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Michelle Brasier & Laura Frew: Double Denim Adventure Show

By | Published on Sunday 16 June 2019

Michelle Brasier and Laura Frew first performed at the Fringe as part of the comedy group Backwards Anorak, before returning in 2017 as a double act in their first acclaimed outing as Double Denim. They’ve now staged three Double Denim shows back home in Australia and present the second of that trilogy – ‘Adventure Show’ – at Underbelly this August

I caught up with both of them to find about more about the shows, their Edinburgh Festival highs and lows, and how the comedy festivals in Australia compare to the big old Edinburgh Fringe.

CC: Let’s start at the start. Well, the start of this particular adventure. How did you guys come to be performing together in Double Denim?
MB: We used to be in a group called Backwards Anorak – we brought our show ‘Winter Is Coming’ to Edinburgh – and that was the two of us with Vince and Leo Milesi. My brother passed away when we were in Edinburgh doing that show and it really forced us all to look at what we were doing with our lives. The boys took some time off and we just took a chance to see what it would be like with just the women of the group. Turns out, pretty good!

LF: ‘Winter Is Coming’ was a ‘Game Of Thrones’ spoof musical and was amazing fun to do. But the year after that, everyone jumped on the ‘GOT’ musical bandwagon – yes we did it first! – so we had to think of something else to do for the next project. Denim was basically the logical next step of taking all the fun we have off stage together and putting it on stage.

CC: For the uninitiated, what can we expect from a Double Denim show?
LF: Denim.

CC: Well, of course! What else?
MB: Double Denim shows are like a kids party but for grown ups. Our shows are very silly and engineered to make you feel joyous and nostalgic. There’s a lot of music and characters and sketches. And crabs.

CC: For the initiated, ie those who saw the original Double Denim show, how does ‘Adventure Show’ compare?
LF: It’s got an entirely different script and different leotards. This show was definitely the hardest to write, as we were feeling the pressure from the success of our first show, but luckily we smashed the second album syndrome and came up with another hit. This one has more absurdity, more original songs, and more crabs.

MB: In the first show, Laura played the ‘straight man’ to my clown. We are both equally mad in this one. This show is more heightened. There is also far less audience participation than the first show. And more original music. And more The Rock! It’s the Eurovision of sketch/character comedy.

CC: For the uber initiated, ie those who saw ‘Double Denim Adventure Show’ when you previously performed it in Australia, will the Edinburgh version be different? Has it evolved since you debuted it last year?
LF: Bloody oath mate. We can’t be doing all our very specific 90s Aussie references for an international audience or they’d be more confused than Alf Stewart on the set of ‘Neighbours’. You get that reference, right? Ross Kemp on the set of ‘Coronation Street’ – that’s the UK version, I think.

MB: Yes, ‘Adventure Show’ originally had some very Australian references in it. We’ve workshopped it to make the show even better and we have changed all the references to be more UK friendly. So, Missy Higgins becomes Atomic Kitten. Or maybe Billie Piper.

CC: You premiered the ‘Double Denim’ shows at the Adelaide Fringe. How do the Adelaide and Edinburgh Fringe’s compare?
LF: One is really hot, dry, flat and essentially in the desert. And one is cold, damp, hilly and essentially in a medieval village. My sweat levels vary dramatically between the two. Also the scale of the festivals is so different. Adelaide is the second biggest fringe in the world, but I’ll still see most of my mates every night in the bar post show. Edinburgh is just massive and all-consuming, so sometimes I’ll only manage to see my friends on social media as they are too far away on the ground.

MB: Yes, Edinburgh is like Adelaide on cocaine. Sometimes literally. For other people, obviously. Not for us. We are perfect angels. The Adelaide Fringe is excellent fun and it gets bigger every year. It’s really good preparation for Edinburgh. Like a training course for not sleeping.

CC: You’ve also performed the shows to much acclaim at the Melbourne Comedy Festival – how does that compare to Edinburgh’s big fest?
MB: Melbourne Comedy Festival is really different for us because we both live there. It’s the home town game. Plus it’s all comedy. Edinburgh gives you opportunities to go and see amazing theatre or dance too, which is awesome.

LF: Yes, Melbourne is where my heart is. As Michelle says, it’s our home town festival. Which means we have a pretty big fanbase there. I feel comfortable and so supported during that festival, and both performers and staff are like family now. Edinburgh is like going away on arts camp for grown ups. New people, places and faces.

CC: What were your first experiences of the Edinburgh Fringe like?
LF: My first Fringe was an absolute delight. We ended up at the Festival out of luck. We were asked over by Karen Koren of Gilded Balloon. I had no idea who she was, what the Fringe was, or even where Edinburgh was. I had no understanding of the opportunity we’d be given and I didn’t know what to expect at all. Ignorance is bliss. We managed to have a sell out season in our first year – at 3pm in a 140 seater – so you could say my first experience was somewhat blessed and skewed. I don’t know if it will ever be that good again, but I wouldn’t give those memories up for anything.

MB: I couldn’t believe how beautiful the city is. The people are so friendly and the castle is absolutely nuts. We were really lucky to have a lot of friends doing their first year too. Aunty Donna and Demi Lardner are good mates of ours and we had each other as a support network as well as our amazing venue. We were doing the ‘Game Of Thrones’ show, so we were lucky enough to break through and sell a lot of tickets. We even got to do some sketches and stuff for the BBC. I fell in love with the Festival and the city. It cemented itself in my heart really quickly and helped shape me as a performer for sure.

CC: What has been your Edinburgh Fringe high to date?
LF: Michelle and I nailing our first ever headliner spot at the Gilded Balloon’s ‘Late N Live’. I remember we were so nervous that the crowd would turn on us, so were were hyping each other up, and jumping up and down like boxers before a fight. We went out at a million miles an hour and and smashed it.

MB: Agreed! Headlining ‘Late N Live’ was pretty amazing. It’s a hard gig because the show is late, the audience is huge and usually pretty drunk, and we absolutely killed it. I am really proud of that night.

CC: What has been your Edinburgh Fringe low to date?
LF: Being stuck in a cubicle without toilet paper and my only option to wipe being a glossy flyer upon which was the face of my favourite comedian. I now check for paper before I sit down every time. Lesson learned.

MB: As I mentioned, I lost my brother while we were in Edinburgh. We knew he was sick and, the night before, I did my solo show at 11.45pm to maybe seven or eight drunk people who didn’t want to be there. That was rough. Or ‘character building’, shall we say?

CC: What are your plans for the ‘Double Denim’ party beyond August? When will we see part three?
LF: We have already written it! And it’s very good.

MB: It’s called ‘A Very Fancy Dinner Party’ and it debuted this year in Australia to sell out crowds and rave reviews. It’s super fun but very Australian. More so than any of our other shows. We’ll hopefully bring it to Edinburgh next.

CC: Outside the ‘Double Denim’ shows, what other things have you guys been respectively working on?
LF: I have just been inducted into the coven of the Fringe Wives Club. I wrote and performed in their new show ‘Glittergrass’, which is a big feminist country hootenanny. Those ladies are an absolute dream to work with and I can’t wait to make more funny things with them.

MB: I’ve just joined the cast of the TV show of one of my absolute comedy idols in Australia. I’ve also just finished up working on a web series called ‘Glennridge Secondary College’ with Aunty Donna – who I work with a lot – and am releasing some non-comedy music too. Oh, and I’m also working on getting my dog, Bruce, to play dead. He’s not really into it.

CC: Finally, the important question! How much denim is too much denim?
LF: I think a denim morph suit would be too much. However, if you do happen to have one, wear it to the show, I wanna see it.

MB: I’d say, if you reached the point where your skin has fused with denim and you’re in some sort of denim exoskeleton then, well, keep going, put on more. Until the weight of the denim has crushed you. Then it’s too much denim. Unless you’re a witch. If you are a witch you will survive the crushing. But if you don’t, you were never a witch. And that’s how you tell.

‘Double Denim: Adventure Show’ is on at Underbelly Cowgate from 1-25 Aug. Info here.

Photo: Samara Clifford