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School of Comedy expands after E4 success

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School of Comedy, the Chiswick-based youth theatre club that spawned the E4 series of the same name, is to build on its success with the opening of two new London offerings in 2011.

Starting in January, the founders of the original after-school club, which has been operating out of the Tabard Theatre since 2005, will launch in Primrose Hill and Notting Hill. Each of the new schools will be able to accommodate around 20 young people, aged between ten and 14 years, and will be run by Laura Lawson and Tara Carr, who set up the original Chiswick club five years ago.

The Primrose Hill school will operate on Monday evenings from Pembroke Castle, which already houses the Hampstead Comedy Club, while the Notting Hill offering will be based at the Tabernacle on Saturdays.

Lawson said: “Our Chiswick club is full and bursting with talent. We want to be able to offer opportunities for all the talented London comedy enthusiasts and the demand seems to be in Notting Hill and Camden.”

She told The Stage that the new venues had been selected over church and school halls because it gave the School of Comedy members a feel for working in a professional environment, with each venue providing a stage and lighting, as well as rehearsal areas.

Aspiring comics who attended would be taught skills in stand-up, improvisation and the creation of sketch-show material, Lawson said.

In addition, the schools will host visiting professional comedians and will benefit from having an in-house writer, Barunka O’Shaughnessy, who worked on the E4 School of Comedy series and who will be on site to write down material the children create. Each course, costing £200, will conclude with an end of term performance that will be open to the public.

Lawson also revealed that current members were developing a number of series for television. One of these is called The Ivo Pope Show, which is being developed in association with Getting On production company Vera, run by comedy producer and writer Geoff Atkinson, who was one of the writers behind Spitting Image.

She described The Ivo Pope Show as a political satire that was a cross between The Daily Show and Outnumbered.

In addition, Lawson and the School of Comedy team are developing a new improvisation-based television show called Kids Unhinged, which she said was like Whose Line Is It Anyway?.

Lawson added she had ambitions to open more schools across London, but said she was reluctant to have too many because she and Carr wanted to be personally involved in the running of each course.

“The children who attend feel as though the school is their secret. We don’t want it to be [as big as] Stagecoach or anything like that, as it would take away the feel of it being special for the kids,” she said.

One potential way of opening more would be to “pass the baton” to club members who have progressed through the schools, such as cast members from E4’s School of Comedy, who still come to the Tabard club to help out with classes, she said.

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