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Brighton Bites: Artificial Intelligence Improvisation

After an amazing response last year we have once again resurrected our Brighton Bites mini-interviews. These short and snappy Q&As offer an, occasionally witty – often hilarious, insight into the acts strutting, sailing, surfing (insert preferred form of transport here) in to join the line-up of England’s largest arts festival, Brighton Fringe. 2018 was a record-breaking year for the Fringe with over 575,000 people attending the festival; and with 2019 promising to be more inclusive than ever, our Bites aim to give you a taste of what’s in store across the 4,500+ events and performances that are on offer.

Next up, Improbotics tell us about their show Artificial Intelligence Improvisation which they’ll be performing at The Warren: The Nest.

Describe your show in one sentence?
Artificial Intelligence Improv guessing game: who is human after all?

Why Brighton Fringe?
Brighton Fringe has it all: a great improv scene, a beautiful location by the sea, ease of access, vibrant cultural life all year long, and both a party vibe and a welcoming family atmosphere.

How did the show get to where it is today?
This show’s co-directors Piotr Mirowski and Kory Mathewson had this crazy idea of improvising with a robot on the stage. They created an improv comedy act featuring a robot and an artificial intelligence chatbot that was trained on film dialogue, and performed over 50 shows at the Brighton, Camden, Edinburgh and Edmonton Fringe festivals in 2017-2018. They have spent countless nights debugging computer software for the AI chatbot or fixing the robot to make all of this work! By experimenting with various games one can play with a robot on stage, they invented a new game for human improvisers. Instead of a robot talking, it is now the humans’ turn to take their lines from a chatbot that whispers into their ears. Kory and Piotr were joined by Jenny Elfving, and started improv teams with actual human casts, in London, Edmonton and Stockholm. They practiced over a hundred hours, coached by Chris Mead and Katy Schutte (in London) and Adam Megido (in Edmonton). Their show, Improbotics, went from scratch nights to large scenes at international improv festivals in Amsterdam and Brest, and they are now – excuse the nerdy reference – ‘uncomfortably excited’ to perform at The Warren at Brighton Fringe!

What do you think sets your show apart from all the other festival offerings?
It is the only show that explicitly features a robot on stage! And the only show that makes a distinction between humans and machine performers.

What show do you not want to miss at this year’s Brighton Fringe (apart from your own!)?
Dragprov Revue, City Impro By The Sea, Notflix, Acaprov and John Robertson: The Dark Room.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given, or would give, for performing at a fringe festival?
Jacob Banigan told us: “Good improvisers look good on the stage. The best improvisers make everyone else look good on the stage.” That prompted us to dare to take risks and to involve a machine as part of the show. Fringe festivals, with their taste for experimental work, are the ideal space for trying new ideas like this one.

With the theme of this year’s festival being ‘DARE to Discover’, we’d like you to tell us a TRUTH – something about you or the show that fans may not know.
As every improviser knows, it is not that easy to be spontaneous and to do the most obvious thing, without overthinking and fear of judgment: we, adults, tend to censor and to edit ourselves. Well, you may not believe it, but AI can actually teach us something here. Our AI does not care about being spectacularly wrong, and has no shame (probably because it has no soul): it just keeps generating the most likely improv lines using its statistical models. We trained our AI on film dialogue, so that it produces lines that look like taken from an art-house film or from a blockbuster movie, and that’s enough to make it continuously and fearlessly generate text. So listen up, improvisers, we want to hear your voice and perspective, inspired by your own life experience: be spontaneous, like a robot!

Artificial Intelligence Improvisation runs at Brighton Fringe on 23, 26 & 27 May 2019. Brighton Fringe takes place between 3 May – 2 June 2019;

Nicole Craft | Image: Contributed

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The Reviews Hub

The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. We aim to review all professional types of theatre, whether that be Commercial, Repertory or Fringe as well as Comedy, Music, Gigs etc.

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