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Bryony Twydle: Flamingo

By | Published on Sunday 1 July 2018

Bryony Twydle this year brings her debut solo hour to the Festival, but she isn’t by any means a stranger to it. Long term Fringe addicts will probably recognise her as a member of sketch troupes Simply The Jest and The Jest, and so – all things considered – we can probably characterise her as something of an old hand.

Anyway, what Bryony specialises in is character work, and this summer she will be dishing up a delicious mixture of intriguing personalities. I spoke to her to find out more about this show, her past Edinburgh experiences and what hopes she has for the future.

CM: Right, to begin with, this is your Edinburgh solo debut, isn’t it? What made you decide that this was the year to do it?
BT: It certainly is! Over the last couple of years I’ve been working towards my debut hour – doing work-in-progresses shows, getting used to being a solo performer on the circuit. This year it’s all come together, I’ve had a good year for acting work and knew I could support the show financially and when Underbelly offered me the slot I knew it was time to literally get the show on the road, to Edinburgh!

CM: But you’re not a stranger to the Festival of course. Can you tell us about the previous shows you were involved with?
BT: For a few years I performed as part of a nine-person sketch group (yes that is a thing and yes at times it was difficult to fit us all on stage). However, that came to an end when we had a particularly bad Fringe: two of the members of the group – who had been dating – went through a messy break-up just before the Fringe started, then one of the members broke her leg and finally I wrote off my car. Of the three, the car was the only breakage I was personally responsible for.

CM: Given that experience, you no doubt know what to expect of the Fringe, but how does preparing for your solo show compare? How different do you think it will be?
BT: Well there’s going to be eight fewer people, so I’m going to have to flyer eight times as hard! Of course, it will be a different experience, I’ll miss everyone’s company and the comradery, but at the same time there won’t be any arguments about what to have for dinner. The show is my responsibility – if something goes wrong, the buck stops with me, which is both liberating and terrifying.

CM: What do you love about Edinburgh during the Festival? What are the highs of your festival season?
BT: Of all the amazing things Edinburgh has to offer, the one thing that always sticks with me is the smell. I think it’s the beer they’re constantly brewing here and it makes the whole city smell of Weetabix. There is something really nostalgic about that smell, it takes me back to my very first time at the Fringe. Other highs for me include the feeling you get when the review that you’ve been waiting and waiting for comes out and it’s really nice, or when you go see something that not only makes you laugh but also gives you all of the feels (I recently saw Hannah Gadsby’s ‘Nanette’ – I wept and wept and wept), or the general post show drunkenness when you’re hanging out in the Courtyard, I love that Edinburgh never seems to sleep during the Fringe.

CM: What are the downsides of an Edinburgh run? Have you ever had a moment of despair?
BT: The not so great reviews. There was one Edinburgh that, to be perfectly honest, we just weren’t ready for, we were still changing the ending of the show through previews, and, suffice to say, the reviewers noticed. It’s very hard doing a show for the rest of the month which you know isn’t good enough but ultimately, you’ve paid to be there, you have to keep going. On the plus side, I do think experiences like those are really informative, and with hindsight I am glad that we went through that month of hell. And it wasn’t all bad – we discovered a great little cheesecake place in Haymarket called Mallow Valley and essentially comfort ate our way through the remainder of the Festival.

CM: Right, let’s talk about this year’s show now – how would you explain it and sell it to a potential comedy-goer if you met them on the street outside your venue?
BT: So my show is called Flamingo. I’m a character comedian, so I play six different characters over the course of the show, ranging from a deluded Hollywood actress to a shy 10-year-old schoolboy. It’s fun, fiery and, at times, filthy.

CM: Why is it called ‘Flamingo’?
BT: I’m not going to insult your intelligence by explaining something so patently obvious. Next you’ll be implying I just plucked the title from thin air.

CM: Can you tell us a bit about each of the characters you play in it?
BT: I play six different characters over the course of the show and a few might appear more than once but I won’t reveal too much about that, so I’ll tell you about a couple of my faves! There’s a Greek sex therapist called Ulva – who’s actually inspired by a real sex therapist that I once went to see – that takes some of our unsuspecting audience members on a little journey of their own, using her weird and wonderful sexual tips! Then there’s Vicky Spuvell Speed Awareness Course Instructor, again inspired by my own experiences on speed awareness courses (four to be exact, no wonder I wrote off my car). Vicky’s methods are slightly unorthodox and the audience should be willing to get involved with some of her peculiar techniques to get you to slow down.

CM: So, one of them is a ten-year-old boy? What made you decide to do that one, and how do you approach it?
BT: Yes, his name is Hector. A lot of my characters are based on people I meet in real-life and Hector is no different. A few years ago, I did some nannying for a few quite posh families and that provided the inspiration – kids say some hilarious things and they have no idea how funny they’re being. And posh kids, well they’re on another level. However, Hector also provided an opportunity to inject some pathos into the show, despite all the material goods he has, all which he really craves is the love of his absent parents. I don’t think any of the parents would realise that their children provided me with the inspiration for Hector. That said, I haven’t invited them to see the show…

CM: Do you have a single favourite character?
BT: My favourite character in the show has changed quite a few times, but it’s currently my QVC presenter, she is so fun to play because she’s completely ridiculous. She’s also the character I open the show with. I used to start with a different character, but in previews we mixed the set list around and I just love beginning the show with her crazy energy.

CM: Now that we’ve worked out what the show is about, can we do some more general questions? How did you get into comedy? Was it something you always wanted to do?
BT: I’ve always loved comedy. As a child, I was constantly quoting French and Saunders to my mum to try and make her laugh. I loved French and Saunders so much that there was a brief period as a teenager where my friend Joe and I started doing Youtube parodies of Nigella Lawson and the ‘Devil wears Primark’. Looking back now, they must have been terrible, but we’ll never know as they’ve since disappeared. I reckon they exist out there somewhere, threatening to resurface on an old desktop. At university I fell into the comedy scene, trying sketch and stand-up until – and I don’t know how it happened – we formed a nine-person sketch group, which I think may have been both the best and worst idea a person could come up with. And seven years later here I am. Doing what I’ve always wanted to do and what I’ve always done: dressing up and doing silly voices to keep my mum entertained/crying. Thanks Mum.

CM: How does the radio and TV acting you do compare to doing live work?
BT: I love it all, but there’s nothing quite like live work. TV is better money, but there is nothing quite like getting the instant reaction from a live audience, hearing those laughs. When you’ve had a great show, you go home feeling like you’re flying. It’s not quite the same when someone texts you to say they thought you were really good in something they’ve seen on TV.

CM: What ambitions do you have for the future?
BT: Well, my main ambition is to get a dog. I was thinking about it earlier this year but the logistics of having a labradoodle on stage during my set would be challenging, although maybe that’s an idea for my next show…. Aside from dog ownership, my dream would be to have my own character/sketch show like Catherine Tate or Tracey Ullman and despite what I just said about preferring live work, I would love to be in a sitcom. I’ve had some amazing opportunities in the last year after signing with my current agent (who’s great) and I’m so excited to be learning new things, both about the industry but also about me as a performer.

CM: What’s coming up next after the Fringe?
BT: A very long sleep that will probably last the whole of September, right up until I get to go away for a week’s holiday at the start of October (which I definitely can’t afford, big mistake) and then after that, I’m not sure!? I’ve no idea what it’ll be like doing a solo Fringe and how I’ll feel afterwards. But in all honesty, I’ll probably get to November and start umming and ahhing about going up again and then panic and book in another Edinburgh. I honestly can’t think of anything better to do in August. And I do have a few characters lined up for a second show so who knows! What I do know is I’ve got to survive this one first, so for that reason alone, I’m taking the train.

Bryony Twydle performed ‘Flamingo’ at Underbelly at Edinburgh Festival 2018.

Photo: Idil Sukan