Make It Beautiful Theatre Company on their improv show, The Dream Machine
Lovely to meet you, why don’t you introduce yourselves and tell us a little about Make It Beautiful Theatre Company.
Hey there. We are Make It Beautiful Theatre Company. We’re a London-based theatre collective, made up predominantly of Drama Centre graduates. We have a passion for dark comedy and improvisation. Our 5 star show The CO-OP recently performed at the Park Theatre, as well as our new show Sniff performing at Theatre503. We have also performed at the Norwich Theatre and the Black Box Studio in Slovenia. But the play we are bringing you this Chtistmas is The Dream Machine.
That show, The Dream Machine, will be at Golden Goose in December. We assume this isn’t a stage adaptation of the 1991 film of the same name? What is it all about instead?
Unfortunately this is not a stage adaptation of the 1991 film – not that we even know what that is. Instead, it’s the Dream Machine. This is a long-form improvised show, based entirely from audience suggestions. Each show we ask an audience member to recount a weird dream they had and, from that, we create an entirely improvised full-length performance. We build a world full of crazy, funny characters and heartwarming stories based entirely from a stranger’s dream. We have performed the show for around two years – staging it at the White Bear Theatre, Space Theatre, Trestle Arts Base, the Cockpit and the OSO Arts Centre. Its next venture is the Golden Goose Theatre.
You say the show is made using improv and Russian-theatre techniques; we know about improv, but what’s the Russian-theatre technique then? What is the Russian connection within the company then?
Whilst at Drama Centre we were lucky enough to travel and study at the Boris Shchukin Theatre Institute in Moscow – this was where we got a lot of our Russian theatre inspiration from. This can come in the form of magical realism; something natural suddenly becoming something much more magical in a matter of moments. This is the Dream Machine in a nutshell. In 2019, we were invited for a residency at the Southern France Au Brana Theatre, with the aim of making a new show. Instead, we ended up delving into long-form improvised magical realism for 2 weeks. It was a hypnotic experience. Nevertheless, we ended that residency without a play. What we did have, however, was a new devising technique: the Dream Machine. This soon became our new improv show.
Isn’t improv just an excuse not to prepare an actual show, you know, roll up on the night and just make it up on the spot?
Haha I think we wish this was the case. Oh the beauty of having lines to fall back on, pre-hearsed fight scenes and songs to bust out. Instead, we all have to trust in each other that we – as a group and without any conferring – are going to somehow make a sensical piece of theatre out of the ridiculous dream we have just heard. That is, I suppose, where the comedy comes from. We didn’t consider ourselves real improvisers for a very long time, but over the last few years we have a new found respect for them.
You’ve put this show on before, how weird are the suggestions thrown at you, any you care or dare to share? Do you ever get any suggestions you just have to pass over as too ridiculous?
There’s never been a situation where we have had to deny someone’s dream. We can’t really imagine this ever happening. But there have been many gloriously odd ones. We have taken cats to space, birthed chickens, gone into the depths of the Earth to meet with a worm council – you name it, we’ve probably done it. In every dream there is a story, even if it seems impossible to find at first. We know that, eventually, if we continue to go down the path of ridiculousness, we will land on it.
And if you had to share your own dreams for the show, what oddities would that throw up?
Honestly, our dreams always end up being far less weird than the audience’s. We will use our own for inspiration during rehearsals but they never have the same randomness or surprise as they do when we’re doing a real show. The bigger the group of people, the more odd dreams to choose from.
The show’s on just before Christmas, does that mean you will be throwing in a little seasonal theme here and there?
Oh yes of course! The christmas spirit will be sure to have a firm place in the show. There will be Christmas bells and chocolates, all with powers to change the course of the show. Mark our words, you will feel the snow practically falling upon your head. The Dream Machine will be christmassy! No doubt about it.
What’s harder for you, putting on the improv of Dream Machine or staging a scripted production?
If you’re talking about before the show, then the Dream Machine is definitely harder. The nerves you feel before a performance is unlike anything scripted. We literally have no idea what’s going to happen. But once it’s started and we’re moving slowly down the path of ridiculousness, then it’s usually freer and funner than a scripted production.
We’ve been full of praise for your previous works (Co-op and Sniff), are we going to see a new scripted production from you next year? What else have you got planned for 2023 so far then?
Both Sniff and the CO-OP are our babies and we had a great time performing and making those. 2023 brings more excitement. We will be performing Sniff at the Jack Studio in early February – a dark comedy about drugs and addiction, set in a pub toilet. What’s not to like? And we will also be working on our new production. This play will be about a haunted pub. We developed it at the Norwich Theatre earlier this year and now plan to finish and perform it in 2023. Keep your eyes peeled for that!
And as it’s a Christmas show, if anyone is thinking of bringing along a gift for you, what would you all like?
Just a pint. Please, for the love of god, if you feel like getting any of us anything, make it a pint at the end of the show. We’d love that.
Thanks to the team at Make It Beautiful Theatre for taking time out of rehearsals to chat to us. You can catch The Dream Machine at the Golden Goose Theatre between 19 – 21 December. Further information and bookings here.