Hugs achieved: x3
‘The First Annual (Doris to insert) Festival’, set in Bess County, is about “a small town getting together to help put on a festival for a reality television show called ‘Australia’s Got Festivals’” says Brendan Wan. “So that’s the big stakes…will they or will they not”? comments Tino Merino, discussing the characters’ efforts to put on the festival of a lifetime.
Brendan describes the show as “heavily character-based comedy” with “elements of straight sketch ideas” thrown in. “You get the enjoyment of a show that is super funny…but you also get to know the characters during the show” adds Elyce Phillips. “They’re a bunch of weirdos…but it’s always very affectionate…(the show) has heart at the centre”.
“Imagine it’s an actual town…just slightly off real reality” suggests Brendan. As I look to the group for comparisons, Tino suggests that there is similarity to “Portlandia…or even Parks and Recreation”. “There’s a little bit of whimsy in the sketches…that take the show outside reality”. When asked how they came about these characters Elyce comments “when we initially brainstormed…these are people we’ve known in our own life…but they’ve evolved”.
“The characters have taken their own life” adds Tino, not in a macabre way (the festival doesn’t go that badly), rather he discusses the growth of each character. Each of the writer/performers (including Elyce, Tino, Brendan and Simon Hawking) take on their own character, which has encouraged the development of each personality. They have also added fellow performer Fiannah de Rue to the mix to round out their cast. “When we’re pitching ideas… it’s like ‘nah, Gary Biscuit would never say that…Doris is like this’…everyone has very strong opinions about their characters”, Tino continues.
Tino, Elyce and Brendan appear sincere as they discuss the collaborative nature of their preparation. “This was an exciting opportunity to do something completely different and use different muscles” says Tino, and now that it’s written and the group feel more “in control”, they can relish in the pre-Fringe rehearsals and preparations. In particular, Elyce has taken on the roll of costume designer and maker. Tino comments, “Elyce is a great seamstress”, to which she excitedly replies “it’s my favourite”! “I have a terrible habit of writing sketches that require weird animal costumes…and I’ve done it again to myself this time”!
While meeting and training with one other at Improv Conspiracy, each member has a different comedic taste and performance style, which they have brought to the production. Since I interviewed Tino for the 2016 Melbourne Fringe Festival (read it here), he says “the last two years have been very Tino Tino Tino…I’m sick of it”. Tino has relished working in a team and getting to play characters beyond himself. “Brendan is the one for the edgy humour”, says Elyce. Brendan notes he is recently known for doing “out there” pieces but for this role, he is playing the “straight-laced character”. Elyce has also a number of different roles she can take on from “very stressed out” to “straight” and “grounded” characters.
But what about their director Hayley Tantau you ask? After interviewing Hayley for her 2017 Melbourne International Comedy Festival show (read it here), I wondered if my new interviewees would give me a behind the scenes scandalous scoop… they didn’t. “She’s the best! She’s amazing”, says Elyce. “She’ll watch us do a read through (and suggest) ‘you could do this’…and that’s the perfect joke”!
“I don’t think there’s any other sketch show that’s like ours at this Fringe…a narrative sketch show…what we’ve got is pretty cool” says Elyce. “We all come from very different perspectives…to create something unique”. ‘The First Annual (Doris to insert) Festival’ appears to be put together by passionate writer/performers who are keen to put on a quality character-based comedy show. The audience “become a citizen of our county”, says Tino. They “become part of the dressing of the town…they’ll come as strangers but leave as Bessians”. Oh, and there will also be a county raffle!!
Check out ‘The First Annual (Doris to insert) Festival’ at Club Voltaire from 15 to 23 September 2017. For more information and to buy tickets, click here.
If you are a comedian, get in touch and we can sit down for an interview to talk about comedy. Or if you have a 2017 Melbourne Fringe Festival show you want to talk about or want reviewed, contact Hugging Comedians on Facebook, Twitter or through the website.