ED2010 Columns ED2010 Comedy ED2010 Theatre ED2010 Week3 Edition

Terry Saunders: Crossing the boundary

By | Published on Tuesday 31 August 2010

Terry Saunders

Consider this part of ThreeWeeks a part-comedy part-theatre section. Terry Saunders can’t decide which part of the Fringe he’s in.

For something that is a fringe/arts festival it seems at odds that there is such a boundary between theatre and comedy.

My last three Edinburgh shows have been narrative stories with a bit of standup mixed in. When it came to the decision of whether to place them in the theatre or comedy half of the programme I wanted initially to put them in both.

The shows are theatrical but also funny. If the guide was printed in the shape of a venn diagram then I’d plonk it right in the middle of the two. But the printing costs and logistics of this really isn’t worth bankrupting everyone else just so that I can straddle two pigeonholes at once.

As I earn my living as a stand-up, I’ve always put the shows in the comedy section. I also felt (maybe still feel) that comedy is the more worthy art-form, that if you can squeeze a plot and some sad bits and a story through the laughs to the enjoyment of a comedy audience, then it’s more of a win than in front of a theatre audience.

The theatre audience is more passive, even if a show is awful they’ll quite often politely clap at the end. Whereas a standup audience will tell you halfway through with a heckle or at least by not laughing at what you had previously thought was funny. So this year I’ve made the jump to theatre, is it a mark of failure? The me from 2006 may have said yes, but the me that is writing this now is happy to face a new challenge, to strengthen the theatrey bits of his show and maybe lose some of the comedy standards I leaned on too hard. There’s not a rule saying theatre shows can’t be funny, I hope.

I haven’t much changed what I do, I’m still writing a funny story, I still hope it’s funny.

But I must admit to giving myself some breathing space, playing with theatricality a bit and weaning myself off the fear of heckles. The bits of standup that I always felt forced to almost apologetically put in to previous shows have been stripped and now I can delve in deeper to characters and story and treat the laughs as an enjoyable bonus. But it’s still going to be me on the stage telling the stories like I usually do, maybe I’ll save the giant helicopter landing on the stage for edinburgh 2011.

What would I say I am? Well, I’m still doing a narrative story that’s funny in places and happily straddling the line between theatre and comedy, only this year I’ve gone to the red bit of the fringe guide. I almost hope no one notices.

Terry Saunder’s show ‘Six And A Half Loves’ was performed at the Pleasance Courtyard during Fringe 2010.

LINKS: www.terrysaunders.co.uk