This week we are heading up to Leicester for a feast of comedy fun – an improv festival that will be the home of some fantastic acts playing such as Acaprov, The Clones and The Committee just to name a few. Tom Young who helped organise it, is also performing shows with his troupe The Same Faces – I Caught up with him to find out all about it.
The Same Faces at Improv Festival, Upstairs At The Western
Date: Fri 25th October 2019 – Sun 27th October 2019
Location: Upstairs At The Western, Leicester, LE3 0GA
Same Faces “Uncle Armando” show is on Friday 25th at 9pm. Tickets are £8/£6 concessions.
Same Faces short-form show is on Sunday 27th at 6pm. Tickets are £8/£6 concessions.
You can also get a wristband to see all 10 shows for a mere £32!
Hello tell us all about who you all are and three fun facts about your troupe!
I’m Tom Young. I’m the director of The Same Faces. One of our members does Viking re-enactment – he’s not as scary as people think, nor will he sell you drugs, despite what random people outside pubs seem to think. Another works at the National Space Centre, and has met Tim Peake several times.
We have a ridiculous number of Doctors (both MDs and PhDs, plus a few MAs) within our group – with my humble BA, I probably have the worst academic credentials of anyone in TSF!
Tell us a little bit about the shows that are happening this week?
This weekend, we’re performing at the Leicester Improv Festival hosted by Upstairs at the Western. We’re doing both our short-form & Armando shows, but there’s also 8 other shows (and 11 other acts) performing too!
What other acts are performing?
The Committee, Acaprov, Rhymes Against Humanity, Denise’s 50th, The Clones, Squidheart, Rosie & Pippa, Thunderclap, Tiny Stories, and an all-female Midlands improv supergroup.
There are a lot of people in The Same Faces; how do you decide who does each show?
Ha! The other members of TSF might be surprised to learn this, but there actually is some logic to it! The first criteria is obviously talent – we want to produce an elite level of improv, so those on stage have to meet a certain quality threshold, which I determine.
The next factor is availability, because everything else is redundant if the person isn’t available. Then it’s about the team’s blend of skill sets, so the group has a range of talents on display – not everyone has to be outstanding at everything, but we need some performers to be strong singers, some who do great character work, others who are lightning fast in quickfire games, etc… There’s no point having a team if you all do exactly the same thing, so the blend is really important.
If we’re giving someone their debut, I like to surround them with four of our most experienced players, in order to create a safe environment for them to take risks and feel comfortable, so that’s a factor.
We also like to try and gender balance our line ups as much as possible, so that’s a consideration, but talent and the skill set blend take precedence – regardless of gender, a TSF player has to be good enough, first and foremost (fortunately, we’ve got plenty of great women in the group, so this is easily achieved).
The other big factor is “match fitness” – who’s been regularly attending our workshops? In the same way as a football manager facing a big game wouldn’t use a player who wasn’t fit, I’m always reluctant to use improvisers who haven’t been training with the group.
For me, workshops are like going to the gym – even if you’re just going over skills you’ve done before, you’re getting your reps in, and keeping up your improv fitness.
You helped book the festival’s acts; how do you go about doing it?
The theatre manager, Lloydie and I sat down and discussed what we wanted to do with the festival, decided upon a list of acts we wanted, and when we couldn’t afford any of those, we got this ten! No, I kid – we’re very excited by the line up for the festival. There’s a good blend of local, midlands, and nationwide acts coming to perform. Our main priority was showing off all the different things improv can do, so we wanted each show to be doing something different to the others.
Which acts are you looking forward to watching?
I’m excited about all of them, as there’s some I’ve never seen, but I’m probably most looking forward to seeing The Committee again, as they are one of my favourite improv groups in the world. So much fun, and unashamedly funny.
It’s October – the month of halloween! What is the scariest suggestion you have been given on stage and why?
Oh, I think the scariest suggestions are when you know nothing about the subject, but the audience *really* does. I once had to play an expert on the Thundercats, despite never having seen it, and could sense the audience thinking “don’t mess this up, smart ass.” I think I got away with it – to be honest, I’m still scarred from a stand up gig where the entire audience spontaneously sang the theme tune to Button Moon at me, and I had no idea what was happening…
How do you unwind after a show?
Drinks with the group is always a big factor, but I usually like to take 10-15 minutes for myself first, just to come down from the high-intensity brain space that I perform in. That might involve sitting down, scrolling through my phone, or just packing down the gig; whatever helps me find a new equilibrium. I also tend to have (what I call) “gig crash” soon after coming off stage, as the adrenaline leaves my system, and my brain becomes a goop-like substance for a short-while.
Then, after all the drinks and socialising, to decompress further, I’ll go home and watch TV for a few hours – ideally something that doesn’t require much thought!
What have been some of the best suggestions that you have been given in a show and why?
I don’t particularly like “vague” or “wacky” suggestions. If, for example, I ask for a profession, I want everyone in the room to understand what that profession involves. “The Queen’s Baker” will always be more interesting to me than “Management Consultant” or “Chief Dragonkeeper to the Kingdom of Raven-moon”. OK, I just changed my own mind there – I’m totally on board for the Chief Dragonkeeper…
It’s nearly time for another The British Improv Project! For anyone who doesn’t know what British Improv Project is, tell us about it?
The British Improv Project was co-founded by Geoff Monk and myself. It’s primary function is to run bi-annual (possibly tri-annual next year – very much TBD right now) improv retreats in a fancy country house hotel – 80 improvisers, 20-odd workshops choices, and two jam shows – all for about £150. This November’s event sold out within 10 days, and then had another 20 people join the waiting list. It’s all run on a co-op basis and taught by those who are attending the event (in exchange for money off the attendance fee), so we’re able to keep the price down. It’s broader goal is to try and raise the profile, perception, and standard of improv in Britain, through training, support, and networking.
How did it come about?
I met Geoff in the summer of 2015, when we were performing/competing in Improv Smackdown in Birmingham. He mentioned that he was thinking about running a retreat later that year, and I said that I’d be interested in helping run it, as I’d been thinking about doing my own.
That first event had 32 improvisers in the Edale Youth Hostel, and eight more events later, it’s nearly three times as big, and sells out faster than we could’ve ever imagined. It’s been a great way to connect the national improv community and we’re thrilled by how popular and appreciated it’s become.
How can anyone get involved in the ones next year?
Just sign up, but you’ll have to be fast! Booking for the next one tends to open on the last day of an event, so keep an eye on the BIP Facebook page on November 10th!
If people want to find out more about you, where can they follow you on social media?
For The Same Faces, you can find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube, @TheSameFaces
Search “The British Improv Project” on Facebook for BIP, follow us on twitter @BritishImprov or visit our website at britishimprovproject.com
And finally, in three words – Why should people come and see the show?
Really. Brilliant. Improv.
QUICK FIRE ROUND
What makes you laugh?
Lots of things, but either ideas I didn’t see coming, or someone desperately trying not to break, until tears of laughter are streaming down their face.
What is your favourite short form game?
I love Film Noir, because after doing improv for 11 years, it’s one of the few games that’s still a challenge – it’s a high wire act, and it can very easily fall apart if you’re not listening to each other intently.
What is the most delightful suggestion for a scene you can think of?
I know this is a cop out answer, but the delightfulness of the suggestion really boils down to the interpretation of the improviser. I like something that’s quite an unexpected twist of the prompt. “Can I have an example of a place where you might bump into someone you know?” “In the womb.”
If you had to dress as a Halloween character for a show who would it be and why?
Probably Hagrid at the moment.
What is the last thing you listened to?
I think it was the Comedian’s Comedian podcast. Or possibly Improv London. Or possibly The Improv Treehouse. OK, done plugging my friends now…
Something on your bucket list
Perform with Colin Mochrie. Write a TV show/get improv back on TV. Own an improv theatre/training centre. Try to find happiness with someone/from something besides improv – trust me, don’t make improv your only thing; it’ll stop being fun, and that’s no good.