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 looking at some of the great shows that you can see at the Camden Fringe. So take note because we are going to give you all the information you need for just a handful of some of the great shows happening this year!
Improbotics: Artificial Intelligence Improvisation
Location: Hen and Chickens
Dates: Aug 2-3 August
Price: £10 concessions £8
Ticket Link: https://www.camdenfringe.com/show.php?acts_id=2393
Hello Piotr ! Tell us about yourself and how Improbotics came to be?
We are an international improvised theatre company that performs with both humans and physical robots, and uses custom-build artificial intelligence technology to get inspired and challenged on the stage. We are research scientists in robotics, AI, computational linguistics, and/or professional theatre and improv actors and directors, and we are passionate about building new tools for human creativity and in creating a new artform.
We have published scientific research on the use of AI for theatre and improv, demonstrated it at the last Global Improvisation Initiative Symposium in May 2019, and been featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, New Scientist, Bloomberg TV and RTÉ One. It all started over 3 years ago, when two nerdy improvisers, Piotr Mirowski (London) and Kory Mathewson (Edmonton), had the same idea of improvising with a robot, and found each other on the Internet.
How did you come up with the name of your show that your taking to the Camden Fringe?
Our team is called Improbotics, as in Impro and Robotics. For some reason, we have been called Improbiotics a few times, with an “I” as in “probiotics” (the live organisms used for improving the gut flora). This does not correspond to our vision of improv, which is to rely on sillicon-based technology and AI to fuel our human inspiration and creativity (also, we tend to stay away from potty humour). The title of our show, “Artificial Intelligence Improvisation”, has not changed since the early days of HumanMachine in 2016, and it really means what it says!
Tell us a little bit about your style of show?
The closest analogy of our show structure is the actor’s nightmare, where some improvisers are following a script (in this case, the script is generated in real-time by an artificial intelligence) and other providers need to justify whatever just happened. Because our AI is trained on dialogue from a hundred thousand films and millions of web pages, it is both incredibly specific but also surprisingly random – and that takes the improvisers to new places and challenges everybody’s expectations!
What will your set be about?
It will be about improvisers who make their life incredibly more difficult by adding a lot of tech into the loop in their show. One of our games is about trying to improvise a full-fledged narrative, despite a wacky AI that makes it nearly impossible. And we will pull it off!
What other acts are you looking forward to seeing at the Fringe?
I love The Parentheticals, Just Friends and City Impro, am fascinated by the concepts of Bareback Kings and 3 Worlds Impro, and would love to discover Cluster Fox, the Discount Improv Comedy Checkout, Extreme Improv, Max Dickins and Nick Hall, all various improv troupes!
Have you done the Fringe before? What have been some of your favourite shows to date and why?
Improbotics is returning to their second Camden Fringe, and the various members of our troupe are Fringe veterans (Edinburgh, Brighton, Edmonton, Wandsworth…).
What have been some of the most unique and different shows you have seen this year and why?
I am going to mention theatre, not improv: The Damner (Les Damnés) by the Comédie-Française. What they did at the Barbican in June on the stage of a Barbican was shocking, visceral, a bit traumatising – just like what theatre should be! Also, they performed in French with English subtitles and yet the mostly english-speaking audience was able to understand everything that was going on, because of the physicality of the actors.
What advice would you give to others who want to perform at Camden Fringe next year?
Make friends and don’t do it alone (even if it is a solo show)! That’s how HumanMachine scaled from two humans (one of whom was connecting remotely from Canada) and one robot, to a large international ensemble, called Improbotics, and spread over London, Stockholm, Edmonton/Montréal and Antwerp!
What is the best thing about performing at the Camden fringe?
The quality of the venues, and the fact that if you are based in London, it becomes so much easier to produce the show and set up the tech. For a tech-heavy show like our (4 laptops and a robot on the stage, with projections and special effects), that really makes a difference.
What are your three favourite things about Camden?
Quirky, warm and multicultural
Favourite one liner you have done in a show and why?
The scene was about a break-up, at a dinner. The girl (who was “controlled” by the AI and could only say lines generated by the chatbot), suddenly announced to her boyfriend: “I am a lesbian”.
Who would be your ultimate dream audience member?
A sentient robot. That’s pure science fiction, which is why I called this a *dream* audience member.
The iconic image of the Camden Fringe is the Pigeon – if you could call this years pigeon a name to represent its style what would it be and why?
Alex! Alex was the name of the bird trained by Dr Irene Pepperberg; the parrot could recognise 150 words and count up to 8, demonstrating the extent of avian intelligence (with intensive training). The AI that we use in our show is inspired by that. We called it A.L.Ex (as in Artificial Language Experiment).
If people want to find out more about you where can they follow you on social media?
And Finally in three words – Why should people come and see the show?
Robots Surprise Humans