Archive for August 19th, 2011

h1

Shaggers

Friday, 19 August, 2011

Let’s Talk About Sex

Edinburgh – The Three Sisters – 5-28 August 2011 – 2330 (1hr 30)

Late night sex talk

For a youthful, late night crowd, Shaggers is no doubt regularly drawing good sized audiences in, particularly as it’s free to attend. It certainly seemed to appeal to the student/traveller  crowd as host Nik Coppin started by asking where people were from. There were Argentinian, Australian and American contingents on offer as well as some native Scots and people from other areas of the UK.  Donning the show’s uniform – a red hoodie with Shaggers written upon it and a picture of two pandas appearing to copulate – Nik Coppin displayed good audience interaction and a demonstrative and lively delivery which a late night crowd can sometimes need to stir up its interest, enthusiasm and support for the performers.

The night is billed as being festival comedians talking about sex. First up, Suzy Bennett engaged very well with the audience and also presented herself as keen to garner any interest from its male members…in every sense of that particular turn of phrase. When she asked if anyone was interested and received no answer she went for a rather easy put down but then this isn’t perhaps the right gig to test out sophisticated material. Suzy Bennett delivered with a cheeky glint in her eyes and had solid jokes which were appropriate to the theme of the night. She also displayed another talent – that she can do the splits.

Andrew Doyle’s demeanour was more dour and straight faced, ironically enough for a gay comedian. He began with explaining why he’s had recent  rows with members of his family; with his brother after describing his wife as bovine and with his sister after the birth of her baby was revealed by a group text. Whilst claiming that he hasn’t come out to his parents,. Andrew Doyle seems to have no problem doing it to complete strangers. His interaction with an American student on the front row became somewhat uncomfortable as he was groping himself while asking the young lad what he does and likes. The student, even though he said he was straight, was then labelled as being gay. Much as comedy can have messages and change opinions, it can’t alter an individual’s sexuality.

Jo Wharmby was introduced as Shaggers’ resident sex therapist. She also revealed that another string to her bow is that she helps rehabilitate people after serious physical injuries or surgery. This was particularly ironic as she had to be helped onto the stage and was on crutches due to a fall earlier in the festival. Having to sit because of her plastered leg, Jo Warmby wasn’t easy to see in a flat seated venue with a raised stage, which perhaps made it difficult to engage with her. Her material is based on questionnaires she gave to people to ask them what they wanted from their partners sexually. Whilst delivering results from that survey, Jo Warmby delivered male opinions with a hat on and a northern accent. This didn’t really add anything – stating that it was a male opinion was enough. Her closing moments were to send the message of how beneficial orgasms are for peoples’ health, so there was a public information angle.

The final act was New Zealander Andre King who is on his first visit to the UK. Perhaps because of that, and his first appearance at Shaggers, he didn’t really stick to the remit. His opening section was about the difference between New Zealand and Australian accents as well as the variety of accents which exist in the UK. He clearly has a good ear and his ability to portray three different types of Scottish accent alone was impressive. His vocal delivery was well matched by his physicality and he presented good pictures of both an Aberdeen accent so aggressive it looked likely to lead to an aneurysm and a South London gangster style swagger. He was warmly received and was such a strong closing act that the fact that he was off topic didn’t really matter. Shaggers clearly has a varying line up and the fact that every night is different may well generate a regular audience.

Performers – Suzy Bennett, Nik Coppin, Andrew Doyle, Andre King, Jo Wharmby.

Producer – Nik Coppin

© Chandrika Chevli 2011

Reviewed on Tuesday 16th August, The Three Sisters.

Advertisements
h1

Voodoo Revue

Friday, 19 August, 2011

As The Tin Says: Variety

Edinburgh – The Voodoo Rooms – 3-28 August 2011– 2010 (1hr 10)

The point of most of these mixed line up events at the Fringe is to allow performers to promote their own individual shows and so hopefully draw in more punters. When a night like this in a beautiful venue which can seat around two hundred potential punters only has about a dozen in, performers can be disheartened. However, it is a sign of how professional they all are that noone was daunted by the small audience and indeed the expert handling of the small crowd meant each performer received a great deal of appreciation and warmth as a result. The MC was co-producer Desmond O’Connor, who dressed in a metal studded dark suit drained in chains may have an air of menace to a casual observer, but he initially set up the ease for those on both sides of the stage and in a later appearance played a charming ukelele song  in honour of a character referred to as Miss Dysmorphia which detailed the eponymous heroine’s discomfort within her own skin.

The first performer was Mr B: Gentleman Rhymer. In glasses, a suit, cravat and with an upward curled moustache the sense was that this was going to be a period style 20’s act. However the reality was a pastiche of dance tracks from the likes of Prodigy performed on a banjo and vocally.

When an initial trick fell apart, juggler Mat Ricardo joked about how some performers would do it was deliberately in an attempt to make it look harder than it is. He then added that it is actually very hard. The final trick saw him structure a multi-angled tower with the eight rectangular wooden boxes, sit a glass of wine at the top of it and then balance it all on the mock cigar he was holding in his mouth. Quite some feat.

Stand up performer Wil Hodgson seemed well suited to the burlesque/variety night. He’s an interesting character who used to be a wrestler and also bears tattoos which are a testament to his love of Care Bears and My Little Ponies. His material is delivered in a very deadpan manner and his stillness held the audience’s attention. He gained laughs for his preferences of the female form – particularly the fact that he would climb over Cheryl Cole for Beth Ditto and that he has an admiration for Pam St Clement who he considers to be the embodiment of her character Pat Butcher from the BBC soap opera Eastenders.

Joanne Jolly sang blues and jazz with a rich soulful voice, which meant it was then a surprise to hear speak in a broad Yorkshire accent. Her varied songs included classics like “Blues In The Night” and some more recent dance floor favourites. Joanne Jolly certainly seemed to be enjoying being on stage and encouraged the audience to dance while she herself was moving as much as singing could allow.

Amelie Soleil brought a cheeky darkness to the stage with her circus style act. She initially appeared to make a glass levitate as she filled it from a wine bottle. She then appeared to swallow razor blades that she placed in her mouth. After a sip from the aforementioned glass, she then dropped a string of cotton into her mouth and then slowly pulled it out – to reveal the missing in action razor blades strong upon it. Her act was punctuated only by music and gasps from the audience – Amelie didn’t speak.

Desiree Burch is a feisty New York comedienne whose material is focussed upon relationships, and the difficulties she, a six foot tall larger lady, has in finding an appropriate man. Her delivery was fast and at times furiously energetic, with leaps around the stage but an overall sense that she was enjoying herself and the laughs she got suggested the audience felt the same way.

The final act was Johnny Electrolux, a non-speaking performer who was dressed like a matador. What appeared to be a sword swallowing trick was then perhaps somewhat deflated when Johnny Electrolux put the sword away by seeming to retract it to a quarter of its initial size – possibly giving away how it was stored within his mouth. There was then a standard magic routine involving an apparently floating metal ball which was obscured by a cloth, this appeared to disappear and later transformed into male genitalia. Johnny Electrolux may have a stage persona which is chaotic but there wasn’t really an aspect which belied this and seeming to ejaculate into the crowd was a bit of a low end finale to an otherwise interesting show with a good range of acts.

Compere: Desmond O’Connor.
Performers: Mr B: Gentleman Rhymer, Desiree Burch, Johnny Electrolux, Wil Hodgson , Joanne Jolly, Mat Ricardo and Amelie Soleil.

Producers: Voodoo Rooms, Blond Ambition, O’Connor Ents.

© Chandrika Chevli 2011

Reviewed on Tuesday 16th August 2011, The Voodoo Rooms.

h1

Stacy, by Jack Thorne

Friday, 19 August, 2011

Refreshingly perceptive

PlayOn Thetare Company, @Zoo Roxy, The Den 16th August  15:00pm 18th-28th August

Stacy’s only character is sat on stage before the play begins, Rob played by Nick McQuillan smiles at the audience with all the self-deprecation of a newly adult male who hasn’t quite got a grasp of the adult world. By Rob’s own emission he was much better at being a child.

A friendly thumbs up marks the beginning of Nick McQuillin’s performance, a retelling of the day after he slept with his best friend Stacy; he’s not in love with her but he still loves her. Rob doesn’t seem to really understand what he means by this, at least he cannot articulate what he means. Nick McQuillin’s performance encapsulates the hesitance of this character perfectly, with jolting physicality and halting but optimistic vocalisation which straddles the line between side-splittingly funny and heartbreaking in a matter of seconds.  This is a production that reflects reality with astute perfection, the conversational, incredibly candid writing combined with Nick McQuillin’s sensitive performance makes for a great production.

His stream-of conscious style monologue is punctuated with a slide show on a projector, beaming the off-stage cast of Rob’s life onto a screen behind him as he mentions them. This seemed to be a requirement of the script but PlayOn Theatre Company used it to their advantage, particularly when aiding Nick McQuillin’s well-mastered comic timing. The images gave the audience at times an unsettling reference point most notably when Rob analyses and retells through muddled confusion how he apparently seduces Stacy’s flatmate Shona. The description is sexually graphic and introduces a moral grey area with regards to Rob’s actions, all the while Shona’s face resplendent with staring blue eyes and a slight smile is behind him. Consequently the photos from his life and mind become integral characters, it seems like Nick McQuillin is performing with them.

At times Rob hardly seems responsible for the actions he takes, both with Shona and with his family throughout childhood. As Nick McQuillin assumes a close relationship between his audience and himself, it becomes hard to accuse him of anything other than naivety. This may be a point of contention to some; the subject matter is sensitive and completely down to personal interpretation and any actor would tread a tricky road not trying to enforce too many of their own impressions upon the elusive narrative within the script.

PlayOn Theatre’s interpretation of Rob is well thought through, pulling upon the small nuances of neuroses in Jack Thorne’s enthralling script. The Rob Nick McQuillin performs is not an emotional wreck nor is he a drooling menace, too out of tune to command his own life; he is a subtle and believable character plucked from any two person graduate house in Croydon, softly tragic, wry, funny and undeniably complex; no stereotypes or concrete emotions were relied upon too heavily, creating a colourful and diverse character worthy of the compelling writing behind it. It is stimulating to see a (nearly) romantic male lead played so naturally when so often such a role is  either typically unbelievably in tune with their emotions or a stereotypical incommunicative Neanderthal. Rob is none of these, his reactions and ideas are far more reflective of a 21st Century male, working a job he is over-qualified for, living like a student with his brother.

Performing, directing or producing a one man is by no means an easy road to take, specifically at the Fringe where an audience’s attention, overrun with theatre and comedy already may deviate all too quickly when plonked in front of an hour long monologue. Yet Georgina Owen and Nick Partridge’s direction rises to the challenge with a production that is refreshingly real and perceptive.

Directed by: Georgina Owen and Nick Partridge
Producer: Jess Price

Performed by Nick McQuillin

h1

Charmian Hughes: The Ten Charmandments

Friday, 19 August, 2011

Short and sweet

Edinburgh – The Banshee Labyrinth – 6-27 August 2011– 1840 (1hr/40mins)

Charmian Hughes

Charmian Hughes is trying to establish a cult. It’s not an extreme movement in the manner of David Koresh but she’s out to persuade people to follow her version of the Biblical commandments, which are basically some common sense and linguistic variants.

Walking on the small stage in a bright red dress she asks the audience what they think of her prophet robes. She has a mumsy delivery which is  perhaps not surprising as she’s a middle aged mother of  teenagers. This itself may lead the fairly young audience to humour her to an extent. Her so-called papyrus scrolls are concealed behind a cloth with brightly coloured quasi-Egyptian images on it.

Her first Charmandment is: Thou Shalt Only Worship One Dog. Wordplay between God and dog isn’t particularly advanced or impressive but this is a fairly gentle show. Even Simon Cowell escapes being referred to as some form of Satan when his face is used to illustrate an instruction not to worship Pop Idol. That’s not to say that Charmian Hughes doesn’t hand out criticism to anything – furniture empire IKEA is depicted as a vulture and part of a DIY and home improvement culture containing what’s described as the ladder of despair and paintbrush of despondence. It’s part of a Charmandment to reclaim leisure time.

The longest routine relating to a Charmandment accompanies ‘Thou Shalt Not Kill People’s Dreams’ – an appropriate message for Edinburgh where thousands of performers live in hope for a month. Re-enacting the story of 12th century lovers Abelard and Heloise, Charmian Hughes makes use of puppet pandas, as well as her accordion playing skills.

It’s not a guns blazing, showcasing of talent type of show so the limited knowledge of French comes across as charming and again reinforces the accessibility of Charmian Hughes’ performance.

Ending the show, which is twenty minutes shorter than the advertised running time, Charmian Hughes opts for a dance, which she claims has been passed through from Cleopatra and Beyonce. Donning a red cap it’s again an opportunity for the crowd to humour Charmian Hughes rather than for her to make them laugh. The moves vaguely resemble those which accompanied The Bangles song “Walk Like an Egyptian” eons ago, but it still has the air of watching your mum dance at a friend’s wedding.

Charmian Hughes is an easy performer to watch and relax into as it’s not going to be hard hitting, thought provoking or exhaustingly belly-laugh filled stuff. There also appears to be a sense of wisdom in the reduced running time of the show. If you don’t have an hour’s worth of material there is no point in padding out what you have, so the 40 minute piece is just the right length.

Writer/performer Charmian Hughes

© Chandrika Chevli 2011

Reviewed on Tuesday 16th August 2011, The Banshee Labyrinth

h1

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – Talegate Theatre

Friday, 19 August, 2011

Musical Alice

Edinburgh, thespace@venue45 –  15-20 Aug 11  –  12:45  –  22-27 Aug 14:15 (1 hour)

Talegate Theatre present an ambitious musical adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s classic novel Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, complete with original songs, entertaining choreography and puppetry.  The company change roles at breakneck pace, portraying all thirty Wonderland characters, and are well  supported by some stunning costume design by James Worthington and Danny Mills.  Those familiar with Lewis Carroll’s novel will be delighted to find all their favourite sections presented in an episodic style, in keeping with the tone of the novel itself – a nice directorial decision from director James Worthington.  Pleasing staging and innovative use of props and set serve to transport the viewer into the world of Wonderland, and the dynamic energy of the cast encapsulates well the mayhem and madness of the text.

The piece begins by introducing Alice’s humdrum everyday world, where adults dismiss her imaginative nature and have little time for her playful ways.  Beginning on a colourful tableaux that establishes the eccentricity one can expect from the next hour, the cast launch into a manic opening number, setting a breath-taking pace that is maintained throughout the piece.  Danny Mills is suitably jittery as the punctually-disadvantaged White Rabbit as he scurries about the stage, leaving a curious Alice – played by an expressive and child friendly Alana Doherty – in his wake.

As Alice tumbles down the rabbit hole the audience are plunged into darkness, and audio is used effectively to create the sensation of falling.  Some tongue in cheek perspective tricks (one involving a very wobbly, ‘magically’ growing table) keep the adults giggling and the kids enthralled as we watch Alice eat and drink her way through whatever Wonderland presents her with.  A surprisingly obnoxious door puppet (voiced by Robert Nicholas) is well received, and in a nice little nod to its Disney counterpart has an excellent range of facial expressions.  The range of puppets in this production is impressive – the door mouse, caterpillar and some adorable little oysters all feature, and are operated by various members of the company at different points.

The songs are a particular highlight, each capturing the essence of Lewis Carroll’s work, and embracing many different musical styles – of particular note are the jazz inspired numbers, sang and scatted well by Kate Lindsey and Laura Candine.  The lyrics – also by Kate Lindsey – are a real treat, greatly enhancing the story-telling as a whole.  The company sing each song with gusto, and the songs are catchy enough that children want to join in, and adults will be humming them as they leave the theatre.  There is also another clever directorial twist at the end of the production, as all seven songs are sung in reverse to chart Alice’s departure from Wonderland.

As each performer takes on so many different roles, it is difficult to single any one out –  James Worthington is charismatic in all roles, and especially fun to watch as the kooky Mad Hatter; Laura Canadine is engaging and moves well as the Cheshire Cat; Kate Lindsey suitably imposing as the Queen of Hearts, and has great physicality in her role as the Dodo.  Robert Nicholas shows himself to be a versatile performer particularly when in double acts, playing a suitably unnerving Tweedle Dee to Danny Mills’ obnoxious Tweedle Dum, and equally pleasing as the hopeless West Country Playing Cards with Laura Canadine.

Talegate theatre clearly know their stuff when it comes to family entertainment; the panto-esque routines will keep the younger audience members entertained, the playfulness as an ensemble is lovely to watch, and their commitment to telling a story is commendable.  Much fun to be had by all.

Cast Credits*:  Laura Canadine  –  Cheshire Cat.   Alana Doherty  –  Alice.  Lindsey  –  Queen of Hearts.  Danny Mills  –  White Rabbit.  Robert Nicholas  –  March Hare.  James Worthington  –  Mad Hatter.

*NB – each performer covers several roles, are only billed as main.

Company Credits:  Director  –  James Worthington.  Original Novel  –  Lewis Carroll.  Script adaptation & original material  –  James Worthington.  Lyrics  –  Kate Lindsey.  Choreography  –  Marc Small.  Musical Director  –  Harold Purvis.  Costume & Props  –  Danny Mills & James Worthington.  Wardrobe Assistant  –  Heather Baker.  Set  –  James Worthington & Brian Worthington.  Publicity Photography  –  Leah Meads.  Videographer  –  Nathan Hughes.  Media & Marketing  –  Kate Lindsey & James Worthington.  Front of House  –  Nick Gribben.  Administration  –  Kate Lindsey.  http://www.talegatetheatre.co.uk

(c) Emma MacLennan 2011

Reviewed Tuesday 16th August 2011 / thespace@venue45, Edinburgh

h1

Los Albertos interviewed at Boomtown

Friday, 19 August, 2011

Boomtown Fair – Invisible Circus Tent – 13 Aug 11 – 22:00

C:  You’ve been around for a while… how long have you been together for?

MC:  Nice start, make us feel old!  We’ve been around since 2002, but in 2005 Chez and Des joined, which kind of changed the direction a little bit.

C: How have you changed since 2005?

CH:  I guess it just got a bit more punkier, and a bit more… drunker maybe!

MC:  Since Chez and Des joined, I think we kind of feel like things got a bit more… things changed a bit.  It came together.

CH:  and about two years ago we got a new bass player.  The original founding member, he decided to take his life in a different direction, which is cool, and we got a new guy, Adam.

MC:  Lots of love to the original people, but we definitely feel at the moment that this is our place.  We’re in a good place.

C: So are you busy at the moment?

CH:  As busy as we want to be I think.  Last year was particularly manic for us.  I think we all burnt the candle at more than two ends, so we had a bit of a sabbatical over the Winter, doing our own thing.  Got back into it this Summer, doing what we want to do instead of taking anything that comes our way.

MC:  We really had to do that in the beginning.  Some of the band, for eight years, were doing 150 plus gigs a year, and not always good gigs.  If it’s what you love, you just say yes to everything.  We’d done that for eight years, and we got to this point where…

CH:  It takes it’s toll!

MC:  It does… on your relationships, your life, your vices which help you deal with these things.  We had six months off, which was a really healthy thing to do, and now we’ve come back and we’re not doing it as much as we used to do.  But we’re choosing the right things to do.

C:  What made Boomtown the right one to choose?  Do you enjoy it?

CH:  We’ve done Boomtown for years, since before it was Boomtown.

MC:  We’ve known Chris and Lak (the organisers) for a long time, for various reasons.  We have friends in common.  Hand on my heart it was my favourite festival last year, and I had an awesome Glastonbury!  The music line-up is fantastic.It really is.  It’s got reggae, ska, punk, dubstep, techno, drum n bass, rock, hippie music…

CH:  It’s very very eclectic

MC:  and also, the people are interesting and nice.

CH:  The set design is amazing.  It looks like Shangri-la from Glastonbury.  They’ve worked really hard on it.

MC:  It doesn’t have the pretentions of some other festivals which require you to dress up in certain ways… It has the realness of a festival which says ‘turn up and do what you want to do’, but it has the imagination of those other festivals.  No disrespect to them, they’ve been good to us.

CH:  We’ve been really lucky, we’ve been invited to play at a lot of amazing festivals, but there’s something about Boomtown, it’s got that little sparkle to it.  Maybe it’s the Bristol/ Brighton thing.

MC:  Maybe it’s the free party scene, where it has its roots, and a lot of our band have their roots there too.

CH:  It’s fresh. Lak and Chris are really quite young in the festival organisation scene, and it shows.  They’re not stuck in their ways.

MC:  And it has changed.  It’s nice to have lots of different people here now.  But I’m a music teacher, and I have some students here, and I do worry that I might bump into one of my students!

C:  And where do you go from here?  What does Los Albertos have planned?

CH:  The next one is Shambala, but we’ve got a couple of gigs in Brighton as well.  We’re doing PupAid, it’s in Stanmer Park in Brighton.  On September the 15th or 16th.  We’re playing after the dog show!  And there’s a fiery foods festival…

MC:  But we haven’t really thought past Monday.  Maybe on Tuesday I’d like to go to an Esso garage and find some Chinese meat on a stick.  Oh, and we’re going to Bestival, to play in the Spiegeltent.

CH:  We’ve been trying to get Bestival for about five years.  We’ve got contacts with Rob da Bank, and eventually we got the gig.  We’re really looking forward to that.  But in the future future, it would be nice if we could actually write some more songs.  We’ve got a couple of bits and pieces in the making, but it would be good to maybe get a single out, make a video…

MC:  We’re looking to record in October.  With the music industry as it is at the moment, it’s all self funded, which is cool.  It means you have to be good at doing the gigs to earn the money to then pay for that.  Record companies don’t invest.  We’re looking to record.  It’s an investment.  It’s a vision.  It’ll happen.  But first we have to come down from all the festivals, and then in October we’re looking to record.  We’ve got two or three songs in the set at the moment, and another four in the making, and a couple of covers, but I think we’d rather do a really good four or five track EP than a shonky eight or nine track album.  It’s easier to fund and it’s easier to promote.

C:  Do you have any advice for up and coming bands?

CH:  Be an accountant!

MC:  Blag blag blag blag blag blag, tell people you’re much better than you are, blag it, and in the end it’ll happen!  Go for it… that’s how it works.

C:  Is there anything else we need to know about Los Albertos?

CH:  check out our website: www.losalbertos.co.uk and www.myspace.com/losalbertos

C:  Thank you very much.

Band members:  Martin Andrews – Drums.  Mark Crawford – Guitar, Voice.  Des Crawley – Trumpet, Melodica, Voice .  Chez Harper-Grimble – Saxophone, Melodica, Voice.  Tim Herman – Saxophone and Voice.  Adam Moog – Bass.

Interviewer: Claire Higgins, 2011

h1

The Carny Villains, interviewed at Boomtown

Friday, 19 August, 2011

Boomtown Fair – Invisible Circus tent – 14th Aug – 16:00

The Carny Villains identify themselves as a Stomping Swing Circus Show band.  They have a reputation for pushing the usual boundaries of what a band can do, often appearing in costume or in character, and have played at numerous theatrical events in Bristol and beyond, more often than not, outdoors.  Listening to music should not be a passive pursuit according to the Carny Villains.  They write music to fit each event, so the audience will hear in the style and lyrics of each tune how carefully constructed is the work of the Carny Villains, designed to maximise the audience’s experience.  Taking part in their gigs means signing up for a visit to Carny Ville, where every person has a place and a purpose.

The self titled Carny Villains album is a selection of some of their liveliest music, great for getting ready to go out, but mellow enough to work as a background to a very cool dinner party.  The four tracks: Last Train to Carny Ville, Hold It Down, The Trial of Henry Jones, and The Last Cabaret, reflect some of their theatrical masterpieces of the past, bringing memories of their performances back to life for those who have seen them play.  The lyrics, traditional dancing rhythms, folk style unison singing, and use of acoustic over electric instruments, render the overall style refreshingly old, evoking an era long predating i-pods, when music told a story.    Track four in particular, manages to convey a slightly drunken effect, due to the use of glissando and slurred singing.  It would be understandable, whilst playing this track, to want to drink from a flagon, link arms, sway, and join in with the singing.   The instrumental section offers a chance to dance and to soak up the atmosphere created by the music.   The only problem with this album is that it doesn’t last long enough.

I met the Carny Villains at Boomtown Fair, and every band member turned up for our interview.  Although they are an incredibly creative bunch with a skill for the collaboration of writing songs together and performing with theatre, they were not drunk, and they did not swear.  With a clear idea of what they want to achieve,  the Carny Villains  are true professionals.  They know that in order for their fans to get the most out of their music, they have to put in a lot of hard work and dedication.  But they don’t mind, because they love what they do.  The Carny Villains will go far.

Tell us about the Carny Villains
We are a Stomping Swing Circus Show band.  You can expect to hear rockabilly, knees up… sometimes we’re a bit ska-y, sometimes a bit rock-y, sometimes swing-y.  We bastardise all sorts of genres, without prejudice. Eclectic is a good word for it.  We all write the music, but different tunes come together in different ways.  Willy writes a lot of words, so does Sarah, but it is quite varied.  When we’re writing music for an event, we all get together and someone will have an idea for a tune or something, and it’s very much a collective process.  One of us might have a brainwave and share it with the rest of us, and a couple of us will develop it.  If it’s for the circus we’ll have a brainstorming session together and get something together that we’re going to choreograph with the performers.  It can happen in various ways.  One of ours songs came from the finale at Carny Ville.  We had to make half an hour’s worth of music.  We’ll get told what’s happening: ‘There are people on stage, there are people being drawn through the crowd, someone’s swinging etc.’  The vibe and the theme are already there.  We think ‘oh, ok, that’s going on, how does that make us feel and how do we make it into a song?’  We write to the event, and people go mental.  People who have never seen us before will remember us.

How did you get together?
We were a wind up band for The Combustion Club, a circus event at the Fire Station in Bristol three years ago.  We had a thing in front of us which people could wind, and when they wound it we would stand up, a light would come up on stage and we could play, and when they stopped winding we’d have to wind down and stop playing.  We gained a drummer on the second night.  That’s where it all began.  In terms of ability, skill and repertoire, we’ve changed quite a lot since then.  As newer members join, they all bring something new.  Now we need a piano player… who can dance!

What are the Carny Villains up to at the moment?
Festivals, gigs, events, anything we can get our hands on.  We’ve just played at The Rogues Salute, at The Harbourside Festival in Bristol.  We’re all musicians full time so we’re all busy, and we all have fingers in other pies, so this is our first Boomtown together as the Carny Villains.  Some of us have been here before as parts of other bands, such as The Glitzy Bag Hags.  Now we’ve moved on, not to better things, just to different things.  Last year we were at a wedding in Italy.  They love us at weddings… we get drawn to these amazing places.  We’re up for working on tunes and finding tunes that people recognise or like and stuff that make people happy.  We’ve done some old clichés like ‘Time of My Life’ , that always goes down a storm at a wedding.  That is a real pleasure to be able to do.   We made our own little four track EP in December.  We’re trying to sell that and make some new material to make a new one after festival season.  And we’re really excited to get into more circus shows, performances, and theatre, as well as the festivals and the gigs.  We seem to get offered quite a lot of interesting gigs.  There are a lot of possibilities.  See us next at Brisfest on September 24th and join our group on facebook.

Do you have any advice for up and coming bands?
Treat it like a full time job, work 40 hours a week, practise, turn up on time and be professional.  Know when to party and when not to.  Have a passion for it, enjoy it, and have plenty of time and energy for it.  But also have a sense of humour and have a lot of fun.

Band members: Mike Fergie – Suitcase drum kit.  Sarah Fielding – Voice, Clarinet, Melodica.  Zac Gregory – Double Bass.  Kit Hawkes – Guitar, Voice.  Leo Hess – Violin.  Davey Norton – Piano.  Funtime Willy – Voice, Trumpet.

(c) Claire Higgins 2011