Show Of The Week – INTERVIEW – Blank Canvas, Do Not Adjust Your Stage

This week’s show of the week is an improv gig with a very different twist to it. This week’s show takes place in partnership with The National Gallery and includes pieces of art! I caught up with Do Not Adjust Your Stage, also known at DNAYS to find out more about the show that happens this Friday.
Hello guys! Tell us about Do Not Adjust Your Stage who you all are and a little bit about yourselves
DNAYS has been going since 2010 and is made up of six improvisers: Shaun Lowthian, Nick Oram, Helen O’Donnell, Rhys Collier, Tim Grewcock and Matthew Stevens. With the exception of Rhys we all met doing improv at Sheffield University in 2006. So we’ve been performing together a while and during that time we’ve developed a number of different shows, taken them all over Europe and to the States. We’re all best pals and love each other.
How did you come up with the name of you troupe?
This was Rhys’s idea I think. If I remember correctly we were in a pub near Liverpool Street post rehearsal and Rhys suggested the name as a play on words of Do Not Adjust Your Set – that TV show from the 50s with half of Monty Python, David Jason and others. At the time we were doing a TV-inspired improv so it fitted really well. We retired that show years ago after getting bored of it, but the name lives on. Most people seem to call us DNAYS (De Nay’s) now anyway.
Tell us a little bit about the shows that are happening this week?
This week we have a very exciting show coming up, Blank Canvas at The National Gallery. It’s a show that we developed specifically for the Gallery and we’re really proud of it. A curator at the gallery collates a load of paintings from their archive, these are then projected up behind us on stage and we do a bit of analysis of them in layman’s terms (Matt is the only ‘qualified’ DNAYS member to do this as he has an ‘B’ in art at GCSE). We then use this chat to inspire a load of comedy scenes. It’s funny and you get to see some great art!
It’s great fun, especially as it’s in the 350 seater Sainsbury Wing Theatre, the last one was a complete sell-out, so if you fancy coming down then grab your tickets now!
What sort of style of improv can people expect?
We do long-form comedy improv shows, expect a fair bit of silliness and fun group scenes!
How did the show at the National Gallery come about in the first place and the idea for such a creative concept?
We pitched the idea to them and they really liked it – after that it was down to us to work really hard on getting a new show really tight before we strode out onto the stage. The idea came from our Nick, who also came up with the idea for our other flagship show; The Wunderkammer. We had form in working with these types of organisations, having had a two year residence at The National History Museum and taking the Wunderkammer to the COP21 Climate Conference in Paris. We love performing unusual gigs in front of audiences often not so used to seeing improv comedy, and the National Gallery have been great to work with!
You guys did a run at the Soho theatre at the end of last year as well how was that?
Oh yeh! That was a bit of a dream come true actually. We always try to have targets each year (to win the cup and avoid relegation mostly) and playing Soho was one we’d had for a while. So many of our favourite comedians have performed there so it was a massive deal for us.
What’s the highlights of some of your previous shows that you have performed?
Oh man, there’s so many. We’ve been going so long that actually it’s hard to remember stuff. But overall I think the things we often really remember are actually the silly, fun things we do around our shows. I’ll give you a top three:
1. Backstage Songs – For a while when we worked with musicians Tom Dixon and Christian Baker we spent a good deal of warm up time improvising totally stupid songs. We still have hits such as Men from Minnesota, Primary Colours are fun to wear and Caravanning lodged in our memories.
2. Tour funnies – We’ve been lucky enough to travel and perform improv so this usually leads to lots of laughter and adventures – like hiding under Rhy’s bed and scaring him once the lights have gone out or giving our all at late night karaoke joints.
3. Show fails – Possibly the most memorable was the well intentioned but ultimately disastrous booking of a Wunderkammer Speaker who turned up to a huge gig totally smashed and proceeded to talk about nothing he’d agreed to talk on.
A lot of people at the moment are trying to transition improv into video to post on social media channels – do you think this works for improv or do you think the art form is lost in the transition
Hmmmm, (ponder). There’s a few different strands here. We do use video on social media but it’s more for fun and making sure no-one forgets us. From our point of view we’ve always decided not to put up videos of live shows (although you can find a few sets online that were at festivals), mainly because we just didn’t really see the value when you really need someones attention from beginning to end. Saying that we have slightly changed our minds of late as we have got a few really good shows that were filmed and we think they’re still funny. If anything they might be useful for others to see what we do if they aren’t based in London.
What is exciting though is that improv does seem to be being used more in writing and filming in the UK. It’s always been there, but it seems a bit more legit all of a sudden.
What have been some of the most unique and different improv sets you have seen this year and why?
Shaun and I saw The Weekend at The Nursery recently and that was cracking. Funny, moving and really different!
If people want to find out more about you where can they follow you on social media?
@dnayscomedy (Instagram and Twitter)
Do Not Adjust Your Stage (Facebook) (Sign up to the mailing list, it’s almost monthly and almost informative)
What are some of the shows that you guys have coming up for the rest of the year?
We have loads at Hoopla Comedy Club and we are at The Free Association on the last weekend of every month.
And Finally in three words – Why should people come and see the show?
Art, Comedy, Brilliant
If you could buy any type of food (right now) what would you buy?
Those chilli chicken strips from The Miller
What is one of the things you would put on your “bucket” list?
David Attenborough speaking at our The Wunderkammer show.
Who do you admire the most and why?
Steve Roe. Steve introduced Nick and Rhys, and then gave them a two hour slot to do a show… TWO HOURS! This turned into DNAYS and he’s continued to work ridiculously hard to grow the improv scene in London for beginners to established acts.
Describe yourself in 3 words.
Wavy Corn Sheaf
When I dance, I look like…?
What is your favorite T.V. channel?
Forest TV (now defunct) you can find it online if you really search. Total goldmine.

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