On Thursday, we caught up with three quarters of Paris Communal Shower, a group of current and former students from Philippe Gaulier’s renowned clown school in France. We posed several questions to Maddy, Sami and Neil outside the Gilded Ballon, to find out more about them and there off-the-wall free show-in-a-yurt at the Free Sisters. Here are their answers.
Ginger Wig: Thank you very much for joining us here.
PCS: Thank you Ginger Wig.
GW: Ok first question. Where did your name come from?
Maddy: Oh! (laughs) First question…
Neil: Oh, its how we all met. We all met, in a communal shower. In Paris.
GW: You met in a communal shower in paris?!
Neil: No, I’m joking.
Maddy: We basically came up with our name before we had come up with our show. Our whole entire show was never scripted, it was invented through playing games.
Neil: We have a whatsapp conversation with about 50 or 60 alternative names or more…
Sami: Every single one was shot down by someone…
Maddy: But you just kept putting colours. We had, ‘Fried Chips’, ‘Sniff and Scratch’ and then suddenly Sami would come in with, “Guys – Purple”.
Neil: Ye ye.
Maddy: ‘Grey’? ‘Red’? ‘Green’ perhaps?
Sami: That was arduous finding a name actually.
Maddy: And then we realised we all lived in Paris. Where communal shower came from is beyond me. Our show has nothing to do with paris, or communal showers, but it’s still good (laughs).
GW: Can you explain to us a bit about your creative process?
Neil: Firstly we got two directors. One would direct the first bit and then the other would direct the second bit, but they’ve got two very different ways of working.
GW: Does that not make things tricky?
Sami: No it was fine actually in the end, because it was a nice mixture of the two. We had a basic structure, basic theme down, suggested by a friend actually and then once we decided to do that, one director Sean, he likes the physical stuff, so he made us do physical things to try and devise things and then Sam, he does more game based things, so he’ll say “play a game, do this” again that was physical too, but more in a game way.
Maddy: Sam makes you find an image through an improvisation game, like swinging your ponytail round in a circle “What are you? – I’m a helicopter!” So he turns an image into a scene. Our show is very image based, so it looks nice. There’s a lot of nice things to look at.
Niel: Sean is a director that likes to take things far to far…
Sami: I’ve been naked running against James (the fourth member of PCS) on the floor, he made me sing out of my naked bottom, some opera! He made me do a lot of things, none of its in the show, it was all for his own pleasure.
Niel: (Laughing) It was all for his own pleasure. But we got some things that you would never really think of, because it would be too extreme, some of which we managed to actually keep in the show.
Maddy: I think the funniest part of that asshole singing, was that Sean tried to cover up the fact that it was an asshole, by saying “Look its fine, if we just hold up two coconuts next to Sami no one will know which one it is.
Sami: Basically we started out with something that was fun and then worked backwards into making sense out of it, rather than sitting down and having ideas. I think you can really kill things quite quickly if you try and have interesting ideas. You need to have fun first.
Maddy: We learnt that at school, never have an idea. Just go! Go! Go! Go!
GW: That leads us on nicely to my next question. What has going to clown school taught you?
Neil: That I’m worthless. That’s what it taught everyone. That you’re not funny, you’re not a good actor.
Maddy: It’s genius. For me, its really listening to the audience. If the sketch isn’t particularly funny, its not the audiences fault, YOU have to change. Find something to get out of the flop.
Neil: Save the flop!
Sami: He’s very brutal (Gaulier) He tells you what you are. You find out what you are. Whether you can change it or not…? Often you cant. You are what you are – which is liberating in a way because it gives you a direction. This is what I am, this is what I have to work with.
Maddy: It gives you a certain amount of freedom when you are on stage.
Neil: Also he stops you from acting. He stops you from being ‘the actor studio of his balls’ as he says. Stop acting! That is very liberating on stage not having to act.
GW: What’s your favourite thing about being at the Fringe?
Sami: I can eat quite cheaply here, which is good. I’ve been buying organic eggs, so I’ve been eating really good eggs. I have been eating well for a reasonable price.
Neil: There is a really good fruit a veg shop across the street from us. Its run by volunteers and its all local produce, so ye, I love that.
Sami: The shows and everything are good as well.
They all laugh.
Maddy: Just the eggs! Edinburgh just makes me happy, there’s so much going on, there’s performers everywhere and its a time for people to just come and try stuff out and just give it a go. Even first time performers can just get on stage and say “Here I am!”. Its the perfect place to do that becuase everyone is really accepting.
GW: Does stand up comedy make you happy as well?
Maddy: Not particularly since being at clown school, my mind has changed a bit about stand up. Neil was actually a really famous stand up comic (through her laughter).
Neil: Well, er, (shyly) I was in Australia and I won a couple of competitions. Stand up comedy is still great when it’s done well, but you get to realise, how few people do it well, how boring and self-obsessed it can be.
Maddy: Me, me, me, here I am! I think the reason I don’t like stand up comedy anymore is because of clown school and Philippe and what he teaches us. The best way to describe this is with an example. We saw this stand up night in Paris and the MC of the night told some really, really, really bad jokes. Like REALLY bad jokes. But there was one moment when he told a joke, that he thought was literally the greatest thing he’d ever come up with, and it flopped. Nobody laughed because nobody even knew it was the end of the joke. It was that bad. But there was a moment straight after this when his face went from so proud of what he’d done into total human vulnerability. It just dropped. It was so natural. “I’m acting” just went. And the room erupted with laughter. He was really unsure why, but we could see it was because it was him being himself and reacting in a really funny way to how badly he had just flopped. But the reason it then annoyed me was because he should have kept going, living in the flop, swimming around in it. Instead, he threw it away – “And now on to my next joke la la la” – and went straight back to stand up comedy – here’s a joke, here’s a laugh, here’s a joke, here’s a laugh. It was so interesting for that split second. It was so funny. Thats why I believe in listening to the audience more.
Neil: Stay in your failure for longer, thats where people laugh, that’s where you are vulnerable
GW: Who would be in your dream comedy group?
PCS: Thats a good question…
Neil: Tony Hancock would be in there. I like Tony Hancock. He’s a 60′s comedian – “Hancock’s Half Hour” – brilliant! Birth of the sit-com really.
Sami: I’d put Nosferatu in. I think he has very good stage presence and he’s very funny. He doesn’t have to do much, he just needs to look confused… as he does.
Maddy: If I could be in comedy-sketch group with Rik Mayall I’d probably be the happiest person alive. He had something, f***ing good. Sorry for swearing.
GW: No problem. Now have you got any personal picks from the fringe?
Sami: I’ve seen Sam Simmons, which was excellent. I haven’t seen this, but I think I’m really going to enjoy ‘Calypso Nights: Juan, 2?’. I really really want to see that. I think he may be my favourite at the fringe once I see him.
Neil: Oh my God – just an hour and a half of effortlessly hilarious mime.
Maddy: Best thing I’ve seen so far.
Neil: The drumming show…
Maddy: ‘Fills Monkeys: Incredible Drum Show’, its just these two guys on drums and they’re pretty funny, they’re from France. It was a pretty epic hour of just amazing synchronised drumming.
Neil: Just funny drumming.
Sami: Very difficult to explain.
Maddy: We have some friends from our school performing in the Underbelly “Plague of Idiots”. Their show has been going amazingly, I haven’t seen it yet, but they have been getting some incredible feedback, selling out left right and centre, and they’re just four clowns from our school. Who else do we love? We love everyone! ‘John-Luke Roberts: Stdad-Up’, seen it in the vaults but haven’t seen it here yet, again amazing feedback. My dad went! Thats a big deal.
They all laugh.
Maddy: Zack and Viggo!
Neil: That’s a beautiful little show. First timers, midday, just in a bar underground, just out of town, its crazy but its nice, really good show.
Maddy: Its called ‘Thunderflop’. Spencer Jones is apparently incredible as well. ‘Rhinoceros’ by Harry Carr. It’s very fun, It’s basically a game show on saving Rhinos! And its very playful and very silly. Thats quite a lot, we could go on…
GW: Final question, although its not a question at all. Pitch me a new fringe show!
Maddy: WE CAME UP WITH ONE LAST NIGHT!
Niel: “Awkward Sex Stories from Behind a Fern” – where members of the audience come out and go hide behind a fern with a microphone and tell their awkward sex stories.
Maddy: We did it last night in our cabaret and it went so well. It lightened the mood a lot. But I think to make it a show we would need half comedians and half audience members…
Neil: We need to develop it a bit… Also, “The One Man Tattoo”! I just want to do the Tattoo as a one man show, I think that would be quite funny.
GW: Sami pitch me a show!
Sami: Um, er, pitch you a show, er, the… a show where I have to think on my feet… and its generally made up of silence, um, and maybe theres a microphone involved maybe recording it, um, and then somebody writes it down and puts it on the internet. (He laughs)
Maddy: Can we absolutely add in a mention that we forgot. Our fourth cast member is in another show called “The Dream Sequentialists” we have to put that in, otherwise HE’LL KILL US! And he won’t be in our show anymore! And Paris Communal Shower! (laughs)
GW: Cool. Thank you all very much for your time. Good luck with the rest of your fringe
PCS: Awesome. Thank you Ginger WIG!
If you want to catch Paris Communal Shower they are on at the Yurt Locker at the Free Sisters, every night except tuesday at 9:30pm !