playing 5 x shows a week for coming up to 2 years now. That is no mean feat. Multi-million dollar productions have come and gone and this little battler is still standing. Locals and those that work onstrip are pretty ruthless in their assessment of new shows. When we celebrated our one year anniversary a croupier said to me ‘congratulations on your first trimester’. Until they know you’re here to stay, you’re like a tourist – passing through.
It is a great source of pride that something so subversive, anarchic, inclusive and queer with a shoestring budget has managed to not only survive, but has been embraced by this crazy town with its entertainment history.
The difference between Vegas and everywhere else is you are playing to people who are here purely for a good time, gambling, sex, alcohol, and entertainment. They don’t need or want ‘kulcha’ they need and want a good time. So the subversion and extremity of New York, London, Melbourne is not as present. And this subversive extreme little show is not only surviving, but flourishing!
RAPID FIRE QUESTIONS:
Favourite production you have ever seen?
Noises Off – West End, White Zombie – The Marquee Club, Spymonkey Complete Deaths – Brighton Dome, Bramble Fm – Glastonbury Festival, Murray Hill and Meow Meow anywhere always.
You’re getting on a plane tomorrow and you can go anywhere in the world, where do you go?
A time machine. I’d remove David Cameron from history and shut this Brexshit thing down before it happened.
Dream show/role to perform?
Emcee in Cabaret, Crystal Connors in Showgirls, Julie Andrews in Victor Victoria, Harvey Fierstein in Torch Song Trilogies, Robert Mueller in the Special Counsel.
Plays or musicals?
Neither, or both but very selectively. I like my entertainment alive.
What’s next for you after this show?
There are some things in the works involving this show, and a couple of new projects, but I ain’t jinxing them. Shhhhhh.
The Miss Behave Gameshow is on for a strictly limited season at Arts Centre Melbourne from January 22 - 27 - grab your tickets here so you don't miss out on what The Times called a "wickedly mischievous" performance!