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 improv Troupe The Parentheticals to talk about their up and coming show!
Location: The Water Rats, near Kings Cross
Date: Saturday 5th August / Sunday 6th August
Time: 15:30 on the 5th August / 13:30 on the 6th August
Tell us about The Parentheticals! Who you all are and a little bit about yourselves?
Kate Oswald: We are a group of time travelling wizards who have gathered tales of all of the greatest quests throughout all of time and have found the best way to convey these tales is by masquerading as an improv group in London in the early 21st century.
Gilead Amit: We all got on stage together for the first time about two years ago. We were playing this improv troupe who devoutly believe in the reality they’re inventing, and since then, well, we’ve just been waiting for somebody to say “scene”.
Sean Toole: We’re the result of many hours of engineering and countless statistical analyses of what constitutes an altogether ‘pretty good’ team.
Guillaume Desqueyroux: We are a bunch of idiots who simply find that improv is where they can be genuinely who they are.
“…Any audible reaction is amazing, but it is particularly satisfying to get a sound other than laughter…”- Nat Ruginis
How did you come up with the name The Parentheticals?
Brendan Way: With difficulty.
ST: I don’t quite recall anything but the stench of permanent markers and the multitude of discarded flip chart papers
Nat Ruginis: In the least improv-y way possible. We brainstormed and then held a vote at our AGM.
GD: A democratic voting process involving physical threats, bribes and ballot stuffing.
KO: We called a meeting together and said what’s a name that two years down the line a drunk guy on the tube will say “it’s not a very good name is it?”
BW: That genuinely happened – and I’m pretty sure he was stone cold sober. We also went for a name few people can spell (that’s also why we chose the show title, Improdyssey).
NR: We wanted to be very hard to google and to alienate our audience as much as possible.
KO: Then someone suggested The Parentheticals which I think sounds like a 60s Motown band who are really into screenwriting. I guess that pretty much sums us up.
NR: Our name is meant to represent a sort of tangent or aside, of which there are many in improv!
Tell us all about the show that you are bringing to the Camden Fringe?
GA: There are four rules to telling a good story, the most important of which is to start with a made-up statistic. In this year’s Improdyssey, we’ll be bending the other three.
KO: Our Camden Fringe show is the amalgamation of two years working together and developing as a group – discovering that what we love to do (aside from playing animals and imitating each other’s accents) is to tell stories. So from that framework we have developed our Fringe show in which we will play some fun improv games that involve storytelling.
NR: Our main attraction is our Improdyssey, a story that follows a protagonist on a quest to find an object suggested by the audience.
KO: As with most questing stories the hero will meet all kinds of characters along the way, will struggle, will ultimately emerge victorious or maybe not! We have no idea what will happen until we get up on stage.
NR: I cannot emphasize enough that it is all made up. There are no outlines that we insert suggestions into. We start from nothing and see what happens.
GD: People think improv is all about a good laugh. Quite true. But we’ll prove them wrong and show them an emotional rollercoaster for an hour.
What are your favourite things about performing improv to an audience at the and why?
GD: When the connection with the audience is so strong that simply raising an eyebrow can trigger an overwhelming emotion in the room.
NR: Any audible reaction is amazing, but it is particularly satisfying to get a sound other than laughter. Oooohs and awwwws mean we’re putting out more than just laughs, which is fantastic.
KO: Being able to feed off the audience like needy little comedy parasites is really what makes improv such an exciting medium. We have our show which we rehearse and all these ideas we have going into it but as soon as we get in front of the audience it becomes all about them. That loss of control is both fun and scary but it forces us as performers to go out of our comfort zones every time.
BW: When you’ve set up a good story and sense everyone in the room’s enjoying it, the rest of the show comes easy, you don’t have to think, and you can relax and just go with the flow. It feels like riding a wave. I assume. I’ve only been surfing once.
NR: When it works, it feels like we are all reading each other’s minds.
What have been the highlights of the shows you have performed previously?
NR: We are a fairly big group as far as improv teams go, so I love when we can find an excuse to pile everyone on stage as a whole gaggle of ducklings or a long queue outside a bank or something equally silly.
KO: At our Camden Fringe show last year, our main character’s best friend fell from a cliff mid-way through the show crashing to her death. It got an actual gasp from the audience and – I’ve probably embellished this is my memory – one or two shouts of “No!” It was just wonderful. We mostly do what we do to make people laugh, but to get a reaction like that felt like we had really captured people’s imaginations and actually got them to care about the characters in that crazy made-up scenario – which was, if I remember correctly, the story of a circus bear and his bearded lady friend searching for a magical tambourine.
NR: I have hurt myself several times onstage and that makes me feel hardcore.
What other improv groups do you find inspiring and why?
BW: Glitch – The Improvised Puppet Show! We’re taught by their ringleader (who is a human).
KO: Glitch are just the furry kings of narrative improv. They are so good at being constantly laugh out loud funny whilst telling an engaging story – and they’re puppets so that to me is just mind-blowing. Like, do the puppets have their own WhatsApp group? Do they have AGMs? So many questions.
GD: The RH experience – such an energy on-stage!
KO: The RH Experience are also great because they are infectiously fun and have such a good group dynamic. They aren’t phased by anything that happens on stage. Every time I see them they do something I’ve never seen a group do before and it’s always hilarious.
“…There are four rules to telling a good story, the most important of which is to start with a made-up statistic…” – Gilead Amit
Who else are you looking forward to seeing at Camden Fringe and Why?
KO: I would like to see what HumanMachine is up to – we had them guest at our monthly improv night and it was an absolute delight. I mean it’s a bloody robot doing improv. The rest of us are still living in 2017 over here. Also would love to catch Alison Thea-Skot’s show because I’ve never known anyone to be so good at coming up with puns for their last name.
BW: I too am intrigued by HumanMachine, but mainly because I want to see if our improv jobs will be outsourced by robots.
You host a monthly improv night at The Star of Kings – tell us more about it?
ST: Who told you!?
BW: It’s not a secret, Sean.
ST: Oh. Bracket Racket is every second Thursday of the month and may involve comedy.
KO: We have guest acts which are usually other improv groups whom we love unconditionally. We also do our quest format and host a competitive audience jam where anyone can get up on stage and improvise with us. And then, because nothing matters unless someone wins, we make the audience vote for their favourite group. It goes against everything improv stands for really but where would society be if no one ever pushed boundaries? We wouldn’t have improvising robots, I’ll tell you that much.
And Finally – in three words, why should people come and see you at the Camden Fringe?
GD: Closer than Edinburgh!
BW: Only six pounds!
KO: We are funny.
ST: Funnier than reality.
NR: Story Time revived!
GA: Please. Say. “Scene”.