ED2015 Comedy ED2015 Interviews ED2015 Week0 Edition

The Dead Secrets: Curiosities in the Underbelly vaults

By | Published on Tuesday 4 August 2015

The Dead Secrets

Sketch troupe The Dead Secrets grew out of an Oxford-based improv group back in 2012, arriving at the Fringe with their debut show ‘Bulletproof Jest’ the following year. Our reviewer was left “simply wanting more” from that show, and now that more is coming, as the team return with a brand new production called ‘The Curiositorium’ for Fringe 2015. We lined the players up and fired some questions at them in something nearing a logical order.

CC: Let’s start at the very start. Well, at the very start of The Dead Secrets. When, why and how did you guys form as a comedy group?
Nathan: In 2012, Ida and Jen went to Lisbon and drank lots of port. They wrote a couple of sketches which they then brought back to our improv group in Oxford saying, “We should write things down, like this, only good”. We were already performing regular improv shows together, so sketch seemed like the next step.

CC: We saw you when you brought ‘Bulletproof Jest’ to the Fringe in 2013. What have you guys been up to since then?
Phil: We toured that show to various exotic locations such as North Yorkshire and Staffordshire; and in 2014 we won the award for Best Comedy Show at the Buxton Fringe. We were also finalists at London Sketchfest 2015. In between all that, we’ve been writing our new show, ‘The Curiositorium’.

CC: Ah yes, ‘The Curiositorium’. Erm, what’s ‘The Curiositorium’?
Ida: It’s a show about a long-forgotten, subterranean museum full of danger and delight, and an intrepid curator’s journey into its dark underbelly. Speaking of which, we’re on at the Underbelly.

CC: How does it compare to the 2013 show?
Chris: ‘Bulletproof Jest’ was a bunch of stuff we thought was funny. ‘The Curiositorium’ is still a bunch of stuff we think is funny but it’s set in a story now; this is a comedy adventure, not just a sketch show.

CC: How does the story element impact on the writing process, compared to a straight sketch show?
Phil: We’ve made room for back stories and more character arcs, though we have found it’s much harder to make all the random funny things fit into the constraints of the story. So, it’s more difficult this way, but definitely worth doing.

CC: I hear on the grapevine it will be “raucous, surreal and absurd”. Well, I read that in your press release. For the uninitiated, how would you describe your style of sketch comedy?
Jen: Fantastical, character-driven, adventure nonsense. With hats.

CC: How does it work between the six of you, when it comes to writing and evolving the sketches?
Nathan: Well, we throw ideas into the ideas cauldron and then ladle them out with the ideas spoon onto the ideas plate. This answer is why I don’t write a lot of sketches for the group.

CC: You mentioned that you guys also do improv. How do scripted sketches compare to those you make up as you go along?
Nathan: Our improv shows are helpful for providing the starting points for characters and situations – it’s almost like we steal ideas from ourselves to develop into sketches. Is that plagiarism?

CC: Will there be any other sketch comedy or improv groups you’ll be looking to check out, critique, assess and/or learn from this Festival?
Chris: We’ve already seen a fair few groups who are up with shows, and would like to see them again, Lazy Susan for starters. We love Casual Violence and are really looking forward to James Hamilton’s solo show. And the RH Experience are talented improvisers who we also want to see.

CC: And finally, your blurb also promises that we will “discover the answers to questions you didn’t know could be asked!” So how about you answer a question I didn’t know could be asked?
Ida: It’s simple. Biscuits, Minsk and Michael Winner. In that order.

‘The Dead Secrets Present… The Curiositorium’ was performed at Underbelly Cowgate at Edinburgh Festival 2015.

LINKS: thedeadsecrets.com

Photo by Idil Sukan