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Clare Bartholomew: The Anniversary

By | Published on Thursday 4 August 2022

There are always quite a few physical or slapstick type shows at the Fringe – although, one possibly could argue, not enough – but either way, I am always on the look out for the good ones. Which is why I pricked up my ears when I heard about ‘The Anniversary’, a show in the theatre programme that describes itself as a “physical comedy house party from hell”.

It’s the work of Salvador Dinosaur, aka Clare Bartholomew and Daniel Tobias, a duo you may have seen performing in another guise – as Otto and Astrid of Die Roten Punkte. We have always loved Die Roten Punkte and we think this new show looks incredibly promising, so I arranged a chat with Clare ahead of their edfringe run.

CM: What can we expect from ‘The Anniversary’? What sort of genre or style is it? Does it tell a story?
CB: ‘The Anniversary’ is a physical comedy farce. It’s largely non-verbal, so the characters Jim & Barb only say each other’s names and the names of their two pets. The show is set to a beautifully composed score by Steph O’Hara, who used to play live music for Buster Keaton silent movies in The Blue Grassy Knoll.

CM: Can you tell us a bit about the creative process of writing and constructing a show with only four spoken words?
CB: We begin by writing a narrative and overall structure for the show before we start our rehearsals. We then worked with director Peter Houghton to create the routines in the show.

‘The Anniversary’ has gone through two complete re-writes – mainly due to having a lot of thinking time during lockdowns. In many ways it was such a blessing because we love performing this latest version of the show so much.

That is always our goal, to love performing the show, so it’s a big pleasure for us and then hopefully also the audience.

CM: Where does your inspiration come from? Who are your biggest influences when writing a show like ‘The Anniversary’?
CB: Dan and I have worked together for the past seventeen years in another act called Otto & Astrid – Die Roten Punkte, which is a wild, cabaret rock concert with two squabbling siblings. Live bands and music were always Dan’s wheelhouse and strength, whereas non-verbal physical comedy was mine.

For ‘The Anniversary’, we went back to my roots and thought about all the brilliant physical comedians we love, such as Lucille Ball, Jennifer Saunders, Rowan Atkinson, Magda Szubanski, Sasha Baron Cohen, Los Trios Ringbarkus and Lano & Woodley.

CM: What are your aims and ambitions for ‘The Anniversary’? Will it always be a live show or would it translate to TV do you think?
CB: I think Jim & Barb already work really well on that small screen everyone holds in their hand, so I’m sure they’d thrive on TV with the right opportunity!

We’ve recently been working with a creative team in Melbourne called Ducky Creative to make some short clips with Jim & Barb which has been such fun, and we just wrote an application to make a Jim & Barb web series next year directed by Frank Woodley.

So, screen is definitely on our mind and you know… if the web series took off, then possibly Jim & Barb could have their own TV show, why not? Barb is itching to host a variety show of her favourite acts.

CM: Who is the show for? What sort of people would enjoy it?
CB: We made this show to give people a big laugh, for audiences to have fun and enjoy themselves at the theatre.

So far, we’ve played at Circfest, a festival which was full of lovers of physical comedy and clown, and also at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, which is quite a broad audience of comedy lovers of all ages.

I think folks who enjoy character comedy, farce and physical ridiculousness will really have a great time.

CM: Is there a big difference between British and Australian audiences?
CB: I think British audiences have a much more established appreciation and history of character driven, non-verbal physical comedy than Australia.

From the cult status of ‘The Plank’ to the sheer volume of TV shows with duo physical comedians and character actors, it’s what Britain is very well known for.

Australia is not only way smaller in population, but also Australian TV programming is quite conservative and sticks largely to the mainstream.

Whilst there are many Australian physical comedy performers creating fab live works, there are very few of these acts on TV – even fewer than there was say ten or 20 years ago.

CM: How did you both begin your careers as performers? How did it progress?
CB: Dan began his performing career in theatre from a very young age and also played in heaps of bands from the age of fifteen. I had trained in dance and movement and had made quite a few physical comedy/clown shows.

We had both devised a lot of our shows in ensembles before we met, so that – and a love of ridiculous physical comedy and character – gave us a strong foundation together

CM: This isn’t your first time at the Fringe, of course. What makes you keep coming back?
CB: The Edinburgh Fringe is the largest arts festival and arts market in the world. Besides playing to international audiences, we’ve also been lucky to score gigs in amazing places all around the world as a result of someone seeing our show in Edinburgh.

We’ve toured to Spoletto USA, Rurfestspiele in Recklinghausen, Soho Theatre London, around Europe as Amanda Palmer’s support band, Ann Arbor Summer Festival and The Cultch, Vancouver to name a few.

CM: What are you most looking forward to about Edinburgh 2022?
CB: We’re so excited to have fun with live UK audiences again! We’ve always found them to be very responsive and enthusiastic. I think people will be ready for a laugh and happy to be seeing live work after being cooped up inside for such a long time around screens. At least I hope so, cos we came a very long way to tickle your funny bones.

CM: Aside from performing, what else will you be getting up to during the Festival?
CB: One of the biggest pleasures of being in Edinburgh is that it is one of the most stunning cities in the world, so just walking around is an experience. Also, I plan on seeing a vast array of shows from around the world. As soon as our own show has opened and we’re on our way, I’ll be booking up my afternoons and evenings to see theatre, comedy, circus and music, can’t wait!

CM: What’s coming up next for you, and your company Salvador Dinosaur, after edfringe?
CB: After edfringe we head to Spain to decompress for ten days, then we’re back to Australia for the Wanderer Festival, a rock and arts festival on the Sapphire Coast; the Mullumbimby Circus Festival; and the So Soiree Festival in Melbourne.

Then we are writing a new show called ‘Otto & Astrid’s Joint Solo Project’. Plus we have some touring of ‘The Anniversary’ around Australia planned and then we hope to be back in this neck of the woods touring in 2023!

‘The Anniversary’ was performed at Pleasance Dome at Edinburgh Festival 2022.

LINKS: salvadordinosaur.com | www.instagram.com/salvadordinosaur

Photo: Andrew Wuttke

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