Fur City | The Hilarious Improvised Soap Opera… With Puppets!

When Phoning It In host Dave Coffey first posted he was putting on an improv soap opera with puppets as well as a top class line-up of Dublin’s finest funny people I jumped right on board. I knew the Fur City cast already from their individual comedy outputs and I was hyped to see them all together, on stage, with puppets.

With their first show, held in the hidden gem of The Bewley’s Theatre, selling out in just 24 hours the room was buzzing for Dublin’s improv new school elite to do their thing and it was a riotous success.

This time around they are taking the show to the iconic Smock Alley Theatre on April 19th & 20th with shows at 7pm and 9pm each night. This is not to be missed.

Fur City Tony Cantwell
Tony Cantwell

The producing/directing team of Kelly Shatter and Dave Coffey (AKA Shaffey) have pulled together a stellar team of comedians to bring Fur City to life: Tony Cantwell, host of Sexy Beasts and internet comedy darling, Peter McGann, the man behind the incredible Pulp Injection series, Ali Fox, talented writer/performer who performs stand up under the pseudonym BonMot, Pearl O’Rourke, my all time favourite Phoning It In guest & improv veteran and Luke Benson, another veteran improvisor & Kelly’s partner-in-crime on the fantastic Long Dark Twenties series.

I chatted with Kelly and Dave about what people can expect from Fur City and how it all came together:

There seems to be an explosion of improv comedy in Dublin at the minute. Where is this coming from and what is there to see?

Kelly: A small number of us have been teaching improv for the last ten years, which has lead to the growth of a thriving creative community of improv groups and talented, funny people. There are also comedy savvy audiences who are looking for something outside of the normal stand-up scene and nothing beats the atmosphere and energy of a live improv show! There are shows at The Tightrope every Monday and Friday night and MOB Theatre, every Thursday night.

Where did the idea of Fur City come from?

Dave: I’m really into coming up with new improv formats – ways improv can be used to make something that’s accessible for a mainstream comedy audience. Kelly and I started performing shows as Shaffey (Shatter + Coffey) a while back where we would do improvised versions of TV shows like First Dates and Don’t Tell The Bride. People loved it. Soap operas seemed like a nice evolution.

Ali Fox Fur City
Ali Fox
Why puppets? Are you a die-hard Henson fan or something?

Dave: I had been in contact with a producer I know, Darren Smith, about developing my podcast Phoning It In into a TV show of some kind. He came back to me and said, “I’ve got a bunch of puppets. Could you do something with them?” He produced a show called Anglo The Musical a few years back which featured these great puppets. He had no use for them once the show ended.

Kelly: Darren had actually seen an improv puppet show that the Henson company produce called Puppet Up! It was based around short-form improv which is all short games – a bit like a puppet version of Whose Line Is It Anyway?

Dave: We suggested doing a long-form show, a bit like the formats me and Kelly were already doing as Shaffey. We very quickly landed on the idea of an improvised soap opera with puppets. Fur City was born! We rounded up the funniest cast we could think of and, luckily, everyone loved the idea and came on board.

Kelly: We did our first show in The Bewley’s Theatre last year. It sold out in 24 hours so we knew we had something exciting on our hands. People love puppets! The show went down a storm, so we decided to bring it back to a bigger venue with more shows.

Kelly: For anyone who hasn’t seen a long-form improv show, they often start with a few suggestions from the audience and then the improvisers launch into a show which is usually somewhere between twenty-five and forty minutes long. We get three suggestions and these inspire three different soap opera plots which all come together in a big climax at the end. It’s really heightened so there’s lots of madness and some classic soap opera tropes.

Peter McGann Fur City
Peter McGann
Are the cast given a puppet on the night or are they chosen by some kind of Sorting Hat or tarot card reading?

Dave: With the first show, we all stuck with the one puppet so that we could get used to operating them. They’re all slightly different and some are trickier to perform with than others. But, this time around, we’ll use a different random puppet for each performance. It’s fun to mix them up. And, it just kinda makes sense with improv to keep changing them up. Every show is completely different anyway.

Why should people go see Fur City?

Dave: The puppets are brilliant and people love watching them, but the most exciting thing for us is the cast we’ve managed to bring together. Luke and Pearl are two of our favourite improvisers. They’ve been doing it for years and they’re honestly two of the best in Ireland.

Kelly: Tony Cantwell is one of the fastest rising comedy stars in Ireland. He does it all – online videos, sketch, stand up, improv. He’s incredible. And, Ali Fox and Peter McGann are two of the funniest people we know. Both incredible stand ups, actors and writers. We were so lucky to get them all.

Dave: Me and Kelly are okay too!

What’s next for Shaffey?

Dave: Fur City is a lot of fun and we really hope we can do it again. We also write together and we have a comedy project in development, but it’s still a bit hush hush at the moment. Beyond that, we really enjoy performing improv as a duo, so keep an eye out for us performing in The Tightrope.

Grab your tickets now for Fur City in the Smock Alley Theatre HERE

All photos by Luke Benson