Comedy duo seeing success with Adele comedy show at the Civic

By Aideen O'Flaherty

TWO women, one stage and a personal, self-deprecating look at life in comparison to the success of one of the world's biggest singers: 'Adele is Younger Than Us' promises to be more than just your average comedy show.

Written and performed by the comedy duo Stiff and Kitsch, comprised of Cork woman Sally O'Leary and English actress Rhiannon Neads, 'Adele is Younger Than Us' has already had a sell-out run at last year's Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

SK Adele Yellow 10

Sally and Rhiannon first met when they were both students in the prestigious London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, and their friendship grew into a comedy partnership.

Now the two actresses, who have had roles in numerous TV shows and plays, are bringing their debut show to the Civic Theatre stage. Sally took some time out to speak to The Echo about the show.

You met Rhiannon when you were both studying at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, was there much room for focusing on comedy during your studies?

There wasn’t a huge focus on comedy in particular, although the training covered a broad range of specialties from TV and radio to classical text and new writing.

There were also a lot of improv classes - which is where lots of our favourite comedy actors started, and these certainly stirred our interest in sketch and comedy. We both seemed to get cast in lots of comedy roles in our final year, so it certainly gave us a good foundation from which to head into the industry.

Was there a specific moment when you realised that forming a comedy duo with Rhiannon would be a good idea?

I think you get to a point as an actor where you are tired of waiting for work or tired of working at jobs you are not passionate about.

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 we 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.

Prior to this we had no experience in stand up, or even writing, but we had time on our hands and a lot of enthusiasm and determination. Looking back it was a mad endeavour, but has paid off hugely!

Lots of our comedy heroes like Amy Poeler, Tina Fey, Ricky Gervais and Tim Minchin (to name a few) started out by creating their own work and writing the parts they wanted to perform.

The Edinburgh Fringe gave us the chance to create our own opportunity, try out new things and perform without having to wait for someone else to give us the chance, which was both liberating and very exciting.

Who are your biggest comedy influences and why?

All of those mentioned above - as well as comedy duos like Garfunkel and Oates and Mitchell and Webb. We love sitcoms like The Office and Gavin and Stacy, to American shows like Saturday Night Live, Parks and Recreation and 30 Rock.

SNL has always been a big influence. Rhiannon spent hours watching and listening to all of Tim Minchin and Bo Burnham’s back catalogues, and she said that as a child she learnt her sense of humour from a combination of Blackadder, Monty Python and Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh.

She was also hugely influenced by the clever, witty and charming work of the wonderful Victoria Wood. Whereas I started comedy in a sketch group called Muriel and that was a major influence.

You both regularly sing on stage, was this something that you developed while studying in LAMDA or have you always been singers?

We both came to LAMDA with some singing experience, I was part of lots of stage schools growing up in Cork, and Rhiannon was part of school choirs in her hometown of Bath.

LAMDA doesn’t really focus on singing, although there were weekly classes to keep the skill going and in our final year Rhiannon was lucky enough to play Mrs Lovett in LAMDA’s production of Sweeney Todd.

Sally from Adele 29

Can you tell us what ‘Adele is Younger Than Us’ is about?

‘Adele is Younger Than Us’ is about love, being a mess and trying to figure stuff out.

Where did you get the idea for the show?

‘Adele is Younger Than Us’ 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 through all the various and sometime disastrous incidents from our love lives to date. The stories may or may not be true (It’s almost all true, in its gloriously painful and 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.

You performed a sell-out run of the show at last year's Edinburgh Fringe Festival, what was that like?

The fringe was amazing, it’s such a brilliant place to be as you are surrounded by so many like-minded people who are all striving to create new work.

Everyone is so supportive and there is a massive buzz as they are excited to see and share the work. Having said that it can also be crazy tough; the days are very long - almost constant flyering in the rain, and with hundreds of shows on you never know if there will be 100 or three people in your audience.

It keeps you on your toes, I guess! We were very lucky, it being our first time, when within the first week the show started to sell out.

Then we were given extra shows and ended up doing two a day. It seems to be all about word of mouth and your show creating a buzz in the festival, and if it all goes to plan it is such a brilliant experience. We couldn’t have had a better first fringe.

You perform a number of songs during the show, is there any song in particular that evokes a strong audience reaction, and if so, why?

Audiences react differently to different songs on different nights actually. There are some bits which always get a big reaction as they're sort of universally relatable.

Like when Rhiannon and I talk about our disastrous first kisses. We often see groups of girls, or couples, nudging each other and bursting out laughing at particular points or jokes, which is such a delight!

There’s a song about being organised and without fail there is always someone in the audience whom it sums up perfectly. You can see all their friends pointing at them and laughing, saying ‘That’s you! You do that!’

What's it like to dress up as Adele for every show?

We don’t actually dress up as Adele in the show! (Only on our days off) We play lots of different characters in the show so we needed clothes that were plain enough to switch between different parts. So the ‘costumes’ are pretty low key, it’s just us trying to vaguely match each other.

Lastly, what do you hope audiences will take away from 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. I’m not sure if that is reassuring, actually…

‘Adele is Younger Than Us’ shows at the Civic Theatre in Tallaght from February 21 to 25, and tickets are available from www.civictheatre.ie or call 01 462 7477.

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