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I TALK TO Colin Hoult

Colin Hoult, star of BBC Three's Murder in Successville, returns as his most delightful character Ms Anna Mann.

What came first? The show or the title?


The title actually. I had an idea to do a sketch show for depressives and I was going to do it as myself but it felt like it was going to be a bit morose you know and horribly boring.


I’d just starting re-doing my character Anna Mann which I’d done for a while, did a little taster tape of her so I had a new costume and all that, and then the two things just combined very well.


What was the inspiration behind Anna Mann? Where did she come from?


Well her inspiration was an actress who I met when I was doing a radio job. I was in the green room and she came in very late, wearing lots of very ethnicy stuff – shawls and things – “Hello darlings, hello!”.


I was reading a book of Dostoyevsky, a crime and punishment book. It was the only one I’d read and she saw and went “Excuse me darling, what are you reading?” So I said “Oh, I’m reading Dostoyevsky” and she went “Fuck off! Fuck off I love that. I love that!”


It was incredible. She was just the most incredible person ever and it was when I was doing Al Murray’s show years ago and I was telling Katy Wix about her the next day and she said “You should do it!” and I did.


I always do this bit with the audience now where I go “What’s your name darling?” and then I go “Fuck off!” – so it all came from that glorious day really.


Do you enjoy dressing up as Anna?


I do! (Laughs) I really do, which is great I think. At times I have sort of gone, oh yeah I am a bit transsexual. Which would be fine, everyone’s happy with that!


It’s really interesting what’s happening with all the trans stuff at the moment. That said, Anna isn’t supposed to be a man. She was always meant to be ta version of the woman she was based on really.


I’ve never really committed to Anna Mann in the past, but because I shot this taster and I’ve got all the proper costumes, it’s much more of a character piece rather than a drag act!


How long has this show taken to put together?


It’s sort of gone pretty quick really. From the end of last year I had the idea and I think it was in February that I thought, let’s do an Edinburgh show.


I wouldn’t say that I’d decided to never do one again, but I’d moved on from that in a way, but then thought actually, it’s the thing I love the most really, doing these shows.


Because I’ve got lots of Anna stuff that’s never been done before, well not as an Edinburgh show, I had quite a lot to start me off. I had a lot of material in the bank, that said most of it is new, but it got the ball rolling.


What was it about Edinburgh that lured you back this year?


Good question. Partly because I’d done a taster tape with Anna and I’m trying to get her commissioned more I suppose so I thought it’d be good to have something that can go hand in hand with it.


Also, I really missed it. I went into writing more and I can write, I enjoy it and all that, but I think… in the words of Anna “I have to perform darling! I have to be on the stage!”


What I’ve always liked with my old Edinburgh shows is that you have an hour to do whatever you like. I love that.


How important is the Fringe to you?


Well it’s a bit of an odd one really. I’m really looking forward to it, I’ve invested in it and I want it to do really really well.


But because I’m also an actor and a writer – over the last few years, acting has been my main thing whereas in the past I’ve done it and it felt like the pinnacle of the year, and I think that can be a bit unhealthy sometimes.


This year feels like the best show I’ve done. It’s certainly the most fun and just funny and simple in a way.


I’ve got to talk about Murder In Successville, are you surprised by its success?


It’s always felt for a long time that anything that’s out there, interesting, daring or not exactly family just gets turned down at the first hurdle.


But there’s more and more interesting stuff now and I think Murder In Successville is kind of leading the charge in a way. To be fair, at the first read-through I was like “what is this?!” – it was hard to get my head around.


The response has been great and I think because it’s celebrity stuff, that automatically makes it more accessible, so it’s not just weird.


I think James De Frond, the director, came in and gave it this almost Gotham or Sin City type thing which lifts it. It looks incredible and then obviously you’ve got Tom who’s an absolute genius.


I am surprised how it’s gone down but I remember in the first series doing Gary Barlow and thinking, it’s the most fun I’ve ever had on telly!


What are you up to outside of the Fringe?


A few bits and bobs. I shot an episode of Count Arthur Strong the other day, just a little pop-up thing and this has taken a lot of my time really.


I’m mainly developing loads of stuff for radio and telly. I’ve done a lot of online stuff in the past, but I’ve always done it quite basic so it’d be great to do more online stuff.


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


Visceral. Brave. Fluidy. Forceful. Not-beige.


Colin Hoult/Anna Mann: A Sketch Show for Depressives will be on at the Pleasance Courtyard from Wednesday 3rd August – Sunday 28th August at 7pm (Excluding Wednesday 17th August).

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