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Nick Court: The iDiOT Circus 

By | Published on Tuesday 9 August 2022

Fans of cabaret sounds will definitely be interested in ‘Death Is Coming’ from The iDiOT Circus, the theatrical four piece band who specialise in the darkly comic, the macabre, the murderous and the ridiculous.

Songwriter, lyricist and singer Nick Court is the now LA-based actor who you may well have seen treading the boards in some pretty high end places – not least The Globe, The Royal Court, various West End theatres, and with the RSC – or in various film and TV roles.

Alongside him in The iDiOT Circus are Matt Cook, Josh Haberfield and 2018 TW Editors’ Award Winner James Rowland. I arranged a chat with Nick to find out more about the band and the multi-tasking performer himself. 

CM: Can you start by telling us what to expect from ‘Death Is Coming’ – it sounds a bit gruesome! 
NC: Hello! Yes, I can: ‘Death Is Coming’ is a show of original cabaret songs that for the most part deal with some sort of death – suicide, war, revolution, murder, but also the death of love, living death, and such like – played in a hopefully witty but heartfelt way by the band The iDiOT Circus, who wear hats and waistcoats, a kilt, a pair of goat horns, and at least one of us sometimes wears furry trousers.

CM: Do your songs tell stories? What themes do you like to explore? 
NC: Yes, almost every song is a self contained story in its own right. One song is a sort of Edgar Allen Poe riff, about a couple having an illicit affair murdering the woman’s husband. Another is about a princess found dead in her bath, whilst a street urchin sings a sad lament outside. One is about my real great uncle, who died in the D-Day landings… they’re strong themes with melodrama, sadness, but always delivered in our own quirky way. 

CM: How would you describe them in terms of a musical style or genre? 
NC: Victorian cabaret for the 21st Century is how we pitch it. Theatrical, macabre, dramatic, but also thoughtful and comedic. We are all musicians and the music is very important. The closest thing to us, I would say, is The Tiger Lillies, but we’re a bit more consciously funny and performative. The lyrics are really vital to the show, I try to be smart and engaging…

CM: Who would you say your influences are? 
NC: We reference Shakespeare, Larkin, Wilfred Owen and Dostoevsky, if you know where to spot them, and they are all influences on me as the lyricist, but the framing is sort of a Monty Python filter, I suppose.

Musically, I’m a David Bowie fan, he must be in there somewhere, but it’s a created musical world that suggests the Victorian age and sometimes the 1920s. I love writing something with emotional effect that is undermined in some way, be it lyrically or by something we do in the performance. 

CM: Who is your work aimed at? Who do you think will enjoy it? 
NC: Hopefully everyone will enjoy something, quite honestly. We’ve been getting people who have never heard us look at us smiling their heads off in a sort of delightful baffled way… But, obviously, if you like new music and you like your music unusual and strange, dark and theatrical, we’re your band. If you liked The Grinning Man, or Shockheaded Peter, you’ll like us.

CM: Have you performed at the Fringe before? What were you expecting?
NC: Never. This is my first Fringe. But it’s sort of how I imagined it. Lots and lots of ferociously talented people hustling their asses off. As I’m hearing, people aren’t quite sure what to expect about sales post-pandemic, but in the general way, you have a wonderful expectation of meeting new artists, seeing their work, and getting to talk to them about it.

CM: Can you tell us about your fellow band members and what they do? 
NC: There are three other members of the band. James Rowland is a storyteller and actor, and his one-man show ‘Learning To Fly’ is playing at Summerhall. He is without doubt the exhibitionist of the outfit. He is at his happiest on Earth in front of an audience, making them laugh.

Matt Cook is the bass player. He loves being in the band, but prefers to keep at the back – he is the only non-actor. And Josh Haberfield is our drummer. He is also in ‘The Importance Of Being… Ernest?’ at the Pleasance, he’s a brilliant performer and a real professional musician, arguably the only real one in the band. 

CM: And now, can you tell us about you? What’s your career history? Did you always want to be a performer and how did your career begin? 
NC: Well, I’m a builder’s son from Hemel Hempstead who had no right to want to be an actor, but the spirit was just always in me, to the eternal confusion of my parents.

I trained at LAMDA, with all the posh people who went to Oxford – which was very frightening – but then worked with the RSC, The Globe, The Royal Court Theatre, did TV, a little film and ended up living in LA, with a screenwriting wife and two dogs that use me as a pillow every night.

CM As you say, you’ve worked on stage and on screen. How do they compare? Do you prefer one over the other?
NC: When you do TV people are always wanting to bring you cups of tea, which is nice, and the money is much better, but there is no doubt, I wouldn’t be an actor if I couldn’t be on-stage.

I love the community of actors in the theatre world. I love being with them, learning from them, laughing with them. My very favourite moment as an actor is when the lights go down and you’re about to start a show. It really is magic to me. But, you know… you have to do the TV to pay the rent.

CM: What would you say have been the highlights of your career thus far? 
NC: As a bloke who spent his summer holidays hogging bricks in Hemel Hempstead in the rain, going face-to-face with Patrick Stewart on stage was a ‘Jesus Christ, what’s going on here?’ moment.

The first time I got to visit another country, whilst getting paid to wear tights and wigs, was also pretty extraordinary, when I realised how incredibly lucky I was.

Being on set in LA is mad. And being able to perform my own songs, with a bunch of friends, doing exactly what we want is also very much up there.

CM: What aims and ambitions do you have for the future? 
NC: I love doing The iDiOT Circus. Anyway I can spin that out for us, so we can play together, is a focus

Without trying to sound like an arse, my big ambition is to live a rounded existence. I don’t want my life to be about chasing TV roles.

I want to do work I love, continue to make furniture, which I do on the side, write, read, create and do so without becoming ungrateful or conceited – this might come across as ‘very LA’, so apologies!

CM: What’s coming up next for you after this?
NC: I go straight into rehearsals for a production of ‘A Day In The Life Of Joe Egg’ at home in LA… so if anyone goes on vacation out west… come by.

The iDiOT Circus performed ‘Death Is Coming’ at Assembly George Square Gardens at Edinburgh Festival 2022.

LINKS: idiotcircus.com | instagram.com/theidiotcircus 

Photo: Melissa Stephens

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