ED2013 Comedy ED2013 Interviews ED2013 Week1 Edition

The Grandees: A Grandee return

By | Published on Tuesday 6 August 2013

The Grandees

The Grandees entertained the ThreeWeeks team for three consecutive Fringes, but then they went away for a few years.
But now they are back with a new show at Underbelly. So we spoke to one third of the group, Marny Godden, to find out more…

CC: Let’s start at the start, how did you guys come to form The Grandees originally?
MG: Tom [Turner] and I met at drama school, we were both at Webber Douglas. We quickly became friends. Though, actually, as I remember it, the first thing Tom said to me was “shut up you little bint”. He thought he’d seen Robert De Niro in the street and came in boasting about it. I asked him if he had a beard, because I knew De Niro was filming something which required one, and Tom said no, so I said “well it couldn’t have been him”, and so Tom responded thus.

But, despite the bad start, we shared the same love of the ridiculous, and quickly started making each other laugh in between lessons. We used to pretend to fall down the stairs, he’d stamp his feet while I mimicked the noise of a dreadful scream of someone falling to their death. Needless to say, we sometimes got into trouble. After we left drama school we started to film stuff for fun and then, in 2008, I was jogging in Greenwich, where we both live, and I suddenly thought Tom and I should write a show and take it to the Fringe. I ran into his bedroom and told him and he said yes. The name The Grandees came from a nickname we had been calling each other, so we thought, why not?.

CC: You performed at three Fringes in a run between 2008 and 2010 – how did the shows develop from festival to festival?
MG: In 2008 we came up for the first time as The Grandees with a comedy play called ‘The Box Of Cricks’. It was a magical, crazy journey following a deaf kid called Nicodemous on a quest he’d been sent on by his granny Juliana. The baddies were ‘The Grandees’, three inter-dimensional goons wearing orange robes and green belts. We got a great response, so the following year we came up with another narrative show called ‘The Grandee Way’. Then the year after we did a sketch show. But we found out that our strengths lie in narrative character comedy, and so now we focus on that.

CC: What did you prefer about the comedy play format, rather than the more conventional sketch show?
MG: With a longer narrative, you can take the audience on a journey and go anywhere. Their imaginations explode around the characters and story we co-create with the audience, which brings even more intense highs, and can sometimes be very moving. With sketch, we found we weren’t as passionate, because it’s not about that magical journey so much, rather it’s more about clever ideas. We’re just idiot big kids really, who want to go on adventures and take you with us all in the name of love and fun.

CC: What the devil have you been doing since we last saw you at Festival 2010?
MG: [Third member] Andy [Mundie] went off to train at drama school, Tom’s been doing various TV jobs, including an ITV sitcom coming out in September called ‘Pat And Cabbage’. And I’ve been involved in various comedy collaborations, writing for Short Cuts, which is a short play festival based in London, and was here in Edinburgh last year with Tom Cottle’s ‘These Twisted Folk’. I also had the great honor to do a bit of clown training with Phil Burgers (Dr Brown).

CC: So what brings you back for Fringe 2013?
MG: We all read the signs. It felt like a great time to reform and get our stuff out there again, and so far it’s been amazing. We now have a wonderful agent, Hollie Ebdon, and we can’t stop smiling. It sure is a pleasure to work with each other again and performing feels so good. We even have an amazing tech called Max Valentin Wolf. Team Grandee hoooo!

CC: Tell us about this year’s show ‘The Wrong Side Of The Door’, how does it compare from what we’ve seen before?
MG: This show is three short comedy plays taking you on an adventure into magical places and totally stupid and silly scenarios. It’s even bigger, crazier and brighter than our last. We love this show and we’re really proud of it so far. The great thing about being here for the month is that it will grow and expand even more, using the warmth of the audience as a guide. This show involves a one-eyed man called Clobber Guts, and a little boy who looks like Super Mario, and a giant lizard, and that’s only a small part of it, so you get the idea. Full of surprises and playfulness.

CC: The Festival’s several hundred shows bigger than the last time you were here – do you have any particular plans for promoting the show?
MG: We are extremely grateful to have the very talented Madelaine Bennett and her team at Prospero looking after our PR, and other than that we’ll be going out there and speaking to people from the heart saying how much we’d love for them to come along and be part of The Grandees experience!

CC: Your costumes always stand out – who puts them together? Do you ever find whole sketches or shows begin with the costume?
MG: My mums an artist and my dad’s an antique dealer, so my brother and I grew up in a house full of old things: hats, capes dresses and such like. So I’m basically doing now what I did at the age of seven, except the clothes we wore for the little plays we put on for our parents and their friends now fit. Well, some of them. But it’s so handy, they’ve collected all this stuff over the years and it’s like an endless trunk of magical things I can dip into.

The first short comedy play is called ‘The Little Wula’. I was on a clowning course and we were told to come in wearing clothes that made us feel ridiculous, so I donned a black curly wig, a thick moustache, some massive trousers and an old jumper, plus some big headphones. Dressed like that I became a little crazy kid from Sputnemburg, Alabama called Little Wula, and from that discovery we began to write the play. And the other characters sprang from that. It was a great place to start from.

CC: Your blurb promises “hidden dance talents”. What can we expect? Will you be back with a full on dance-based show next Festival?
MG: No. But we do love to dance, in our own peculiar way that is. Andy fully commits and wows the crowd like a pro. I like to pretend to be Kate Bush. Tom can’t dance. He just does shoulder movements. It’s strange. Considering he’s an amazing stage actor. He’s kind of happy clappy, in a way like a weirdo priest.

CC: And not wishing to give the opposition too much exposure, but are there any other comedy groups you’re looking forward to seeing this year?
MG: Yes! Can’t wait to see ‘Joz Norris Has Gone Missing’ (The Blind Poet), Jody Kamali in ‘Livewire’ (Bar 50), ‘She Was Probably Not A Robot’ (Underbelly) and ‘Pekka And Strangebones Comedy Showpiece’ (Voodoo Rooms). And then there’s my other show, which I share with Dan Less. It’s called ‘Victor Brainchild And Mystic Maud Explain Everything’ and that’s on at 7:15 in The Banshee Labyrinth.

The Grandees’ show ‘The Wrong Side Of The Door’ was performed at Underbelly Cowgate at Edinburgh Festival 2013.

Photo: Rich Dyson