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Cerys Bradley: Not Overthinking Things 2019

By | Published on Wednesday 2 August 2023

Cerys Bradley returns to the Fringe with new show ‘Not Overthinking Things 2019′, having performed debut solo hour, ‘Sportsperson’, at Edinburgh Festival 2022.

The new show’s blurb asks “Did Cerys cause their parents’ divorce? Did they just make that interaction really awkward? Is a new year’s resolution ever going to be enough to fix their personality?” We’re then told that, “in this surreal and silly interactive stand-up show/birthday party, you get to decide”.

Super intrigued by all that, I caught up with Cerys to find out more.

CM: Can you begin by telling us a bit about the sort of performer you are? How would you describe your work in terms of a comedy style or genre?
CB: I am an alternative comedian, so I do stand-up, but I come with a lot of props and I incorporate drag, songs, games and sketches into my shows.

A lot of what I do is storytelling, but I really like audience interaction, so try to have as much of that as possible, often in ways that allow the audience to determine how the show will go.

CM: And can you tell us about this year’s show? What sort of subjects can we expect to hear you talking about?
CB: This year’s show is about a lot of things! Including my relationship with autism and the expectations and sometimes double standards that come with being autistic.

I have been using the show to explore what it means to be a nice person, and how communicating and being understood, and understanding other people’s expectations of you, determine whether you are a good person or not.

I have a lot of intrusive thoughts, particularly when I’m stressed or anxious, and I wanted to talk about that in the show as well, because a lot of my thoughts are about how other people perceive me and whether or not I am a bad person.

The main focus of the show, however, is my parents’ divorce and my relationship with my parents. I’ve been thinking about it a lot recently, because I got married this year.

So, I talk about this and the fear of growing up and turning into your parents, and what you’re supposed to do in a situation where there’s no good actions or right solution and you don’t have certainty about any of the things you are doing or saying.

CM: You mentioned that you like audience interaction. How does that fit into the show? Should shy people sit at the back?
CB: There are lots of audience interaction elements. We play party games and I chat to people in the audience throughout the show.

All of the interactive elements are voluntary and so, if you’re shy and don’t want to get involved, you could sit on the front row and still have a lovely time.

A lot of the time with my shows people who hate audience interaction come along and have joined in by the end of it. I think this is because there’s no obligation to get involved, I try to make the rules very clear and there is always an opt out.

There are also lots of ways to get involved without speaking to anyone else, so there are different levels of audience interaction. I would say don’t let the interactive elements put you off!

CM: I think you had a good run with your debut solo show at the Fringe last year, which might form part of the answer to this question; but what made you want to come back this year with a new show?
CB: I did have a great time last year, but I actually started writing this show when I was at the Festival last summer as a bit of a response to my experience of it. I think I got quite frustrated with some elements of performing at the Fringe and I wanted to try something different.

Last year I was in a paid venue with quite a polished show and this year I’m with the Free Festival and my show is more chaotic. Last year I tried to make a really nice and uplifting show, this year’s show is not exactly doing the opposite of that but I do think it has a different vibe.

Mostly I would say I wanted to come back because I had an idea for a show that I wanted to develop and this Festival provides the space to really hone it and get good at performing it.

And also because I met so many great people last year and I’m hoping that the people who enjoyed my show last year will want to see what else I can do.

CM: What do you like most about being in Edinburgh for the Festival? Is there anything you don’t like about it?
CB: I don’t love the cost of it, that’s for sure, and I don’t like the competitiveness. I think I got quite swept up in that at the start of the Fringe last year and I’m glad I got a reality check and could move on to focus on the parts of the Fringe that are beneficial to creating and performing art.

My favourite thing about the Fringe is that I get to see lots of incredible work and that I get to see it with friends that I don’t see very often, and then we can stay up way past our bed time talking in painfully nerdy detail about the shows that we have seen.

CM: What will you be doing when you are not performing? Do you have favourite Fringe haunts?
CB: I love Lighthouse Books and I try to save my visit for when I am feeling most sad at the Fringe, and then I go and buy myself a present to make myself feel better.

When I’m not performing I will still be performing, because I’ll be doing lots of other shows to advertise mine, and I’ll be flyering and things like that.

But I’ve got some friends coming up on one of the weekends and I can’t wait to hang out with them and go see things.

CM: Do you have a list of other people’s shows that you would like to see?
CB: Yes. So many. Elf Lyons, who directed my show, has a clowning show with Duffy that is all in BSL and is going to be incredible. Kathy Maniura’s show is going to be great.

I can’t wait to see Priya Hall’s debut and Leila Navabi’s. I always go to see Steffan Alun’s show. I’m super excited that Harriet Dyer is back this year with a new show and so I’m going to see that.

I’m being produced by Ingenious Fools and they have a great roster of shows – including Charlie Vero Martin’s – and I will go see every single one of them.

CM: Having staged your debut solo show last year, do you have any advice to those doing the same thing this year?
CB: Last year my show was directed with Joz Norris and he spent some time with me working on Fringe goals that were measurable and achievable but still aspirational and not guaranteed, and I think that really helped me.

I hit everyone of them but couldn’t say I was going to until the last day. So I would definitely recommend setting yourself some personal goals that are things that you have control over and that will make you happy if you achieve them.

I was surrounded by a wonderful team last year and having good people around you is crucial to having a good time at the Fringe.

I’ve done the Festival when I don’t really know anyone and it’s a much better experience when you’re in a WhatsApp group with mates that you can meet for a drink after a particularly bad show or go see stuff with.

CM: How did you get into comedy? Did you always want to be a performer?
CB: I actually started when I was in high school. Natalie Haynes came to my school and ran a series of workshops and then I did a youth competition.

I sort of did bits and pieces here and there with my uni society and then, when I did my postgrad, I started doing science comedy, where you write and perform about your research. This led me into the world of alternative comedy.

I don’t think I’ve always wanted to be a performer. I enjoy performing but only because it’s a good vehicle for writing. I have always wanted to be a writer and comedy is the way of providing a platform for my writing.

CM: What have been the highlights of working in this industry thus far?
CB: I was in my first writer’s room this week and that was very cool. Everyone was lovely and it was really amazing to see how things work and to be able to contribute to something that is worked on by a lot of people that I respect. So maybe that’s a highlight.

Also, I got to perform my last show ‘Sportsperson’ at Soho Theatre, and the enormity of achieving that didn’t really hit me until I was stood behind the curtain listening to the audience trickle in and feeling like the performer on so many of the comedy specials I have watched.

CM: What aims and ambitions do you have for the future?
CB: I’m currently working on a book and would really love to get it published. I would say this is my main ambition right now.

I also hope to do more collaborative projects and have a few projects that I’m hoping to get off the ground that will allow me to make cool things with friends – which is the dream, tbh.

CM: What’s coming up next for you after this?
CB: So I actually went back to uni this year and got my PGCE, so in terms of what’s next, I get back from Fringe on the 28 Aug and start my new job teaching A-Level maths on the 29 Aug, which is terrifying and terrible planning.

I’m really looking forward to it though, and I’ll be working part time so that I can still do a lot of writing and, hopefully, take ‘Not Overthinking Things 2019’ on tour.

Cerys Bradley performed ‘Not Overthinking Things 2019’ at Laughing Horse @ Bar 50 at Edinburgh Festival 2023.

LINKS: cerysbradley.com | twitter.com/hashtagcerys | instagram.com/hashtagcerys

Photo: Steve Ullathorne