Upon sitting down to a cup of tea with the director of the Imps, Adam Mastroianni, the first thing that struck me was how earnest he was in his hyperbole. He looked me straight in the eye, and declared “you have never seen anything like this before, and you may never see anything like it again.” His quite frankly alarming level of excitement about the Imps new show, Hyperdrive, I initially put down to the fact that he’s from Ohio, and like his countrymen, inevitably gets a little bit too riled up for his own good.
However, as we begin to talk about the concept behind Hyperdrive, I can’t help but feel myself succumbing to a touch of Yankee overexcitement. The basic idea behind the show is an ingenious fusion of very fiddly technology with the brute imaginative strength of the Imps for making stuff up. On the night in question, LMH’s Simpkin’s Lee theatre will be rigged up with 3 large projector screens, a smoke machine, and a drone mounted camera. With this array of tools, the Imps intend to create fake tinder accounts, spontaneously serenade people over facetime, utilise facebook and text messages to create an interactive and immersive hour of improv, that will hopefully make you think about the increasingly integrated and connected society in which we live. If this ludicrous array of gadgetry sounds exciting, then just imagine how Mastroianni feels about it – “a big kid in a sandbox full of new toys”.
The one niggle that I had at the back of my mind about this pitch was that it might be fall back on ‘let’s all have a laugh at funny old pictures on someone’s facebook whilst they squirm in their seats’. However, for the Imps, this would go completely against what improv is meant to be about – a reciprocal and constructive relationship between improvisers and their audience – nobody is going to be made a fool of, and you only have to get involved if you volunteer to.
Adam goes on to expound the values of improv, as a tool which teaches people to lower their inhibitions, be freer in their creativity, work communally together to construct something amazing. In short, to stop saying no, and start saying “yes, and?”
Mastroianni thinks that the UK is still a long way behind the US when it comes to improv – the art has yet to find a consistent audience outside of certain corners of the Fringe, and certainly hasn’t managed to break into the mainstream. The real problem with improv in Britain is that it relies on generic parody to draw crowds – ‘improv Doctor Who’ or ‘improv Downton Abbey’. However, Mastroianni thinks this infantilises UK audiences and presumes they don’t have the imagination or the enthusiasm to confront the genre on its own terms – something which he’s hoping to change.
The magic of improv for the Imps comes from the transience of it, no two improv shows will ever be alike, and everyone gets out of it just what they bring to it. As Mastroianni relates, it’s a bit like “the positive version of a car crash”, a single, fixed moment in time where normality is thrown out of the window and audience and performers are thrown together in (hopefully hilarious) bedlam. Adam leaves me asking you all to embrace a little bit of that haphazard spontaneity of the form – “this is really cool, trust us, come along”. Who knows what might happen on the night.
Hyperdrive is on at the Simpkins Lee Theatre, 11th-13th Feb, 8pm.