It’s week three at Edinburgh, and there are animals in the Zoo. You might have seen them on the mile, you might have seen them in the bars, sticking a bright pink flyer under your nose.
The Fun Club have come from far and wide, bringing their own unique brand of ‘fun’ to the Fringe for the first time. I caught up with them at The Pleasance Dome over some Irn Bru and Tunnocks caramel wafers.
First things first, I want to know, how did The Fun Club come to be a panda, a lion and a frog?
Alastair, the frog, explains, “One of the things we did in development was to play a never-have-I-ever type of game where we asked people to dare us to do things we had never done. One of them was to have your faces painted like an animal like a day”
How did each of the club choose their animal? I’m curious, is it based on a character or a persona?
“We just chose” Sara, the Lion, puts it bluntly. “I was nearly a rabbit”
“I was nearly a rabbit”
Panda, Franny, explains her choice in a little more detail… “The original choice for me was not based on anything artistic, for me I just went ‘what is the simplest possible animal that I might not look hideous as?’ so I chose a panda. Our friend, who is a visual artist, created what became known as ‘The David Bowie Frog’ and, I’ve always painted Sarah, the Lion. It was in a face painting book”
Then what happened next made sure the face paint stuck.
“At college…” The Fun Club was first developed at Central School of Speech in Drama, where the company studied together, “… the school was evacuated, thankfully a false alarm, and we had just literally had our faces painted for the first time as part of this never-have-I-ever challenge and of course the moment you are covered in face paint and probably looking like something you wouldn’t want to be seen out in public…”, “Like a child’s party-vibe”, I chime in helpfully, “Yes! And you start to forget you have it on your face and you start to get the double takes, then the smile, then the curious looks, then that sort of carried on…”
Sara observes with a smile, “People just like you, it makes their day”
Alastair recalls, “Because it was for the whole day, we went to stroke the alpaca on the same day…”, another of their challenges. Franny and Sarah laugh, “We don’t talk about the Alpaca”.
“We don’t talk about the Alpaca”
What transpired was approaching a city farm for a visit, where their reception was a bit more mixed “I got told off for trying to feed the donkeys grass pellets, and I had completely forgotten I still had this face paint on, while this very lovely zoo keeper lady is slightly squinting…” Franny remembers, as if to say “what are you and what is wrong with you”, “where have you escaped from?” Alastair chimes in. The zoo, evidently.
“I realised then that one of the biggest worries of my life is being told off, I mean nobody likes being told off, it sits with me for so long… I imagined them getting my picture from the CCTV, WANTED pictures of me in make-up ‘DO NOT LET THIS LADY NEAR ANIMALS!”
She laughs, and continues, “What that informs in terms of writing and devising a show is trying to find those little things like, hey, when we say we don’t talk about the alpaca… we all have those moments, like hey, we don’t talk about that key thing, and we can laugh about it”
Growing the show out of these experiences, saw The Fun Club place their audience’s experiences at the centre of their work.
Frannie explains, “This is going to sound kind of grand, but we were bored of this idea of theatres that sort of punished an audience, like, you’ve done awful things in the world, there are political issues and, people walking out feeling like either like shit or that they’ve done something horribly wrong or that they’re not living their lives correctly. We wanted to make theatre that people would enjoy primarily, we wanted to make people laugh, but we also didn’t want people walking out of the theatre talking about their dinner. Perhaps instead, positive realisations, perhaps ‘I do that thing’, theatre as an entertainment, but past the surface level. I think the whole point of theatre, and art, and creating is that it’s not meant to be a torture”
“it’s not meant to be a torture””
So, what can people expect if they are not going to be tortured?
They all think for a moment before Sarah begins, “A shared one. The endeavour is to make them feel connected”
Frannie expands, “[The audience] should feel they are part of the performance but without feeling like they are forced to participate”
But it’s comedy, right? There will be laughs?
Alastair attempts to explain, “I was thinking this during the show yesterday, it’s comedy but it’s more…” He searches to find the words, Sarah puts it more succinctly “It’s not stand up”
“It’s not stand up”
“There’s something I think about the power of laugher that lets you breathe, you can’t laugh if you’re holding your breath and I think for an audience, and often an audience at things like the Fringe you do go in sort of holding your breathe thinking ‘Oh God, what is this going to be?’ and the moment that you can release the pressure on that a bit so that it is then a shared experience it becomes about, ‘how do we make a connection?’”
“Oh God, what is this going to be?”
Sara continues, “Even though they are strangers, they are humans. We are all humans, and we are telling human stories, and even though we are not doing a beginning a middle and an end it’s still storytelling… it’s not 100% truthful storytelling because it’s part autobiographical and part improvisational but truth-based storytelling, comedy is a bi-product of that I guess”
The Fun Club is: ALASTAIR MCPHAIL, SARA PAGE and FRANNY ANNE RAFFERTY.
The Fun Club Presents… is at ZOO Southside Studio Aug 18-27, 20:50. Run time:50 minutes. Tickets: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/fun-club-presents