We’re always told to turn our phones off in the theatre. But what if that was the entire point? Next week the Simpkins Lee Theatre will play host to Hyperdrive, a new experimental show from the Oxford Imps. The Oxford Imps, as readers with good comedic taste will likely already know, are Oxford’s own improv comedy troupe, who perform a show every Monday night at the Wheatsheaf pub. It’s traditional for the Imps to put together a more experimental show every Hillary term, and this time the theme is Information Technology. It’s the brainchild of Adam Mastroianni, who you may recognise from a now infamous episode of Come Dine With Me. (The one where the guy lost and had a bit of a meltdown at the end). When he’s not being shouted at by reality TV contestants, he’s the director of the Oxford Imps, and he met with me to discuss Hyperdrive and the joys of technology-based improv.
How do you go about putting on a show like this?
I’d never really done a show like this before, where the format of the show itself is created through improvisation. In most improv, there are these set forms, and maybe you experiment with them a little bit, but the majority of this show is created from us, just kind of playing around and having fun in rehearsal. Which is a totally new thing to me, and way more exciting than I could have hoped.
Where did the idea come from, to do a technology-based show?
Part of it is the fact that it’s never been done before. I’m really excited by the idea of doing a Facebook interview, to inspire a series of scenes, which is just one element of the show. We’re going a step beyond what the Imps do right now – so it’s a new skill we’re learning – but it’s also something exciting, and something very different for an Oxford crowd to see.
Is there anything else you can tell us about the show?
We also want to create a Tinder profile based on audience input, and have someone in the audience use it throughout the show, and do scenes based on the people they match with. We would love to also try and get that person to get one of those matches to actually come to the theatre. I’ve no idea if that’ll work or not, so we’re not banking on it, but we hope that it will.
Has this show presented any technical challenges?
We’re limited by what we can physically do in the space. We’re banking on being able to use polling software to interact with the audience, but of course it’s an open question: what if people can’t get online in the theatre? What if the computer crashes? So we’ve tried to stick to things that, if it fails, we always have a backup plan. We know we have these certain parameters, that allows us to say ‘OK, within this circle of possibilities, what do we want to do?’ It’s like when you sit down to write; just looking at a blank page can be very frustrating, because the possibilities are endless, but when you give yourself these limitations you can actually get something down. Total freedom can actually be very paralysing.
Is there anything else we should know?
Oh, we have a drone. I’ve been practicing flying it. So if you hear a buzzing down Cowley Road, it’s me trying to not crash a drone, which I spent most of yesterday doing. So I’m sure Health and Safety will be fine with it.
Image // William Shaw