Back in 2000 we considered making a show with an interval. In those days the term ‘experimental theatre’ existed for the likes of us and, because intervals were so associated with the codes of conventional theatre, for the likes of us to make a show with an interval was, ironically, a crazily radical idea.

Good and True (2000) ran for 60 minutes straight through. In 2011 The Cardinals had an interval, briefly. It was complicated to make, difficult to perform and running long. Being a history of the world told, in a puppet theatre, by a team of Cardinals a theologically sound opportunity for an interval presented itself between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. We seized this as a chance to give the audience a break and actors a chance to sort their props out ready for a charge towards the apocalypse. This ‘pausa’ never really worked. We tightened up the show, got on top of the performances and ran uninterrupted from nothing through everything to whatever happens at the end.

The Cardinals taught us that you shouldn’t put an interval in a show just because it’s ‘long’ and your audience may need to visit the toilet. We should have known this. The previous year we had made Tuning Out With Radio Z, a three hour improvised performance with no interval. The year before that we had made 24 Hour Scalextric which, as the title suggests, ran for twenty four without an interval. The key thing about deciding whether to have an interval is to ask yourself “will the show work better with or without an interval?” and then act accordingly*.

The Anatomy Of Melancholy was our adaptation of Robert Burton’s 1,500 page, 400 year old self-help manual. It was long and dense – we felt audiences would benefit from a break and because the original book is divided into three ‘partitions’ we happy to luxuriate in our first legitimate, no questions asked interval.

Having broken our interval duck in 2013 we have of course gone crazy and a mere 11 years later I’m proud to announce Community Service is a ‘sensible’ length and has a fully justified, structurally satisfying interval a little under half way through. We encourage audience members to make the most of this opportunity to relieve themselves, buy ice-creams and consume drinks in that time – it may be more than a decade before you get another chance to.

James Yarker

* I’m now slightly regretful that the structure of our 270 second long show It’s Your Film was such that it would not have benefitted from an interval after 140 seconds.

James Yarker 4 April, 2024

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