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I TALK TO Anna Morris

She's been performing at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe since 2012 and this year character comedian Anna Morris is returning to the Free Fringe with what might be her final show, Bombastic.

Earlier this week, Anna tweeted about not being able to afford PR this year for her Fringe show after her promoter at the Perth Fringe, JumpClimb, went into administration before paying performers.

In a statement, JumpClimb admitted that whilst 25% of performers had not been paid, 75% had. But that's no consolation of course to the likes of Anna Morris who have been left out of pocket, collectively losing $200,000.

After reading Anna's tweet which also hinted at bad practice in the UK, I reached out to her to see if she fancied doing an interview.

Luckily she said yes and I had a great chat with her about the situation that's left her so out of pocket as well as what audience members can come to expect from her brand new show, Bombastic.

Let's begin with the tweet that you put out this week. What's been going on?

PR in Edinburgh costs thousands of pounds and on top of that there's the advertising. The posters you see all over Edinburgh cost loads of money. Over the years, I've tried to keep things low key anyway because of cost.

But this year is a 'Best of' show, and it's quite a big show for me. It might be my last show, I haven't decided yet. I wanted to throw everything at it and try and get some PR and some advertising. I did a two-week run at the Perth Fringe in February and had a really good time, it was my first time in Perth, but then the promoter who had loads of venues and loads of shows, went into administration and later liquidation, owing artists collectively over $200,000.

It's a bit confusing, but in Perth, the Perth Fringe get the money from the Box Office first and then they hand it over to the venues and the promoters. So basically the Perth Fringe got all our Box Office money, handed it over to the promoter and instead of the promoter paying us, they spent it on... we don't know what!

Are you ever going to see that money again?

No, it's not looking likely. A load of us were sending invoices and not getting paid. Things do take a while and that's a big bugbear of mine anyway. Venues take ages to pay! But it was getting ridiculous and I was starting to think maybe it's because they were in Australia and I'm British.

But then they sent an email round to all these artists to say "We're really sorry but we've gone into administration" and that was it. Now they've gone into liquidation which is basically the worst it could be. They've got no assets, as far as I know and there's a big legal thing going on, but it's very very unlikely that we'll ever see that money back.

Perth Fringe have very kindly, because they felt so bad even though it wasn't their fault, given any artist affected back their admin charges. But obviously that doesn't equate to the full amount.

It's really upsetting because I did well, I had a great show and they owe me £3,000. They owe other people $80,000 so I didn't come off the worst. But to cut a long story short it just means that I'm now a massive chunk of money short that I could have used to spend on PR and advertising.

Other venues in the UK, which I don't want to name, have taken a long time to pay and it can take months. I chase and chase and chase and the promoters are very good at also chasing but it's really unfair. People just take so long to pay but when you're freelance you can't afford to wait. It's getting me really angry because I survive on the payments that come through.

They should be paid within the month and this year, nearly every single venue hasn't paid on time. Not Soho Theatre, they're really fair and treat their artists well. They pay on time.

Were you surprised by the reaction to your tweet?

So surprised! The lovely thing is, I put that little tweet out and I was so overwhelmed. I thought I'd put a tweet out and see if people retweet it and I've had nearly 300 retweets which is the most I've ever had! I don't really use Twitter a lot, I don't know what I'm doing with it. But it's really nice that people are really supportive and have been really nice.

It's really nice to get other people to be your PR machine because I haven't got PR, I'm only going to have posters up inside the venue because I can't afford to have them all round Edinburgh, which is a shame because I'm really pleased with the design this year.

What keeps you coming back to Edinburgh? Is it career prospects or is it just the love of performing every night?

When I first started out, it used to be career but then I realised that actually, having those high expectations was making me unhappy. I was treating it as if, if X, Y, Z doesn't happen and people from the industry don't come then it wasn't a success.

But actually the audience are there, they're coming to see it, they're giving donations at the end because it's Free Fringe and I changed by attitude a couple of years ago and just went up and did it for the audience. If they really enjoy it then that's lovely. As soon as I changed my attitude, it changed the whole experience for me.

If industry people come, or reviewers, then that's a bonus, but I don't do it for that anymore. I do it just because I genuinely like my show. My shows are really silly, I'm not trying to make some huge political point or do anything particularly life-changing, it's pure entertainment.

Also, because I do the Free Fringe, it's really lovely because all the money goes to me at the end and I can then pay my team who are all working on it, and once they've all been paid I can try and get some money back for me. It means I'm not waiting to be paid by another venue which I think is what I need this year.

What can people expect from this year's show then?

This is a mishmash of my favourite bits and favourite characters from all my previous shows but I've actually ended up adding loads of new material. I've freshened them all up.

I've picked four characters I love and then I've got existing material that was always really popular and then I've added in some new stuff and left room for improvisation which is what I'm best-known for. So I'm leaving gaps and I don't know what's going to happen in those gaps.

But Edinburgh audiences are so lovely, that that's what I like about going up there. They're up for being silly and I often get the same people coming back who know what I do and know what I'm like.

Why have you called the show Bombastic?

I like one-word titles. Last year's show was Bitchelors and there's a song I really liked by a singer called Bonnie McKee called Bombastic and it's a really fun pop song which I really liked and wanted to use in the show and then I thought, actually that's a really good title!

The image I've got with it is me pulling a face which is a bit confused and that has become quite apt with how I feel this year towards the industry. Why am I doing this?! I'm constantly getting ripped off!

A lot of the characters I do are quite bombastic. They are people who are quite deluded and try and have it all, but actually really struggle with vulnerabilities and flaws.

Georgina the bride, which is the biggest character I have, what she says is quite bombastic. It has little meaning, but what she says she thinks is amazing.

Any new characters?

Yes! There's a character called Taylor who was going to be a fashion guru but she's now going to be a YouTuber/Influencer. I just find that whole world fascinating. She's become quite a big character now and I did that at a preview the other day and it really worked. She's only 16 but she's worth like £25m.

There are lots of tongue-in-cheek piss-take of beauty adverts and make-up and the pressure on women. But it's done in a very accessible way. My stuff all has messages but it's all very tongue-in-cheek, it's not me ramming it down your throat. It's done in a very silly way,

Where do you draw inspiration from for your characters?

In terms of mannerisms and voices, I take it from people I've met. Like overhearing someone in a shop with a particular voice. In terms of the characters and what they do, it's always picked from what interests me at the time.

The bride character I created years ago was because I'd been to so many weddings in a row. Everyone can relate to it, everyone's been to a wedding. And I think I overheard someone really posh in a shop complaining about something in the most pompous way and it really made me laugh so I gave her that voice.

The new character, Taylor, came from reading an article on these influencers and how much they get paid and the more I looked into it, the more I thought it was crazy. So that world interested me and I always take things as far as I can so I really exaggerate it and it gets ridiculous.

I've also got another new character who's a baker and she's got quite a dark secret which came from everyone suddenly getting obsessed with baking and I thought that's an interesting world, such a twee world, so I thought about how I could mess with that. I've taken that tweeness and I've made it very dark and sinister and it's the end of the show.

How have the previews been going?

They've been good, but the only thing that's been tricky is the heat. I haven't had to cancel any luckily, but the heat of the venues and people's energy levels, including, and the football, has been tough.

But they've all gone really well. I'm still changing stuff. But it's so subjective, I did two this week, one went really well and the next one was a bit flabby and all over the place but I've just had to go "Right. That's not working. Change it again!"

My last one is on Tuesday and when I get up to Edinburgh, that first weekend is always a little all over the place because I'm still bedding it in. But also there's stuff I do down here that people love but then I take it to Edinburgh and they don't like it. You always have to be open to changing it until I think, three shows in. After three shows I think I've got it.

Show four is always the best show because I've worked out what the audience want and what they don't want. I'm not precious anymore. Although I might think it's funny, other people might think it's not so I just bin it. I used to get really upset about binning stuff but now I'm like "That doesn't work. Get rid of it!"

What are you most looking forward to about Edinburgh?

I have to be honest, it's just being in the city. I just really love being up there. I stay with a friend in a really lovely flat that's really central and because it's been so hot in London, I would never normally say this, but it's going to be quite nice for the weather to be a bit more survivable.

I just think it's a lovely place to be in, I try and walk everywhere. I walk to the venue from where I live and I love the venue I'm in. Also, I just like seeing friends and catching up with people.

I do do other spots when I'm up there, but I don't do promotional spots with my own stuff anymore, I do improvised shows. Just because it challenges me a bit more so I'm doing This is Your Trial and Comedians Against Humanity.

Who are you looking forward to seeing this year?

Steen Raskopoulos is up there again and I absolutely love him, I'm really excited to see his next show. Jess Robinson is always a favourite and I take people to see her often because she's just fabulous.

Showstopper! is always really fun, I always enjoy that. Abandoman I really want to see again this year. I did a preview with him a couple of weeks ago and he really blew me away, he's so amazing.

I want to see Stevie Martin who's with Massive Dad who's doing her own show. I love her so I'm really excited to see what she's got to offer.

Alison Thea-Skott I love, she's another character comic who's absolutely bonkers. I've seen bits of her stuff at gigs and she plays an oyster card in one of them. She's just bonkers! Beth Vyse I'm looking forward to seeing, she's doing a show with her son who's only about two.

Luisa Omielan as well I'm really excited to see her new show. It's going to be very different and very moving. I'm probably going to bawl my eyes out. And she's bringing her dog Bernie with her who I love.

They're a lot of people I know, but then when I get up there I let people tell me what they're enjoying, I often ask people on the way out after my shows.

We saw you in Lee and Dean earlier on this year, what else have you got coming up?

Lee and Dean was amazing, I had so much fun and what's nice is that I've had people come to my previews who have come because of Lee and Dean who wouldn't have normally known about my stuff. I'm going to be interested to see if people come and see me in Edinburgh because of Lee and Dean, that'd be nice. We're just waiting to hear whether or not we're going to do it again, but hopefully.

Other than that, I'm writing a couple of things for Channel 4 and something else which we haven't started pitching yet with Mark O'Sullivan who plays Dean in Lee and Dean. The style we're going for is semi-improvised, but very different I think.

Finally, how would you sum up your show in just five words?

It's fearlessly explosive character comedy.

Anna Morris: Bombastic runs from 4th - 26th August (not 15th, 22nd) at 4:40pm at Voodoo Rooms (Ballroom) as part of the Free Fringe. More details here.


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