Funny At The Fringe – INTERVIEW – Shaken Not Stirred: The Improvised James Bond Film

It is festival season and that means that in the next month there is so many great comedy festivals to look forward to! This month we are talking to acts performing at an array of festivals to find out more about their sets and what they have planned for their shows. Today we talk to an improv troupe who like everything Spy, gadgets with a hint of action. I sat down with Alexander and Dom of the Improv Troupe Shaken Not Stirred to find out all about their show this year.

2018SHAKENN_V1Name Of Show: Shaken Not Stirred: The Improvised James Bond Film 

Time: 12.00pm

Date: August 2-12, 14-26

Location: Just The Tonic at The Caves – Just The Big Room   (Venue 88 )

Hello guys! Tell us about shaken not stirred ?

Hi! Shaken Not Stirred: The Improvised James Bond Film is, well, an improvised James Bond film! Just the two of us – Alexander and Dom – create an entire one hour 007 caper using only the audience’s suggestions. But there are some fun caveats too, to separate us from a lot of other improvised shows.

Firstly, we give certain audience members fluffy toys which they can throw onstage whenever they like, at which point either a love scene or a chase scene occurs instantly. Secondly, we adamantly and pedantically adhere to the world of James Bond – if the audience wants a Sean Connery film, we’re in the 1960s and Konrad Adenauer is the Chancellor of West Germany; if they want a Daniel Craig movie, it’s 2018 and One Direction are, for better or worse, top of the charts.

Finally, we’ve been partners for four years, and we’ve worked hard to cultivate a certain two-prov style: it looks adversarial, as though we’re sabotaging the other, whereas in actual fact each of us is putting in an awful lot of building blocks in our scene-work to make the other person look good and funny. Imagine Pete and Dud with cap guns and extremely hot woolly turtleneck jumpers and you’ve got the idea.

What’s the name of your show this year?

That’s another fun bit. Every day we hand out six clapperboards for the audience to fill out with the title of a James Bond film that they’d like to see. We choose one at random, and take it from there. In three Fringes and however many other shows across the UK we’ve had some belters. Double O Six In The City, James Bond and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Quantum of Boris. One of our favourites was 7070 On The Wagon, because it was just so baffling – we took it down a path where James Bond spent the entire adventure in Alcoholics Anonymous trying to sober up and remember his own name and code-number. So either that or, thanks to a particularly imaginative five-year-old boy, Butter Fingers and the Magic Lizard. A baffling yet brilliant suggestion.

How did you come up with the name of your show that your taking to the fringe?

Technically the name of our double-act is ‘Uncle Bryn’. Shaken Not Stirred is the name of our ‘brand’, if you excuse a horridly corporate word. But we’ve become far better known as Shaken Not Stirred, so we won’t rock the boat. It’s a bit like how, as Alan Partridge is wont to remind us, “It’s like when people say ‘Tannoy’ rather than ‘public address system’, Tannoy is a brand name.” When it doubt, refer to Partridge. Partridge solves everything.

Tell us a little bit about your style of improv?

To begin with, we were both very influenced by that very ‘British’ kind of improvised comedy – off-the-cuff wit, as opposed to the more prevailing fashionable US improv style we see quite a lot across London which we think can, sometimes, sacrifice humour for form, structure and quite a large dose of vain self-congratulation (“Ooh, look at our narratively non-narrative inverted advanced Harold!”).

After going to America specifically to learn more, and especially when we started getting in exterior improv coaches once we got home, we are slowly but surely learning to ‘build upwards’ and trust each other’s choices far better. Especially since asking the incredibly supportive and bold Sally Hodgkiss of The Actor’s Nightmare and The Committee to coach us, we think we’ve really kicked on within the last year, and that our teamwork has improved.

Our number one rule is back to ‘make your scene partner look good’, and given that we think our show will be really different this year compared to the previous three years for the better.

What will your set be about?

It’ll be about an innately flawed spy and the innately flawed nature of his existence. It’ll be about the women who love him, and him liking those women for a bit. It’ll be about why good people go bad and try to take over the world or try to destroy peace and democracy. And it’ll be about an hour.

Why James Bond? How did the Idea come about and what inspired you?

We were looking for a genre of film or literature; but one which was universal enough to attract an audience based on its individual contributive tenets. Ian Fleming/Eon Productions’ James Bond was perfect: some people like James Bond films, others like spies, some like comedy shows, others improv, family-friendly, Pay What You Want, etc. James Bond is such a rich source of references, spanning over 50 years of popular pervasive culture. Ultimately we’d like to start performing at more literary/film festivals for that very reason.

What other acts are you looking forward to seeing at the fringe?

We both started out in the Oxford Imps and the Oxford Revue – so we always keep a weather eye to their horizons, those two Fringe student comedy absolute stalwarts. We have close friends in improv shows like Bumper Blyton, The Committee, Criminal, Aaaand Now For Something Completely Improvised and Austentatious; and sketch acts such as Moon and LoveHard. But to be honest, if you come and see our show, we’ll come and see yours, and bring friends, and buy you a beer afterwards – that’s how much we enjoy making friends at the Fringe. Not least because we’re terrible at organising gigs so LOVE guesting with other people aha.

Have you done the fringe before? What have been some of your favourite shows to date and why?

So this is our fourth Fringe together. Outside of that, Alexander came up in 2014 with his then sketch trio The Awkward Silence and their show The Voyage of the Narwhal, which was tremendous fun and a real lesson in writing narrative comedy. He also took his debut solo hour Alexander Fox: Ringo to Pleasance Courtyard last year, which was built around a live drum kit and so was VERY DIFFERENT, but his best experience in comedy to date.

Likewise, Dom’s already onto his second solo hour for this coming Fringe, Free Willy But From The Perspective Of The Whale. Prior to that he was director of the Oxford Imps for two Fringes, of which he’s dreadfully proud; and he’s also been in the casts of Daniel Nils Roberts’ Honey and Joseph Morpurgo’s Hammerhead, both of which were absolute smashes from two whipstart comedians. What we’re both trying to say is, we love the Fringe, we’ve performed in a lot of shows and many others too, and we’ll do almost anything for a free train journey.

some acts have already tried it and done shows in the environment  but do you think virtual reality has a space to be used in improv and what other modern technologies do you think could alter the way we interact and watch improv?

That would be wicked. We’re not very tech-savvy at all – this year we’re using an old fashioned overhead projector for our shadow-puppet chase scenes, and we think that’s challenging enough thank you very much!

We would say though, with our boring-but-true hats on, that for us it should always be tight, well-drilled improv scene-work first, technology later as a garnish on top. Virtual reality would be cool, but for us it’s character work, character work, character work. Maybe we’ll do VR in thirty years or so. Probably not. We’ll still be trying to master three line drills.


What have been some of the most unique and different improv sets you have seen this year and why?

We saw a brilliantly set by The Actor’s Nightmare recently, which was calmness and patience personified (Alexander is now in that cast, so hopefully that patient approach will rub off on him). We’ve also seen Bumper Blyton do some really teamwork-centric scenes lately, and their brilliant director Amy Cooke-Hodgson passed on some terrific tips and exercises to us, so we’re pumped to try those out onstage in Edinburgh too.


If people want to find out more about you where can they follow you on social media?

We publish very regularly on Twitter (@JamesBondImprov) and on Facebook (@ShakenNotStirredImprov). We’re seriously up for gigging during and after Edinburgh, or just a natter, so do get in touch!


And Finally in three words – Why should people come and see the show?

Funny. Family-friendly. Free. (We love a hyphen.)



Favourite James Bond and why?

Roger Moore. Different kind of Britain, different kind of Britishness, different kind of world, eyebrow. We’re also both really keen on Timothy Dalton, and everyone else seems to be as well, especially after Hot Fuzz. Time to get Tim back again we reckon.


Your ideal gadget?

A bottom-lip spray to stop us corpsing when things get especially silly.


Your favourite villain?

Christopher Lee as Francisco Scaramanga in The Man With The Golden Gun. He’s got a third nipple but nobody really discusses it and so why bring it up in the first place?


Your favourite James bond film and why?

There’s a lot to be said for Skyfall, which deals authoritatively with a lot of Bond tropes. We probably borrow most from the plots of Skyfall, Goldeneye and Tomorrow Never Dies, which deal best with historical grudges, betrayal and evil masterminding respectively.


Who should be Bond after Daniel Craig? why?

We joke at the start of our shows that it should be Michael Caine at 85-years-old. Honestly – Alexander has consistently touted Matthew Goode (the suave option); Dom’s keener on Idris Elba (a bit grittier). You just hope they don’t cast someone wet like Max Irons – we don’t want another Pierce Brosnan on our hands.


Who would you have sing a James bond theme song and why? What would the title of the film  be as well?

We perform an entire opening montage to a James Bond film every day – dancing semi-clad ladies shimmying along massive guns diving into a sea of playing cards and all. If you don’t believe us, do come along, it’s worth a watch for that routine alone. The title? Not sure anything will ever beat Casino Roy Hodgson to be honest. As titles go, it was absolutely superb.



Best thing about performing at the fringe?

Getting to go in front of 150 people every day and literally make stuff up, really stupid silly stuff, just to make them laugh.


The most challenging thing about performing at the fringe?

Realising we’ve spent more hours onstage in a very dark and very damp cave doing passable impressions of Sir Roger Moore than sitting behind a desk in a real job. And HMRC don’t buy it for a second, and have some very detailed questions about how much our jumpers cost.


What three items are essential for a successful Fringe?

  • An umbrella. Dom is, by his own admission, the prissiest man who ever lived about his hair. So woe betide Alexander if it rains and he’s not got Dom’s favourite brolly ready.
  • A watch. Alexander is, by his own admission, the tardiest person who ever lived. Dom has literally started the show without him, Alexander wandering onstage five minutes in with no costume on. So woe betide Dom if it rains and Alexander is coincidentally running very late.
  • A bucket. Every Fringe our old student group the Oxford Imps have a ‘halfway party’. Every year, one of us has too much to drink, and the next morning feels awful. We’ve never actually had to make use of the bucket, thank heavens – but just having it in the wings is a great comfort. The bucket is without doubt the most supportive player we’ve ever had.


What’s the secret to successful flyering?

Do it yourself – nobody flyers your show better than you yourself. Although our pianist Kieran and tech Nick are both very handsome, and so their pitches get more attention from passers by. So we guess, flyer yourself unless you hire handsome people to do it for you. We’re like Abercombie and Fitch, but in a good way.


What are the best venue’s at the fringe?

Just The Tonic have always been very good to us, especially when we started getting far bigger audiences than we’d anticipated and crowd management became a bit of an issue. This is a genuinely true story: two proper adult women had an actual fist-fight at our box office for the last remaining ticket one day because one claimed the other had overheard the “final ticket” announcement and beaten her to claim it. If that’s not a good advert we don’t know what is – so fair play to the JTT front-of-house team for their bouncer skills.

Elsewhere, Alexander debuted his solo hour last year in a giant inflatable igloo in Pleasance Courtyard, which was an absolute treat. Dom did his solo show in 2015 in a room with no door, we won’t say where exactly but we’d probably give that one a miss. Otherwise, just go somewhere which doesn’t set preposterous ticket prices. We’re hugely passionate about the Pay What You Want system and people not paying through the nose, so this year we’ve set advance booking prices at maximum FIVE POUNDS, otherwise FREE if you queue on the door. So the best venue is, for us, a reasonably priced venue where the happy punter comes first, we’re in it to give them a good time.

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