Leicester Comedy Festival

Leicester Comedy Festival saw the launch of the activity for D.A.N.C.E.
Kicking things off was ‘Is That Comedy?’ A panel discussion exploring comedy
and its relationship between other art forms. On the panel we had Josh from
Comedy Theatre group Sleeping Trees,
Pete Shenton from New Art Club (who
also appeared in D.A.N.C.E the following day), Chris Jenkins who started out in
live art before exploring comedy with his character ‘Top Joe’ and academic Tim

We discussed how comedy audiences in some ways were more
open to something a bit weird and unusual, with both Josh and Pete mentioning
that they moved their shows to the comedy section at the Edinburgh Fringe, but
even then that is fraught with difficulty, and wondered aloud how it would be
great if there was another section called something along the lines of  ‘Comedy+’

The next day was D.A.N.C.E, in a change of venue (which is
usually the Attenborough Arts Centre) to Firebug. If you’re not aware, Firebug
is an alternative bar and music venue, which featured comedy during the
festival, it very much has a pub/bar vibe, and is fairly loud. All in All
though is great.

During the day of each of these events, I run workshops/
rehearsals with the performers, this is so they can get to know each other, the
comedians can understand what it’s like having a dancer perform with them, and
the dancer can get an understanding of their material.

It is always the start of these days where I feel most on
edge, with everyone arriving and not knowing each other or being entirely too
sure on what to expect, the day and the strict schedule does start with myself
panicking and thinking ‘we don’t have a show yet’, this eases off through the
day as the performers work together, all the same I wake up feeling quite
anxious, and that’s even before I’ve put Radio 4 on.

I always feel really constrained by time when running the
event, performers often react when I tell them that they’ll be needed for an 8
hour day by asking ‘am I needed the whole time?’ and the answer is yes, in fact
I wish there was more time, but I think condensing everything down in one day
is best for peoples diary’s. And the reason that a whole day is needed is,
there’s a lot to process;

-the performers need to get to know each other

-we need to showcase everyone’s sets and give an example of
dancing so that all the performers know the basics of what they’re working with

- Time needs to be given in running exercises that explores
the concept

-the performers need time to rehearse and workshop the
comedian doing the set and the dancer improvising and reacting to it on stage
with them

-then there’s the swap element where the comedians does some
dancing and the dancer does stand up. This material might be a story that the
dancer has had, or another piece of stand up material.

-a dress run

Plus breaks. When you break it down it’s not really any time
at all.

These warm up games, come in the form of interviewing each
and understanding about each other’s industries, in the past everyone has split
off into pairs and done this, however due to having money to throw around now,
James Hissett is recording the interview for the documentary coming out early
next year.  Both the comedian and the
dancer get taken off into a room and are filmed for 45 minutes interviewing
each, asking questions that relate and include terminology of their specific  industries (e.g. the comedian asks the dancer
‘do you ever bomb on stage’). I haven’t been privy to this footage yet at the
time of writing, what I can say is though each time the performers come out
they had transformed, they had created a bond. Watching some of the performers
come out of the room last time, all smiley and happy, made me start to wonder
if they had taken something.

But it’s important that this is done, with stand up there is
a level of vulnerability that comes from sharing your material with someone,
this set routine that you’ve honed that’s part of your identity, in this event
another performer has been invited to change what that looks like and in
essence the stand up then has to share a part of themselves that they wouldn’t
usually do. Likewise for the dancer, it’s quite a daunting task to come into
this space, and re-interpret this text to add to the meaning of it without
changing its purpose. Or maybe it should change the purpose, and the original
meanings of the text are thrown out to be remoulded in a different way. I don’t
know i’m thinking aloud, what I do know is I want to encourage a focus on the
performers creating a collaborative performance, rather than one performer
outweighing the other.

What was really nice to see throughout the day, everyone
breaking out into discussion about the concept, acknowledging the difficulty of
the individual’s art forms for the other performers to try.

The show itself was a success, taking place at Firebug for
the first time, the show sold out (also a first but whose counting). In this
kind of environment where dance wouldn’t usually take place. It was great at
engaging with a comedy audience, that wouldn’t usually go out to see dance and
exposing them to it, where as it became apparent that dance audiences would
travel and go to any venue to see dance. Comedy audiences don’t on the other
hand seem as committed to going out of their way (what a sweeping statement
that is). Is this a comment on the disposable nature of comedy? (woah what a
thing to say there), in the way that once you hear a joke, you’ve heard it then
and doesn’t have the same replay value that playing an track or a cd
(specifically David Bowie’s ‘Aladdin Sane’) has. Perhaps this comment of a disposable
nature comes from the feeling that there is lot of comedy that’s available and accessible
to watch and view, but that quantity isn’t the same in dance?

Mere thoughts, I’m not trying to come to a conclusion (which
in itself I had to conclude that) but I think it’s interesting the nature of
these different audiences, as with performers and what parallels and common
ground can be drawn.

The next event is on the 2nd of April at the
Attenborough Arts Centre, if you’re interested you can buy tickets here: https://uk.patronbase.com/_AttenboroughArts/Productions/W766/Performances

Thanks for reading



The Performers that took part in D.A.N.C.E in Leicester Comedy Festival 2017 were:

Jack Campbell, Fern Chubb, Pete Shenton, Sarah Keyworth, Andrew Mcburney, Scarlett Turner, Jack Britton and Lewys Holt

Using Format