By Joe Mellor, Deputy Editor
Gypsy Wood and yourself appeared together in Comic Strip in 2011. What was the impetus behind this new joint show? Is this the first joint project you’ve worked on since then? Do the names you’ve chosen for your characters have any special significance or were they chosen at random?
We decided to try and make a new show together for the 2015 Perth Fringe, we didn’t know what form it would take but we were both ready for something new. We’d put ‘Comic Strip’ to bed, I was feeling pretty disenchanted with the Stand Up Comedy scene and Gypsy wanted to break out of Burlesque. So when she came to me with the suggestion making some new work, I was cautious but she won me over eventually. The names of the characters and show are taken at Random, there’s no connection with an actual Peter and Bambi, however some of the characterization is taken from people I met on the Cruise Ship circuit.
The cabaret circuit has more than a few stories of couples who worked together on stage and, for various reasons, are no longer together. Some, like the Skating Willers, still performed as a duo after they divorced. How much has performing together changed the dynamic of your relationship?
It’s a hard question to answer, because we have a very complex relationship. I don’t think performing together changed our relationship a lot, but it certainly put pressure on it. I’m really looking forward to working with Gypsy for the foreseeable future, she’s a fantastic performer who’s just starting to stretch her comedic muscles and I think we’re going to do great things together. Our breakup was very amicable, we just came to the end of our romance but we’re still family and we love each other a lot.
You’ve described yourself as a “circus school dropout”. What happened there and how did you transition into stand-up comedy?
I was kicked out of High-School drama in year eight so I’ve always seen myself as a bit rebellious, although I’m sure my Circus School instructors would’ve thought me a massive pain in the ass. I graduated from NICA (National Institute of Circus Arts) in 2001 and naively thought Cirque Du Soleil would be waiting to snap me up. My career as a circus performer failed to flourish so I moved onto street performing to make an income. I was introduced to Stand Up while living in London back in 2004 and found a home in the weird world of Robin Inces Book club, where I flourished.
Many still remember your stint with La Soiree, especially your roof-raising cry of “Slaaaaaaade!” What are your most enduring memories from working on that show?
There are so many prize memories from that show, being part of the cast that won the 2015 Olivier Award, performing on the Southbank and getting regular standing ovations continually amazes me. La Soiree is the first company I’ve worked for and ironically the two acts I do in the show I premiered back in 2001 when ‘La Soiree/La Clique’ was a club night in the Famous Spiegel Tent called ‘Club Swizzle.’ I’ve always been part of that big queer carny family and its so great to be a regular cast member at the moment.
You written at length about your experiences at the Fringe and spoke once about it being a “compulsion”. Other than the opportunity for greater fame and glory, what drags you back to the Fringe year after year? Will you be up there again this summer?
Making shows for the Fringe circuit here in Australia is one of my main sources of income, it’s also my primary source of creativity. I make a lot of new work for the Festival circuit, which is really important for my employment opportunities and my development as a performer. I am a big believer in creating a lot of work, rather than trying to create a paragon, which is almost certainly doomed to fail. I’m an extreme optimist and I always think my best show is ahead of me.
The issue of critics and starred reviews arose again during your recent run in Australia. Some artists tend to regard critics as parasites on real creativity and ask what gives them the right to pronounce on their show; others say that the critic’s job is to step in to protect the audience from the marketing machines and help level the playing field for artists. Do either of those views ring true? What can artists or critics do to improve the situation, if anything?
Performers whine when they get bad press, sometimes they’re justified and sometimes they’re not. It’s no surprise to anyone on the Festival circuit when Bruce the local fishing correspondent shows up at your show and gives you a shitty review. However if Bruce, loves your show it doesn’t matter if he’s a pro or not, you’ve got four plus stars to splash on posters and that’s a win. I’m not trying to demean the role, artists need critics and vice versa. I think the role is important and should be approached with respect and diligence but when there’s anywhere up to 3000 shows a night at the Edinburgh Fringe, sometimes it’s a role of the dice.
They will be appearing at London Wonderground 1st & 2nd June, Spiegeltent The Southbank 9.30pm