2015 Edinburgh Fringe

Life After Sketch - The Beta Males Go Solo

The Beta Males. Image shows from L to R: John Henry Falle, Guy Kelly, Richard Soames, Adam Blampied

Adam Blampied, John Henry Falle, Guy Kelly and Richard Soames as best known as the writers and performers behind top sketch group The Beta Males.

However, this year at the Fringe, three of the group are heading off individually to stage their own solo shows. Below, the Betas each give their thoughts on the pros and cons of branching out from the troupe...

Adam Blampied

Adam Blampied: I am Mr Children Man. Adam Blampied. Copyright: John Stanley Productions

For me, every positive about working solo is also a negative. What's empowering is also lonely, what's more intimate is also far more exposing, and what's freeing in terms of what I want my show to be is also horribly frustrating when the jokes won't come and there's no one to blame but me - me and my stupid, stupid, STUPID brain.

By far the most galling shift in going from sketch to solo is that there's no one to pitch ideas to. You're pitching into complete silence essentially. Writing with the Betas, you can think of the stupidest thing in the world and throw it out there. Based on the guys' reactions I'd know whether it's worth pursuing or not, often not. Without their shotguns ready to gun down the manky pigeons that sometimes escape my brain (this terrible metaphor being one such example) I've found myself getting way too attached to dead-end ideas and that's quite scary.

The only person making the judgment on what's worth developing is me and me alone, and while the narcissist in me rejoices at that, the scaredy cat misses my pals and their fiendishly good brains.

Happy to not be sharing the profits though. That nice. That's really nice.

John Henry Falle

The Story Beast. John Henry Falle

A lot of my weirder impulses were left buried for years because they weren't the sort of things The Beta Males did. A compromise like that is fine when you're working with a team because when you're part of a team you do things for the good of the team but when you're working for You, you have to make stuff that is first and foremost for You. It's then a matter of putting it in front of an audience to see if they'll follow you down that winding path.

This year I'm playing The Story Beast, a sort of bumbling, fantastical wizard, who wouldn't be out of place in Jim Henson's Labyrinth or Terry Pratchett's Discworld. Think Radagast The Brown doing cabaret.

The thing I love about and fantasy and horror are the prickles you get on the back of neck when you're reading about something truly "Eldritch" (to use a Pratchetty term) so if I want my show to feel authentic, I have to ask if the story or song I'm writing gives me that prickly sensation as much as it makes me laugh. In the process of writing the show I've wasted as much time playing with old, childhood toys, walking country lanes back home in Jersey or looking for ghosts, as I have writing all just to get that good-scary feeling.

So there you have it, folks: the myth of the artist, the lone shaman who transcends his own mental state so you don't have to...all very sexy if it weren't all a pack of lies. I still write with Rich and I work with musicians like Jay Foreman and Paddy Gervers (from Johnny & The Baptists), illustrators like Antiochus Omissi for my All The Kings & Queens video, directors like Clem Garrity (of Kill The Beast Productions) for this show and Todd McDonald who directed my "trailer". No artist exists in a bubble and there are few things more joyous than simply mucking about with your mates. I have The Beta Males to thank for that lesson.

Richard Soames

Richard Soames Does the Right Thing. Richard Soames

Writing for The Betas at this point is easy for us, as the group has a really strong voice and we know what a Beta Males show looks and feel like. So, as pretentious as it sounds, when I was starting out on my own, I spent a long while trying to find out what Richard Soames sounded like on stage. Turns out I'm pretty much just me but a bit nicer.

A big negative I've found is that I've become much more lazy with rehearsing. I'll just kind of assume I know whole paragraphs of script because I wrote it and because I don't have to meet anyone at rehearsals beforehand to prove that I do, I've ended up improvising through some of my previews. Which has actually resulted in more jokes... so I'm going to claim that's all been deliberate.

In terms of writing I've really enjoyed the freedom of being on my own, but I agree with Adam, it is much harder to tell if an idea is amazing or just your brain being over indulgent. Without an immediate sounding board, I find you have to write something, let it fester for about 24 hours and come back to it before chopping it in half, brutally judging your former self and finally ending up with a semblance of something that you can put in front of an audience. I've also not been entirely alone - John Henry and I have helped each other out with our shows a little bit, mostly repeating the sentence "yeah but why?" as our brains get too close to the script and are convinced they're encountering constantly new epiphanies about the show, and that's definitely kept me on track. And all three of us have been collectively previewing and giving each other feedback, so it's been nice to go it alone, together.

Guy Kelly

I'm not going to the stress bucket that is The Fringe, I'm just going to stay home and have a nice time with my wife. Fuck those guys.

'Adam Blampied: I am Mr Children Man' is at 22:45 at Laughing Horse at The Counting House, August 5th - 31st (not 19th). Listing

'The Story Beast' by John Henry Falle is at 22:30 at The Pleasance Courtyard, August 5th - 31st (not 19th). Listing

'Richard Soames Does the Right Thing'' is at 18:50 at The Underbelly, George Square, August 5th - 31st (not 19th). Listing

Guy Kelly is at His House, all day, August 5th - 31st (and 19th).

The Beta Males will be performing 'The Beta Males: Alpha Sketches', their best material from five sell-out Fringe shows for four nights only: August 20th - 23rd in The Pleasance Courtyard at midnight. Listing

Published: Friday 7th August 2015

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