Glasgow Comedy Festival - The Penny Dreadfuls
Jay Richardson meets sketch show tyrants turned widescreen comic madrigals, The Penny Dreadfuls
Conspiring in the darkest bowels of BBC’s Henry Wood House in London, three earnest young men, exemplars of aggressive Victorian ambition, are hatching a dastardly, somewhat far-fetched plot to conquer Edinburgh this August. Beginning with sorties into Scotland this fortnight, The Penny Dreadfuls will present an early glimpse of their second full-length drama, confounding expectations by discarding the Victorian settings and sideburns that established the red-blooded, blue-blooded Aeneas Faversham and his Empire-bestriding dynasty across the Fringe and wireless.
Instead, David Reed, Thom Tuck and Humphrey Ker, who met in 2001 in Edinburgh University’s theatrical troupe The Improverts, are penning an ‘over the top’ contemporary thriller that sounds like Jason Bourne in Total Recall directed by Alfred Hitchcock, revolving around ‘a rather large and sinister conspiracy’ says Reed, ‘that might endanger the very future of Britain’ hyperboles Tuck. The trio appear entirely motivated by revenge.
Reed ‘We weren’t going to do the Fringe this year because we wanted time to come up with a new idea. Then we decided to just work harder. Then, after they’d discovered they’d have the competition again, Pappy’s Fun Club sent us a hamper full of turds.’
Ker ‘They occasionally use the office here too, so we’ve erected a plaque to them. ‘Pappy’s Fun Club had their comedy career here, 2007-2008’.’
Tuck ‘We thought it was a good idea to make nemeses of people we actually like. The nature of heroes and adversaries is that you spend a lot of time together, battling each other on top of buildings and rescuing your respective sidekicks.’
Ker ‘Or doing shitty gigs together in pubs’.
Following several spectacular CGI-enhanced BBC 3 appearances, the Dreadfuls recently returned to their improv roots touring England alongside Marcus Brigstocke and Phill Jupitus in Totally Looped, where they dubbed live commentary onto old film footage. After the transfer of their BBC 7 show, The Brothers Faversham, onto Radio 4, the group are reluctant to abandon Victoriana (‘it’s not going to be put down like an aging Labrador,’ remarks Reed) and have high hopes for a third series, with potential new characters including a gent-thief and a female lead, a significant departure for a group that subscribes to the grand British theatre tradition of dragging up at every opportunity.
Ker ‘I hate it because it always puts me in mind of a rugby club.’
Tuck ‘I love it because it puts me in mind of a rugby club. But then I’m much more believable than you two, even with a beard.’
Ker ‘I had to do it for a pantomime once written by these two. They forced me into a dress.’
Reed ‘You were Gandalf the Grey!’
Ker ‘I was Gandalf the Grey in a grey wedding dress!’
The Penny Dreadfuls play Gilmorehill G12, Glasgow, Thu 26 Mar.