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I TALK TO Birthday Girls

This year, Fringe favourites Birthday Girls return to Edinburgh with their third show, Sh!t Hot Party Legends.

Once again Beattie Edmondson, Rose Johnson and Camille Ucan will be combining wonderfully funny comedy sketches with epic dance routines which will leave audiences throughout their run at the Fringe wanting a night out afterwards.

I was a huge fan of their previous show Party Vibes which I watched and reviewed during its weekly return in 2015 and I have no doubt that Sh!t Hot Party Legends will be one of the many unmissable shows at this year's festival.

Last week, I met up with the girls in London for a lovely chat over breakfast. And when they weren’t tucking into green eggs, confusing Shredded Wheat for brown sugar, battling a grapefruit or spotting a Boris Johnson lookalike on a bike outside the window, they were revealing all about their brand new Edinburgh Fringe show, Sh!t Hot Party Legends.

What came first? The show or the title?

Camille: It’s like thinking of a title for a sketch group, you go through so many titles and you rest on one that’s a bit weird for a while and then finally someone says something that you don’t all hate.

Rose: With this one though, we all thought it was funny because it’s quite preposterous. Camille was gunning for Party Vibes from the start last time but Beattie and I were like, we can’t call it Party Vibes.

But then we were like, actually that really gets across what we wanted the show to feel like for an audience so this year we kind of followed that same thing.

Camille: Often you’ll pick the title first. I don’t know if you’re familiar with our first show... 2053, we set it in 2053 and then wished that we hadn’t, but we had this bloody title and we had to do it. It was horrendous. So now we just try to do a vibe.

Rose: We wanted to keep the party atmosphere because that really worked for us and we really enjoyed doing that kind of show but this year we wanted it to be a bit more of a night-outty vibe, rather than kids party. Also, we thought the title this year was quite apt because it’s quite overblown. It’s as if we’re putting ourselves across as party legends, but we’re not.

It’s very rare that you walk into a show in Edinburgh and the title really stays with you. A lot of the time you forget the title. Really, it’s just a good way of getting people through the door I think.

There aren’t many shows that I could say “Yes, that title really stuck with me.” I mean, Luisa Omielan’s titles stick with you because they really encapsulate the show and stuff. Joe Lycett’s as well, because it’s a great pun.

What this show all about?

Rose: Fun!

Beattie: Night out!

Camille: Well it’s kind of about that, but it’s kind of not. That’s the loose theme. The idea is that we want to have a night out. We just want to have a fun time, we want to do sketches that we find funny and that we think people will find funny.

We want to dance, we’re going to be doing dances in our sketches again. We love doing that and we want it to just feel like a fun night out, but also be a sketch show!

So that’s the loose theme, but it just means that we can write sketches that we find funny. The sketches don’t necessarily have a theme running through them.

Rose: Whenever we’ve tried to do that... Nah. Not for us. It’s like a traditional sketch show really. We’re looking to create an atmosphere and what we’ve really liked is that after a few previews people have been like “I want to go out now” and that would be our ideal scenario. That the audience en masse go out... with us, and then we’ll just be dead by the end of the Fringe!

Beattie: The idea has been floated that we take everyone to the bar and make them all buy us a drink!

How have the previews been going?

Rose: It’s ups and downs.

Camille: We did one in Manchester last week that we loved, it was brilliant and then we did one in London the other day and the crowd were much tougher and it was harder. I mean, we didn’t get booed. They did laugh... sometimes! Writing the sketches and writing the material is fine, but then the structure is so hard to get it right.

Rose: It’s literally like a jigsaw puzzle. We’ll be like “Well you need to put the wig on there, so you need to not be in the sketch before that, and we can’t put that one together because you lead that sketch and then lead this one” We sit there with bits of paper and move things around.

This is the time of year where you are starting to think about the shape of the show a little bit. You want to have real high points in the show to keep people’s attention because an hour is a long time to sit an watch a sketch show, where there’s not necessarily a narrative to keep people hooked in.

Camille: There are also lots of bits that we don’t have in yet. Today after this we’ve got a rehearsal with our choreographer to do the dancing because we still don’t have any of that for this year. So it’s not the show that it’s going to be yet. We’re just piecing it together bit by bit.

Rose: The main point for me about previews is that objectively of course it’s useful, even if you have one which isn’t as great, because you have to know what doesn’t work. You don’t automatically know if something will work unless you try it and then you have to ask yourself, well why didn’t that work?

At the last preview we did, it was a bit too flabby and lacked momentum, so we now need to make sure it’s tight and that’s the important thing about previews. It’s a real rollercoaster July!

Camille: From how long we’ve been doing this, I used to think that we needed to feel it was perfect before we did it on the stage, but now I’m much more relaxed. I really think that sometimes you just don’t know until you put it in front of an audience.

Beattie: It’s nice to play with the audience and improv around the script that’s already there.

Camille: We all cry at some point during July.

Beattie: And during the Fringe!

How long has this show taken to put together?

Camille: A couple of years. We didn’t go up with a new show last year, we just did a week of Party Vibes.

Rose: We’ve been writing new sketches since 2014, but we haven’t really been working on the idea of it as a show until probably this year. But we had a nice base of material, because it’s really hard when you are trying to write a show and think of the sketches all at the same time. It helps if you’ve got a bed of sketches.

Beattie: It’s really nice that our shows are running too long at the minute.

Do you ever argue over who gets the best lines? Or the most time on stage?

Camille: We don’t! I think now, because we know each other so well, we’ll sometimes try and play against type - but because we have personas on stage, we can tell who should play what part. We’ve got a shorthand with each other so we know that we’re not going to be angry at one another.

We also work together in a really generous way. We’re quite encouraging.

Beattie: We’re not dicks! (Laughs)

Rose: We’re genuinely friends outside of the sketch group. We hang out as mates which I think is quite important. It’s not just work. What we enjoy more and more is being us on stage and bringing the audience along with us and let them in to our kind of weird friendship.

Beattie: That said, after the Fringe we do need a break from each other!

How do you find the Fringe and how important is it for you?

Camille: Beattie always gets a bit depressed up there in a way that she never does down here.

Beattie: That city just makes me lethargic.

Rose: She just sits in her bed playing computer games all the time. I do like it, it’s just very all consuming.

It’s exhausting because you’ve just had this intense build-up where you’ve been trying to get the show right and worrying about the show. Then when you get up there it’s just this insane crazy bubble where it feels like the only thing that matters in the world is the Edinburgh Fringe festival.

Camille: Emotions are really heightened up there, it’s like you’re in a weird dream bubble. But I think, as you go more and more you can do things to normalise it a bit more.

Last year we did the show for a week but I was there for the whole time doing a play and I lived with a couple of stand-ups, Brett Goldstein and Mae Martin, and they were so good at having the most normal day up to their shows. They would go to the gym or go for a walk and it was really nice, because you can try and live this normal life up there and stay a bit more sane!

When you’re up there it is really intense and emotionally draining, but I always say this, and it's that you can just write whatever you want, without anyone telling you what to do. You just get to do what you want, and you don’t get to do that very often.

Rose: We’ve been quite negative about it, but we do really like it. It is amazing, but it’s just that thing of keeping it in perspective. When you first go up there you feel like it’s literally make or break and then you realise that if you have a bad year it’s not necessarily break, and if you have a good year, it’s not necessarily make.

I don’t think it’s got the same sway as it used to. I think people used to have a really good year in Edinburgh and then get a series on TV almost off the back of that. I don’t think that happens anymore.

So for us it’s about going as a group, generating material, widening our audience pool and reminding the audience that we exist.

Beattie: We just try now to go up and make a show that we really love.

You’re also doing a few shows with Massive Dad and Lazy Susan...

Camille: It’s on straight after our show in the same venue so in the last week we’ll do Birthday Girls and then we’ll do Massive Lazy Girls. We’ve done it loads of times before, sometimes we’ll mix it up and add some new sketches, but we’ll probably just work on that when we’re up there.

Rose: It’s quite low pressure in the sense that it’s best of material.

Beattie: It fun, high energy and we do some collaborative bits with them as well where we’re in each other’s sketches!

Will you be hoping to see much whilst you're up in Edinburgh?

Beattie: I stay in bed mainly playing computer games. I get up an hour before the show and go back to bed. I’m nocturnal basically.

Camille: I always love Lazy Susan’s show and Mae Martin. She’s doing work in progress this year. Beasts are on in the Queen Dome this year, and I think their show is going to be really good. Anna Morris is doing her bride character again this year, so I’m looking forward to seeing that.

Rose: Daniel Cook... he’s my boyfriend! (Laughs) He’s very good. I love seeing Twins, and Jack Barry actually who’s the guy in Twins. His stand-up show is excellent.

Beattie: We were crying the other day when we watched him (Jack Barry). It was brilliant.

Rose: I’m also directing a show this year for Suzi Ruffel called Common so you should definitely check that out!

You were recently on Elevenish on ITV2. What a great show, and rare for telly!

Rose: It was really fun, and you know what Camille was just saying about loving the freedom at the Fringe because you can do exactly what you want to do? Well I mean, Elevenish was pretty much like that, and that is unusual for telly. They were led by us, and obviously when it got to the edit they had to make their own choices, but with telly you’re not often across the whole process, you just do your part.

In comparison to a lot of other stuff we’ve done, this is one of the most free and enjoyable things we’ve done.

Beattie: They were really great to work with. It was a lot of fun.

Rose: There was an article in The Guardian which said that it’s so important that stuff like this gets made, and it is, because when you look at people like Ricky Gervais, Chris Morris - they were on stuff like that before.

Beattie: Unfortunately, it means now you're just going to miss a whole generation of comedians because there isn’t a platform for them to develop. Our sketches weren’t perfect on the show, but it’s about trying stuff out and learning.

Rose: That’s it. There isn’t that long term development anymore for comedians.

What are your ambitions beyond the Fringe? Do you want your own TV show?

Rose: Yeah! We want our own show.

Beattie: We just need someone to give it to us! People want sketch shows that are led by someone famous, like Tracey Ullman. Everyone wants there to be a name.

Rose: But then... it’s like how are you going to get the new generation of names if you don’t give new voices prominence on telly? Our aim at the moment is to just be the last ones standing, so that they have to! (Laughs)

Camille: We have had comments before where someone goes “Oh, we’ve already got this female-led show” which is very frustrating. You don’t really say that about men.

Beattie, you’ve just finished a second series of Josh for BBC Three. How was that?

Beattie: Yes, we finished filming it at the beginning of June. It’s always so much fun, everyone’s really friendly and it’s such a lovely team. My mum (Jennifer Saunders) is going to be in it again, she’s going to be in one episode which is cool.

Everyone always on comments on what a lovely feeling there is on set, because everyone’s so chilled and having fun. I hope that comes across in the series.

Rose and Camille, what are you up to outside of the Fringe?

Rose: Camille and I are forging a sort of accidental career as children’s TV writers. So we’re writing a lot of stuff for CBeebies and again, that’s another thing where it's quite free.

Camille: Yeah, it’s great. Rose is doing stand-up as well! Her own stand-up, and she’s very good.

Rose: Thank you. It was really nerve-wracking at first but now I really like it. I run a monthly night in Peckham where I live and I MC it, and I really really like that.

I think that really helps me in Birthday Girls, just that experience of being live, talking to the audience and feeling confident in improvising. I’m naturally quite controlling so it’s the ideal scenario for me! (Laughs)

And finally, how would you sum up the show in just five words?

Silly. Chaotic. Fun-filled. Body-rocking. Nips-out!

Birthday Girls: Sh!t Hot Party Legends will be on at the Pleasance Courtyard from Wednesday 3rd August – Sunday 28th August at 9:45pm.


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