“Challenge? Most certainly… therein lies the fun” – an interview with David Innes of Innes Lloyd
Comedians David Innes and Rob Lloyd are back at this year’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival with another family friendly mixture of comedy, theatre… and science fiction! After sell-out seasons last year, Innes & Lloyd have challenged themselves with yet another great adventure: a literary adaptation! The two will stage their very own adaptation of Jules Verne’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth, providing their own rapid fire satire encased in Verne’s quality storytelling. Stacey Waters asked David Innes a few questions about the production.
Obvious first question! Why Jules Verne? And more precisely, why Journey to the Centre of the Earth over, say, Mysterious Island?
Why not Jules Verne, I say (in a terribly unhelpful fashion)! Verne so utterly gets to the point in his stories, particularly Journey. To perhaps the detriment of significant character development, we instead get a ‘snifter’ of science laced around a rollicking adventure.
Rob had recently seen a production of Around the World in Eighty Days and was somewhat unimpressed with it. He declared then that we as a pair should have a go with performing our own adaptation. Recalling my enjoyment of Journey, it was a natural choice. Apart from the book, there’s also several film and television adaptations that can be resourced for the script.
You’ve both done shows together in the past and have a lot of experience with improv. What first drew you both together and how did you decide that you would continue to delve into shows as a double act?
Initially by very flattering remarks I recall! I had first seen Rob perform as part of The Crew on a Channel 31 show Instant TV back in the mid 2000s. I later recounted this story in a sort of fan-boyish way when we met backstage at the Die-Nasty Australia’s 52 Hour Soap-A-Thon.
Also at the time I was Artistic Director of an improvisational troupe called The Impro Box. Our specialty was doing improvised versions of television, books and film. One of the seasons was an improvised version of Doctor Who called Time Lord and, naturally, I had asked Rob to join us.
Later, Rob had asked me to be a ‘sidekick’ for a tribute show he was working on called Spook Central: 30 Years of Ghost Busters in 2014. We worked very well together and decided to join forces to perform as the brand Innes Lloyd. Our first season of shows was Men of Your Dreams during the Comedy Festival in 2015. Since then we have done many shows under the name ‘Innes Lloyd’, including one off shows and the sell-out Mighty Little Puppet Show.
Innes Lloyd as a name comes from our surnames combined and of course is the name of a producer of Doctor Who during the 1960s.
What exactly will this show entail? Is it a performance already scripted out that we’ll be seeing or more of an improvised act?
I get bored very easily. I find it difficult to do the same show, same script every time. I love doing improv because you can try things, you can experiment but also it’s highly disposable. Didn’t work, oh well, try again and maybe it will.
Improv also has, in my opinion, the greater opportunity to directly speak to an audience. You feel a vibe in the room and you can take the show where they want, rather than wrestle with a script.
I also find improv has a sense of instantaneous collaboration of artwork which is often easier and more rewarding than pulling your hair out writing your own script in a room.
With only two actors and a venue that provides stage space with a very intimate setting, was there a challenge in adapting the show from source material that has quite amount of depth and detail throughout it?
Challenge? Most certainly. However, therein lies the fun. We can drop characters, play characters, we can be cheeky and have characters meet that we are playing ourselves. Playing multiple characters gives the opportunity to stretch ourselves to the limits of performing.
Also have an intimate venue with a small cast means that we can focus on the storytelling, rather than have a grandiose set and design.
Where do you think the comedy comes from in an adaptation like this?
It’s a mixture of two things, I think. There’s that wonderful ‘knowingness’ where those who know the book or film are ‘in on the joke’ and will feel delighted by the references.
It’s also the ability of being able to take a context and make a joke about the real world. We can take the words of senators who are discrediting climate change and green energy in the same manner as the Professor in Journey discrediting reasonable, well-researched geologists on their studies of rocks.
Science fiction isn’t something you see much on stage, what were the challenges of adapting the genre to a new medium?
Once you know you can’t have lasers, have a cry, then pick yourself up, it actually becomes a little easier.
Any sort of full blow set and props would look shoddy on stage.
Science Fiction is about ideas (and sometimes henceforth referred to as ‘speculative fiction’) and usually answering a “What if” question – what if we could go to the centre of the earth? What sort of person would do that? Sci Fi is much more interesting when the people are examined, rather than swanky spaceships.
Clearly, you’re both big fans of science fiction, with Rob drawing on his resemblance to David Tennant’s 10th Doctor in previous solo shows. What do you think the appeal of sci fi is?
I cannot speak for everyone, because I’m very particular in my tastes, but I think it’s down to escapism and relationships. Science fiction is never about the future. It’s about what’s happening now… but with lasers! I love science fiction because it’s a world away but it’s clever enough to satirise current events. Kurt Vonnegut is a wonderful example of an author I admire for his satirical science fiction. I adore Russell T Davies’ work on Doctor Who because of its escapist nature and its focus on relationships. The stories aren’t about Planet Zog and the Doomsday Device, it’s about the people involved.
And of course, you’re both comedians. What do you think the appeal of comedy is?
Comedy is much akin to science fiction, really. It too is escapist. The world is somewhat shitular at times, so it’s rather good to have a laugh to release the tension. Comedy can be a great vehicle to learn from too. I teach Mathematics and Chemistry, Rob teaches Drama and English, and we both find the use the humour is very useful in being able to get our points across and to help our students on the Journey to the Centre of the Topic.
Jules Verne’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth is on at the Butterfly Club from Monday April 10 until Sunday April 16 as part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Tickets range between $25 – $32, and are available online and at the box office.