Ahead of Multi-award winning Kill The Beast's (no doubt) triumphant return to the Lowry with the deliciously dark and brilliantly balmy Don't Wake The Damp, we spoke to Natasha Hodgson, 1 fifth of the team and all round comedy genius, about competitive pumpkin carving, comedic inspirations and the sheer terror of the Silent Singer.
- Your return to The Lowry around Halloween seems perfect timing for the show, are you a fan of Halloween? If so how will you be marking the occasion?
I’ve always been a massive Halloween fan – it’s essentially an international competition to see who can look the stupidest and who can eat the most teeth-meltingly terrible sweets. There’s nothing not to love about it. Pumpkin carving is probably on the cards this year – Lidl do an absolutely barnstorming deal on pumpkins, and I get very competitive about creating a pleasing design. I’ll probably do a couple of practice pumpkins, just so that when I get to Pumpkin 2.0, I don’t embarrass myself. Or Lidl.
- How did your partnership with The Lowry come about?
We first approached The Lowry back in ye olde 2011, with a small, horrible children’s book called The Boy Who Kicked Pigs. We explained that we wanted to adapt it, as it ended with a small boy being impaled by spikes and then getting eaten to death by rats. Naturally, they had to have it. They offered us a position on their amazing ‘Developed With’ programme, and the rest, as they say, is getting eaten to death by rats.
- As well established performers at the Fringe how did you find the transition to performing in theatres?
Actually our first ever performance as a group was on The Lowry theatre stage – so we’ve been very spoilt from the off! It’s ruined us, really. The strangest place we’ve ever performed was probably underneath a railway tunnel – you had to try and time your lines so that they didn’t get drowned out by the (extremely) regular trains overhead. It really added an interesting atmosphere (the atmosphere being that of many, many trains).
- You’re sometimes labelled as one of the darker comedy collections, who would you say were your key influences?
All five of us grew up adoring dark comedy, and it probably still makes up about 95% of our conversation (the other 5% is The Apprentice, which thinking about it is just another type of dark comedy) – we grew up devouring The League Of Gentlemen, Garth Merenghi’s Darkplace, Nighty Night, The Mighty Boosh, I Am Not An Animal, Monkey Dust, The Office – all wonderful food for our dreadful little souls. The films of people like Ben Wheatley, Alice Lowe and Richard Ayoade are also massive inspirations – long may they reign.
- As huge fans of The League of Gentleman and Psychoville, your work is right up our street, if you could beam any comedy character into your work which would you chose?
For me, personally, it would be the Silent Singer from Pyschoville – never has a character with absolutely no lines filled me with both pure terror and pure joy. You wouldn’t even need to do anything else to the scene. Just a couple of people having a normal conversation about trams or gout or chess or something, whilst in the background, Silent Singer writhes. What a creation. What dreadful people they are.
- Following on from this, would you ever consider inviting guest performers? If so who would be your dream person to work with?
We’re far too insecure to allow anyone else on-stage with us. Please don’t try. If I absolutely had to, I’d say probably Julia Davis, creator of Nighty Night and Hunderby, among other things. She has a dark, genius brain and I would take any opportunity to see it up close.
- Do you write collectively as a group?
We do, it’s both highly enjoyable and extremely inefficient. We all go off and write first drafts of scenes on our own, bring em to the group, read them out and then we let battle commence. The good lines stay – there is usually about 3 good lines in any given draft, unless they’re written by me in which case every line is absolute gold – and everything else gets tossed out. We talk and talk and endlessly argue. And then the process begins again. You’d think there’d only be so much conversation you could have about the word ‘pamphlet’ and whether it is comically superior to the word ‘leaflet’. You’d be wrong. And it is.
- Do you consider yourself primarily as an actor or comedienne?
I think I’d consider myself primarily a writer, who for financial reasons has to read out her own lines on-stage whilst wearing an imposing wig. I think that’s the technical situation we’re in. I enjoy creating comedy more than any other type of performance, though whether that enjoyment makes you a comedian or an actor I’m not sure. I think there’s an in-between space somewhere that we’re all happy to wriggle stickily into.
Only one of us trained formally as an actor (I’ll let you guys guess, answers on a fairly hurtful postcard please), the rest of us just really enjoy messing around, bellowing and creating horrid stories about dreadful people.
- As performing as a group works so well for you all do any of you ever perform alone?
Kill the Beast is getting really busy, which is lovely, but means we don’t have loads of time for other performancy commitments. Dave performs solo as his amazing drag character/beat poet Cheryl Dole (who you should check out, she’s incred) and I also perform as a backing singer in a theatre/rock band called Felix Hagan And The Family –we’re actually about to go on tour with Frank Turner, come along! Ollie and Clem also performed a duo show at the Edinburgh fringe last year, a series of comedy poems called The Tale Of The Twiddly Widdlies – in fact, what am I talking about, we do loads of stuff outside Kill the Beast, am I even in Kill the Beast?
- After a great 2016, what can we expect to see from you all in 2017?
We’re hoping to do a bigger run of our new show Don’t Wake The Damp (though not sure we’ll bring it back to Manchester, so this Halloween is your last chance!) and we’re looking forward to starting a couple of new projects – a podcast, and a theatre project that DOESN’T involved projection screens (we can’t wait to leave the projector at home for a while). I don’t want to say too much, but currently Kill the Beast’s 2017 will involve detectives, bananas, lifeguards, estate agents and an inevitably high body count. We can’t wait.
Kill The Beast will be performing Don't Wake The Damp at The Lowry, Wednesday 26th-Saturday 29th October, if you haven't seen them before then what the hell is wrong with you? If you have you'll already have your tickets and be feeling delightfully smug about it.
Tickets are selling fast so be quick, available from the link below...