ED2022 Comedy ED2022 Interviews

Norris & Parker: Sirens

By | Published on Thursday 4 August 2022

Looking at it, we don’t seem to have interviewed that many comedy duos this summer as yet, and that’s a shame, because we are very fond of duo comedy here at TW Towers. That being the case, I thought it might be an idea to turn the spotlight on a female comedy duo that I have a lot of faith in. 

Norris & Parker – Katie Norris and Sinead Parker, to give them their full names – are purveyors of “debauched sketch comedy for lovers of the strange, the sordid, the musical and the dark”, and they are back at the Fringe this year with their latest sketch show ‘Sirens’. 

I spoke to them to find out more about the show and its creators. 

CM: Can you begin by telling our readers about the style of shows that you do? Do they have narratives or specific themes? 
SP: Our shows are a mix of stand-up, characters and songs, always woven within a narrative of underlying tension between myself and Katie. The characters in the show are usually deeply repressed, psychopathic or extremely horny. 

CM: Can you tell us a bit more about this year’s show? What kind of content and characters can we expect? 
SP: ‘Sirens’ is a fever dream of a sketch show, where we will lure our audience to a watery grave with our hypnotic songs and surreal comedy. Inspired by 1940s coastal thrillers, Sally Rooney books and techno, ‘Sirens’ also showcases Katie’s three act play ‘The Lighthouse’, which was written in a lockdown delirium and involves an ingenue pig and Gillian McKeith. 

CM: What’s the creative process like when it comes to putting your shows together? What inspires you – and how do you go about coming up with characters and material? 
SP: One of us might bring an idea for a character or a sketch, or a weird turn of phrase that we’ve heard somewhere, and we will start messing about from there. We also watch a lot of documentaries and listen to music and an idea will start to emerge.

We will improvise for a while, then get a ‘shit version’ of a script down for structure, then go back to improvising. The ‘shit version’ of the script will usually involve one of us saying ‘it’s something like this but less shit’, and then we will sit and stare at each other, or have a bath or a fever dream, until the ‘better’ version appears. 

KN: We also go on writers’ retreats – and the environment we are in will often inspire the writing. That three part coastal trilogy ‘The Lighthouse’ came about from us going to write by the Kent coast. Real life events, break ups and our insane families will also always seep into our writing. 

CM: You’ve known each other for more than a decade, I understand? How did you meet and what keeps you working together? Does your relationship ever come under strain? 
KN: We met in Manchester in 2009, whilst studying at drama school, and figured out we shared the same birthday – 26 Feb – and a love of The League of Gentlemen, Chinese takeaways and naked drunk dancing to Kate Bush. 

SP: There is an almost telepathic quality to working with Katie, we finish each other’s sentences, will often have the same thought at the same time, and speak at an inaudible frequency that boyfriends find confusing.

Our relationship comes under stress during Edinburgh techs, as I tend to find something to freak out about which acts as a vehicle for all my anxieties, usually it’s a head mic not fitting my tiny head.

As I write this, she has just shouted at me “are you writing a dissertation?” and has accused me of typing too loudly. 

KN: I got really annoyed with Sinead last night because she told me not to fart in the Monkey Barrel green room because it was too small and hot. I found this to be extremely hypocritical because she hot boxes my car relentlessly when I’m driving us around the UK.

CM: You’ve performed at the Festival a lot in recent years. What keeps you coming back to it? 
KN: It’s a fantastic opportunity to be able to spend a month honing and developing a show, performing in front of different audiences, and being inspired by other people’s work. 

SP: We’re also really into financial masochism.

CM: What are your favourite and least favourite things about the Fringe? 
SP: The best thing is when you are having a nice time performing a show you are proud of for a room full of people who are buying into your nonsense and go on the journey with you. 

KN: The worst moment for me is teching with Sinead, she is terrible under any sort of stress, completely dissociates, checks out and I am forced to take charge. 

CM: What advice would you give to Fringe first timers about how to survive the month of August? 
SP: Try to look after your well being as much as possible, get plenty of fresh air and create a routine so you don’t spend the month staring at a wall waiting for your show like me. Make sure to sample some fine Scottish cuisine, I would recommend a deep fried battered rib or a macaroni pie. 

CM: What are your favourite Edinburgh memories?
KN: Telling my dad we got a four star review in The Guardian and going on a ghost bus tour. 

SP: My favourite Fringe memory was our first run in 2013. We did the Free Fringe, had Sundays off, and got no reviews, but performed to full audiences and made our money back in the bucket. 

CM: Tell us a bit about your respective pasts now: what made you go for a career in the entertainment industry? Was it what you always wanted to do? 
SP: As a – slightly odd – child I wanted to be an archaeologist, because I thought it would allow me to go back in time and explore different historical periods. I was particularly obsessed with Henry VIII and his wives.

When I realised this would not be possible, I decided being an actor would have to do. I always enjoyed creating characters, I have a vivid memory of wearing my mum’s slips on my head as wigs, which was good training for a career in sketch comedy.

KN: I’m the only child out of four siblings who became an actor like my dad. He trained at RADA, but when he narrowly missed the opportunity to play Ken Barlow in ‘Coronation Street’, he retired and became a farmer.

However, he still insisted on entering the house stage left, reciting his one line “fucking horses, have they never heard of a fucking field?” and exiting through a trapdoor in a billow of smoke.

For his 75th birthday he turned our garage into a theatre, naming it ‘The Majestic’, and forced me onto the stage to perform musical hall songs for the neighbours and recorded the whole thing on his iPad. It can never see the light of day.

CM: What have been the highlights of your careers thus far? 
KN: We have been lucky enough to have several sell out, critically acclaimed runs at the Edinburgh Fringe and Soho Theatre with gorgeous audiences that have come back to support us over the years. 

CM: What aims and ambitions do you have for the future? 
SP: To bring our intellectual filth to the small screen with a long form series. 

CM: What’s coming up next for you after this? 
SP: Just before the Fringe, my boyfriend took over a pub in central London and we moved into the flat above. If he hasn’t dumped me by the time I get back, I need to buy some furniture and some leopard print. Meanwhile, Katie and I are going to focus on TV writing, starting a tarot-based comedy podcast and developing ‘Sirens’ for a future tour. 

KN: I’m looking into Bali yoga retreats, so I can fart in peace whilst in downward dog with no judgement from Sinead.

Norris & Parker’s ‘Sirens’ was performed at Monkey Barrel Comedy at Edinburgh Festival 2022.

LINKS: norrisandparker.co.uk | twitter.com/NorrisParker26 

Photo: Rebecca Need-Menear