Stiff and Kitsch are the brand new comedy union of Sally O’Leary and Rhiannon Neads. Whilst studying together at LAMDA they soon realised they had a lot in common – They were both in love with guys that didn’t love them back, hadn’t discovered haircuts to suit their face shape, and both regularly found themselves being cast as men.
After graduating they began singing in sell out Comedy Cabarets with Avalanche Theatre at the Battersea Barge and discovered a mutual love for singing all their mishaps away. Teaming up under the musical direction James Taylor (not that one), who comes with a wealth of experience including ITV’s The Sound of Music Live, they began to write their own material. Thus Stiff and Kitsch were born!
They are currently starring in their debut show Adele is Younger Than Us, which is on at The Civic 21 – 25 Feb. We chatted with them in advance of the show.
Could you tell us a little about your journey into acting, and how it all happened for you?
RN: As a kid we would go on holiday with my cousins and family friends and we would all make sketch shows and mini short films with our teddies and force all our parents to sit and watch a viewing of them, so I think its was always on the cards! As I got older I was involved in school plays and lots of Amateur Dramatics, although wasn’t until I was about to leave school that I considered it might be something I could pursue professionally. I then spent a year working in a gift shop which mainly sold painted wooden ducks whilst applying to drama school and was lucky enough to get a place at LAMDA – where Sally and I met.
SO’L: I’ve always been involved in theatre back home in Cork. My mom is an actor as well as one of my brothers and one of my sisters so it’s always been in the family really. I then moved to Dublin for a few years and studied drama in DIT before heading over to London. It was while studying at Lamda I became really interested in comedy and have been focusing on it ever since.
What do you wish someone had told you when you were starting out?
RN: To be honest it still feels like we are starting out! We’ve already made lots of mistakes and learnt from them (like ordering 250 posters in the wrong size for the venue and having to have them reprinted, and then just recently I accidentally sent the flyers and posters for our London run of the show at Vault Festival to The Civic and then had to get them couriered back….so probably my advice there would be – read everything twice and check your shipping address!) But in general I would say making your own work is an amazing way of staying creative and engaged in an industry which can sometimes seem rather cold. Writing/Producing/Performing this show has been the hardest but most rewarding thing I have ever accomplished in my life and I would urge everyone to give it a go!
SO’L: I would say just keep doing the work, in whatever way you can. Actors starting out in the industry can out too much focus on the industry side of things, on trying to get auditions or meetings. I seemed to spend most of my time at a computer emailing and writing to people and realised that I wasn’t actually doing any acting which was the whole point. Once I let that go and just started acting again with friends creating our own work everything got a little easier. As Amy Poehler says ‘the doing it is the thing, the talking and the worrying and the thinking is not the thing, you do it because the doing it is the thing’. That and you can’t pull off ripped jeans, don’t attempt it, you won’t look like a cool comedian.
How did you two meet?
We met at drama school in London. We both went to LAMDA and although we weren’t on the same course, the school is small enough to feel like you have a chance to get to know all the other students. And there were plenty of parties and events (where many of the stories in Adele came from) We didn’t start working together until we had left and were both involved in some new musical theatre cabaret nights. And the idea to form a comedy duo first came to us when we were both up at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2015 – back then just as spectators. We realised had very similar tastes in shows, sharing a love for musical comedy – and as we were both unemployed at the time – came up with an idea for a show we could write together.
If you hadn’t been in showbusiness, what would you have done?
RN: I’ve always loved space (I had a Dorling Kindersley Space encyclopaedia which I used to pore over as a child) so quite fancied being an astronaut. Although I do have a fear of flying so that might have been a problem at some point…
SO’L: I was actually going to study accounting at UCC. Which is strange to me now as the budgeting part of putting on the show is what I may be worst at. Maybe it was a lucky escape for the accounting world!
Tell us how the idea for the show came about?
The show itself came from a place of being in your late 20s and having a little ‘oh crap’ moment! You see so many successful celebrities who are younger than you and think, ‘Dear God, what have I been doing with my life?’ We wanted to write a funny response to that feeling, and in doing so realised that we are all in the same boat and that is totally okay! Everyone is just figuring things out! The show takes you on a journey of myself and Rhiannon trying to write the perfect love song like Adele but struggling horribly. When you are in your late 20s with little to no relationship experience what are you supposed to draw on to write that smash-hit love song? We chat and sing though all the various and sometime disastrous incidents from our love lives to date. The stories may or may not be true. (Its almost all true, in its glorious painful/hilarious entirety). We may have had to change some names… Pretty much if you’re thinking you’ve done something stupid at some point, it’s likely we’ve done it – and worse.
What do you hope audiences will take away from watching the show?
We hope that audiences will leave feeling a bit better about their own lives! One of the reviews in Edinburgh said you would leave ‘with a spring in your step’ and that’s all we can hope for really! The idea that we’re all just big disasters – maybe even Adele, trying to figure out life and love. That however you’re feeling you’re not the only one, we’ve all ‘been there done that’. We’ve had such a vast range of ages see the show, some even into their 70s, and they reassure us that they still really relate to those feelings of not matching up, being a bit of a mess, and seeming hopeless in love. Not sure if that is reassuring actually….
What is next for you?
We have some more plans for Adele Is Younger Than Us – Firstly we’ll be releasing the songs in late spring. Then we are looking to tour some more as well as exploring other platforms for the show (We’d love to do a radio version!) We are also currently writing a new show called ‘By All Accounts Two Normal Girls’ which we are hoping to bring to the Edinburgh Fringe in 2017.
And finally, what was the last TV show you binge-watched? How many episodes did you see in a sitting?
RN: I am a massive telly addict, so I binge shows on a regular basis. I think the last thing I watched was the Amazon series Sneaky Pete which I finished in two days. Prior to that I re-watched all seven series of Gilmore Girls in anticipation of the new episodes being released. I also binge watched three series of the Walking Dead but it all got a bit bleak so was forced to switch to Modern Family for some light relief…
SO’L: I think I’m on my third watching of Parks and Recreation. I could literally watch it for hours even though I’ve seen every episode a million times. I am a big sitcom fan – The Office, Peep Show, Gavin and Stacy. I love them because of the comedy but also I have a tendency to fall asleep if I’m sitting down for more than 20 mins, anything longer and I’m snoozing!!
ADELE IS YOUNGER THAN US, Tuesday 21st – Saturday 25th February 8.15pm