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Interview: Improv comedy troupe Hivemind on their Fringe shows Playlight Robbery and Lord of the Game of the Ring of Thrones

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Hivemind is a London-based improv comedy group, back at the Fringe after a hugely successful 2017 debut. This year they’re returning with two shows: Playlight Robbery, in which the cast improvise an hour-long show based on the audience’s choice of a flyer from a different Fringe show, and Lord of the Game of the Ring of Thrones, an improvised fantasy epic. We caught up with cast members Alex, Ellie and Harriet ahead of their first show on Tuesday. 

Tell us about the shows you’re bringing to the Fringe this year.

Playlight Robbery is one of those unique Fringe experience shows - we couldn't do it anywhere else but here. Basically, the audience throw us flyers for other people's shows. We pull out a few and get the audience to vote on their favourite. Then we stage that show, right then and there, using only the information on the flyer. 

Lord of the Game of the Ring of Thrones is a magic dance show for kids. OK FINE, it's a fantasy improv mash-up of Game of Thrones and Lord of Rings! You got us, are you happy now?!

Playlight Robbery had a very successful run at the Fringe in 2017. Do you have a favourite performance that you remember?

I loved all the performances, but the one that's become Hivemind folk legend is when we got given a Subway sandwich voucher as a joke, but of course the audience voted for it. Voted to see an hour-long show based on coupons. AN HOUR. But it ended up being this fantastic Great-Escape-style show about anthropomorphic vegetables (and a bread roll that just wanted to sing) busting out of the salad bar, all while avoiding an evil carrot. 

Where did the idea for that show come from?

Like all our best ideas. Ed suggested it as a joke, and it slowly dawned on everyone else that it was actually pure genius. Ed's original plan was admittedly slightly different -  to invade other venues, tie up the cast just before they went on, perform the show in their place, and see if anyone noticed. Some quick calculations established that doing this idea but in our own venue would be both more financially viable and more legal.

As to Lord of the Game of the Ring of Thrones, what’s unique about improvising a fantasy epic?

Fantasy is a very broad genre, but there are a number of strong thematic elements to hit, especially in our source materials - we want big adventure and epic plots with ensemble casts full of deep and nuanced characters with strong motivations. Essentially, we want to create something that feels very magical, but also with very real and relatable characters. We've also been rehearsing specific skills, such as folk singing, sword-fighting, and speaking in made-up languages, to help bring our world to life! 

Are all of the cast members fantasy fans? Do any of you have a favourite book or series?

Ellie: I know I am! I spent a lot of my teens scouring second-hand bookshops for anything at least 5cm thick with dragons over the cover. My favourite series has got to be the Fitz and the Fool books by Robin Hobb - I finished the last one at a silly hour in the morning, sobbing my eyes out.

Harriet claims to have seen Lord of the Rings at least 10 times. Others of us have somehow avoided all these seminal pieces of culture, but we've brought them up to speed with movie marathons!

Will the audience need to have any prior knowledge of fantasy epics like Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones to understand the show?

Not at all! We're trying to evoke the feeling of fantasy epics without simply parodying them, or trying to improvise a sequel with an existing cast of characters. Anyone can enjoy our show, regardless of how much fantasy they know.

What has been the most challenging part of preparing for the Fringe? 

Playlight Robbery has proved much more challenging to rehearse than LotGotRoT, as we don't have any actual show flyers to look at. Instead, we flip the Fringe brochure to a random page and read out three show descriptions. But there's far fewer pictures and text to work off in there. Also, no matter how many runs we do, it's impossible to prepare for all eventualities. Last year, we ended up doing everything from musicals to circus shows, so who knows what dubious talents we'll be showing off this time...


Playlight Robbery is at Just the Tonic at the Caves, 14th-26th August at 12.50pm. Tickets here. Lord of the Game of the Ring of Thrones is at La Belle Angele, 14th-26th August at 6:30pm. Tickets here.

This article is part of our coverage of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Click here to read other articles written by our contributors. 

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