ED2014 Interviews ED2014 Theatre ED2014 Week1 Edition

Figs In Wigs: Fringe show offs

By | Published on Sunday 3 August 2014

Figs In Wigs

“You’re so vain you probably think this show is about you” say Figs In Wigs, the self-declared “lowbrow answer to avant-garde”. The popular Fringe troupe are back exploring the “new form of narcissism” that’s fuelled by social media, and the short attention spans caused by an internet overflowing with people and content, with a fast-paced variety show starring, well, the Figs. Who’d want the share the limelight Over the hour the group turn their hands to a number of new genres, many for the first time, including comedy, dance, music, circus and even visual art. We donned our best wigs and cornered the Figs to find out more.

CC: So, I have a feeling your show this year might be all about me. Tell us more about the concept behind ‘Show Off’.
Figs: Actually you’re wrong, it’s all about us. ‘Show Off’ is looking at the modern day fixation with social media and the self-obsession it breeds. We felt, what better way to explore this new form of narcissism than to make a show entirely about ourselves? As well as this, Figs In Wigs have always enjoyed having their fingers in as many pies as possible. This makes us a little bit difficult to categorise. Are we dance, theatre, live art? We decided to play with this ambiguity and use it to our (dis)advantage; hence a variety show starring only us.

CC: Why did you decide to explore this “new form of narcissism”, and why with a variety show?
Figs: Our generation – so that’s Gen Y – have been labelled the “most narcissistic to date”. The Figs are quite suspicious of labels and we were interested in whether we were more narcissistic than our parents, whether this could be do with our digital existence, and also whether it’s even possible to categorise an entire generation. We felt the variety show format actually spoke a lot to the digital generation’s restlessness. Nowadays we’re always searching – usually in a tool bar – for the next best thing. Much like the variety show audience, we need continual entertainment and stimulation, and our dwindling attention spans can’t cope with anything longer than five minutes.

CC: Do you think we are really bigger ‘show offs’ today than in the past, or is it just that social media platforms are providing a new forum for the inner show off that has always been in all of us?
Figs: This is the exact question that led us to make ‘Show Off’. Like all complex questions, it’s most likely a mix of both. There have always been show offs and the concept of the ‘fifteen minutes of fame’ is not a new one. But perhaps what is most fascinating is that social media not only affects this narcissism but also alters the way people see themselves and how they interact with others. Speed of communication means that we never slow down; we build relationships and lose touch at an accelerating rate. And the concept of memory is completely altered, because pictures and messages remember our past better than we ever can. Our secret teenage diaries are public blogs, and ‘community’ means something different than it did ten years ago. We make friends and follow each other everywhere from the comfort of our own homepage. It’s not necessarily good or bad – it’s just reality.

CC: You’re going to reinvent yourselves as comedians, dancers, musicians, circus performers and even visual artists during the show. How have you prepared for each of these?
Figs: We’ve had intensive workshops with experts in each discipline. Most of them think we’re insane. Apart from the incredible Tom Parkinson who transformed us into a band. I think he’s more into our music than we are.

CC: And how does the visual art bit work?
Figs: We don’t want to give too much away, but it does feature some of our original artworks. It’s fair to say it will probably make you question your own existence.

CC: Which has been the most challenging of the reinventions?
Figs: Circus, without a doubt. Turns out everyone can juggle except us, and hula hooping is a lot harder than it looks. This section of the show is more of an exercise in our anxieties than an exercise in skill.

CC: Which of the genres that you are playing with in ‘Show Off’ have you enjoyed the most?
Figs: Wow. That’s like us asking you who is your favourite Fig! We love them all equally of course… (so, dance).

CC: Will you be back next year with separate shows in the comedy, dance, music, circus and art programmes? Maybe take a genre each?
Figs: That would be great, but we don’t think our finances and mental health would survive five shows at the Fringe. A genre each is a good idea, but I think we’d miss each other too much.

CC: We’ve enjoyed your past Fringe shows, how does this one compare?
Figs: It’s the same length but different things happen within in it. We also have blue liquid which harks back to the WKD in ‘We, Object’ last year. And the cake trolley is back again.

CC: You raised some of your budget this time via KickStarter. Why did you go that route, and did it work?
Figs: Yes, it did, we were lucky enough to reach our target. We think crowdfunding can be useful for subsidising big projects, particularly for something as expensive as the Edinburgh Fringe. We weren’t expecting to get anything but it turns out we had lots of friends and family who wanted to support us. Which is nice.

CC: What’s your future plans for ‘Show Off’?
Figs: At the moment we are caught up in the Edinburgh fever and can’t seem to look beyond August. But we know one thing: the internet will still be here, so you can find out what we’re doing on our website.

CC: Assuming you do take the show beyond Edinburgh, you’ll probably want to extend the running time a little. What other genres might you like to show off in?
Figs: Horror and rom-com. What we call in the industry hor-rom-com.

‘Show Off – Figs In Wigs’ was performed at the Pleasance Courtyard at Edinburgh Festival 2014.

LINK: figsinwigs.com

Photo: David P Scott