It’s Comedy Festival season and welcome to all things Camden Fringe! Apart from having exclusive access to The Scribbling Apes run of the festival, we have a whole bunch of fantastic interviews with acts performing as well! We sat down with Stephen Davidson and Michael Such to talk about their improv troupe – Machine For Fools
Location: Etcetera Theatre
Date: 21st – 22nd August
Price: £10 (£8 concessions)
Hello guys! Tell us about A Machine For Fools! Who you all are and a little bit about yourselves?
MS: I’ve been improvising for four years. I directed the improvised road trip movie Open Roads which got its start under The Nursery’s Originals program (which is great and you should look up). I’m half of experimental twoprov Two of Wands with Lizzy Mace. I do lots of other things including writing story games.
SD: I’ve been improvising for seven years. I’m currently the artistic director of Improvable, and QI: Queer Improv, and also play with the Verbs, The Happiest People in the World, the Eh Team, and Zootropic. I teach improv through Improvable, the Nursery, and Hoopla, and designed Improvable’s syllabus. I also lead improv workshops for various schools and companies across the UK.
How did you come up with the name A Machine For Fools?
MS: It just felt right. This is the best way to make decisions with improv. Not financial planning though.
Tell us all about the show that you are bringing to the Camden Fringe?
MS: It’s darkly comic improvised theatre of the absurd. It’s a show about social norms and shaming. The audience is involved on making things gradually more impossible for the performers. For the improv nerds I might also describe it as hep or one of those overload improv games but played by Samuel Beckett.
SD: It’s a really interesting marriage of improvised theatre and improvised comedy. It starts out as a slow-burn improv show, then a dark clown character layers short form games on top of it. The players have to keep the show going with the added burdens of performing the games. It’s intended as a representation of the extra needless rules and burdens placed on people in real life based on their gender, race, income level etc., though none of those are directly referenced. We’ll simply enjoy watching some very good improvisers gradually break down under the pressure of silly games.
What are your favourite things about performing improv to an audience at the and why?
MS: The beauty and tragedy of improv is that it is ephemeral and impermanent. You can do the show of your life to three people on a Tuesday night and then it’s gone forever. You can also do your worst show and just move on. In fact you can survive almost anything on an improv stage by responding in the moment.
SD: I love the immediacy of it; the fact that everything is happening in the moment means that you’re really engaged all the time, and hopefully the audience is too. They’re also usually lovely people who are on your side and want you to do well!
What have been the highlights of the shows you have performed previously?
MS: Performing at Impro Amsterdam with Two of Wands because it’s the first time I’ve performed abroad, in a proper theatre as well. Also organically opening a Two of Wands set with a really serious/dark scene at a comedy focused improv night. I enjoy bringing audiences to places they didn’t expect but end up loving.
SD: I’ve been privileged to perform in a few shows lately that had big audiences of people who were new to improv- Improvable recently hosted an evening of Zeal: The Improvised Pride festival, and we also recently opened for Scott Adsit at the Nursery, and both shows were full of people who I’d never seen before. Improv can be a little insular, but I *love* taking an audience of skeptical or bemused people and convincing them that improv is awesome and hilarious.
What other improv groups do you find inspiring and why?
MS: TJ & Dave because I’m a walking cliche. Also because they summon real, fleshed out characters living their lives. I recently saw The Maydays Happily Never After show and really enjoyed it. It’s an improvised Tim Burton-esque musical. They were very committed to delivering a very specific aesthetic which I love to see, as well as just being great improvisers.
SD: I’ll certainly second the Maydays, they’re lovely- they do a lot of different shows in different styles, and I think it’s really cool that they don’t let one style define the group. I also love 3peat, who are a Chicago-based group, because they so clearly love playing with each other. That’s a magic ingredient, as far as I’m concerned.
Who else are you looking forward to seeing at Camden Fringe and Why?
MS: I have no idea there are too many great things going on and I am very indecisive. Because improv is a small scene I feel I have to rep people I know: Obsessions, Arfie Becomes Everyone, Improdyssey, Artificial Intelligence Improvisation, Improv Deathmatch
SD: Improv Deathmatch is a fun and well-produced show, definitely recommended. Piotr’s AI show is like nothing I’ve seen before, which is cool- definitely see that as well.
As well as performing improv, you also teach it as well – tell us about some the up and coming courses you have in September?
SD: Improvable have a lot coming up- I’m particularly excited about Joyful Longform, which aims to do longform in the easiest and most fun ways possible, and Advanced Shortform, which lets people who love games play them hard and fast, and make their own up too. http://improvable.org/classes
If people want to find out more about you where can they follow you on social media?
MS: Funny, involving, different
SD: Try something new!
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