Sam Cochrane - AKA Gigglemug Theatre - makes seriously silly musicals.
The writer, director and performer is scouting for a producing partner.
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‘Gigglemug’ is Victorian slang for a habitually smiling face.
Gigglemug Theatre, then, the alias of writer, director, and performer Sam Cochrane and his various associates, exists to give its audiences a good time. To make them happy. To leave them laughing. To turn them into a bunch of gigglemugs.
“I was really into The Mighty Boosh growing up,” says Cochrane. “I loved Avenue Q, as well. Monty Python, too. I like anything that is openly, knowingly silly. That’s the kind of work I love, and that’s the kind of work I try to make, as well. Silly, escapist entertainment.”
Born in 1996, Cochrane grew up in Bath, and started performing in school shows – he was Jean Valjean in his high school’s production of Les Miserables – and community theatre, before going to Warwick University, one of the country’s leading universities for producing theatrical talent in recent years. He studied history, but he was under no illusions about what he wanted to pursue professionally.
“I always knew I wanted to do musical comedy theatre stuff,” Cochrane says. “And I was lucky enough to be at Warwick at the same time as some brilliant people, like Rob Madge and Chris Poon, who wanted to make similar sorts of shows to me. Honestly, it was the most fun I’ve ever had.”
Cochrane created his first comedy musical as Gigglemug Theatre while still a student, collaborating with writer Chris Baker and composers Tom Slade and Theo Caplan, and took it to the Edinburgh Fringe in 2018. Its somewhat surprising subject: Timpson, the national retailer offering everything from key cutting to watch repairs. Even more surprising: Timpson’s CEO agreed to put some money behind it.
“I’d always been really fascinated by Timpson as a kid,” says Cochrane. “Why does the same shop cut keys and repair shoes and do all sorts of other stuff? How does that happen? So we wrote it. I found James Timpson’s email online, and he agreed to let us have the rights to the company name, and to sponsor us, as well. It was amazing, actually. Timpson printed our posters. Timpson transported our set with their vans. We even performed at Timpson conferences.”
“Timpson printed our posters. Timpson transported our set with their vans. We even performed at Timpson conferences…”
Timpson: The Musical was a hit, earning one of The Stage’s Edinburgh Awards with its ridiculous riff on Romeo and Juliet, and subsequently embarking on a UK tour in 2019. It also, inadvertently, provided Cochrane with the perfect plan for staging future comedy musicals: write a show about a large institution, and ask them for help to produce it.
“It’s not quite as easy as it sounds,” he explains. “Timpson was, completely by accident, the dream company to work with. With other organisations, a lot more people have to sign off on projects like that. There is a lot more consideration about protecting their brand before they sign a contract. With Timpson, it was kind of anything goes.”
When Timpson’s tour was over, Cochrane started working on a second show – RuneSical, a multi-pathway musical based on the popular online fantasy game RuneScape – with regular collaborator Alex Prescot, but before it could make its intended premiere at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic hit, and Gigglemug Theatre was forced to pause its plans.
Undaunted, Cochrane put his second show on ice, focusing instead on his audio enterprises - under the aegis Gigglemug Sounds, he has co-created two comedy podcasts, one an Agatha Christie-inspired mystery series starring Lewis Doherty, the other an Archers-inspired parody about the end of the world starring Mel Giedroyc - and two further live shows.
First up was The Bean Spillers, an improvised musical that spins audience stories into song, which Cochrane and Prescot have recently been performing around the West Country. His favourite stories so far? “One audience member told us that, when they were at school, a friend of theirs went into the woods and shoved an ice lolly up his bum,” laughs Cochrane. “I liked the musical we made about that.”
And, on top of all that, Cochrane, together with composer David Fallon, has been busy writing his third scripted comedy show, the follow-up to the yet-to-be-staged RuneSical. It’s called Scouts! The Musical, and it has – after two years of negotiation – been made in partnership with the Scout Association.
“Scouts! The Musical feels like a bigger project than Timpson or RuneSical, but it will still have the signature style we have developed,” says Cochrane. “It’s unpolished, it encourages corpsing, it encourages the audience members to get involved, and it’s a lot of fun.”
“Someone who had seen Timpson once stopped us on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh when we were flyering, and described it as ‘a show that promises nothing and delivers everything’,” he continues. “That has sort of become our motto.”
What do you want to do?
The two next big goals for us are to take RuneSical to the Edinburgh Fringe and to put Scouts! The Musical on somewhere. I would love to take it on a regional tour of slightly larger venues, and I would love to find a home for it for several weeks, maybe even in London.
What support do you need to get there?
We are exploring how to fund RuneSical. At the moment, we are hoping that the RuneScape community might help us crowdfund it if we offer some ridiculous prizes. Honestly, I will write a song for anyone that supports it.
For Scouts! The Musical, we want to work with someone who has experience as a commercial producer, whether that is an individual, or a company, or a producing house, who can help us take it to the next level. If anyone can offer any support or advice on that front, that would be amazing.
And I am always keen to hear from anyone who wants to collaborate in making more extremely silly musicals, so get in touch if that’s you!
How can people find out more about you?
People can watch Timpson: The Musical online for free via our website. Or they can listen to our podcasts – GiggleMurder Mysteries and Archergeddon! – on Spotify and Apple Podcasts. There are some songs from Scouts! The Musical on our YouTube channel, as well. And people can come and catch us touring The Bean Spillers next year, and – hopefully – doing RuneSical at the Edinburgh Fringe next summer.
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