Interview: Burnistoun boys Florence and Connell – 'It definitely doesn't feel like a farewell episode'
Burnistoun boys Robert Florence and Iain Connell are back with characters both old and new
Robert Florence and Iain Connell are picking themselves up, dusting themselves down and licking their wounds when I speak to them. Two of their new Burnistoun characters are a pair of clubbing survivors in their late 30s. ‘They’re about mine and Iain's age and paranoid about it,' Florence explains. 'A bit sensitive to the fact they're going bald and they don't know if they've still got enough energy for a night out.'
The Burnistoun creators have just left the set of their TV special, a one-off episode without laughter track, set on a Saturday night in their whimsically oddball town. It features the familiar faces of the 'For Real!'-exhorting Jolly Boy John, 'quality polis' Toshan and McGregor and the incredulous 'Up Eh Road' guys, as well as plenty of other new characters besides.
'I'm always covered in bruises!' Florence reveals. 'Even if there's a sketch where we’re just sitting at a table, having some dialogue, I always come away bashed. But there's always a bit of pratfalling with the polis sketches. I was feeling it more this time as I'm older and definitely get up more slowly.'
Few things in entertainment are more physically demanding than a live sketch show, especially with all the costume changes when you play most of the roles. Yet following their triumphant debut at the Glasgow Comedy Festival, Burnistoun: Live and for Real is back for three more dates in August. Florence admits to being 'taken a wee bit by surprise' by the reception their first stage outing received: ‘having done one, we can make a few tweaks to make it even better'.
Connell remembers 'entering at the back early on, through the stalls, and we could sense the buzz before we actually did anything at all. The crowd were definitely up for it!' They had assumed rightly that their more expressive characters, such as the irrepressible Jolly Boy John, would go down well. 'It was odd because there were certain sketches where we thought this is maybe a quieter one,’ admits Florence. ‘Yet it doesn't work out that way. If you have a slightly slower or quiet one, the crowd is so responsive that you can have a bit of back and forth with them. And the great thing about doing things live is that if you ever feel the pace is dropping you can always speed it up.'
Such was their enjoyment of the experience that they've been asking themselves why they took so long to actually do it. 'I don't know what we were waiting for,' adds Connell. Reaction to these latest live dates and the TV special will dictate if this is Burnistoun's swansong. 'It definitely doesn't feel like a farewell episode or anything like that; the new characters make it feel quite fresh again,' Florence says.
Regardless, one of their next projects will also be on stage with a comic play. 'It'll be nice to do something a bit longer form where we can focus more on our performances, without worrying about how quickly we can get our jackets off,’ states Florence.
Before that, Florence is making his second micro-budget film, a vampire comedy-horror. Featuring Burnistoun's supporting cast, he wants to première it at next year's Glasgow Film Festival. Unfortunately, his chosen leading man, one Iain Connell, has yet to confirm his participation. 'We're still in negotiations,' Florence explains. 'It's complicated by the fact that we've both got the same agent and we're asking them to choose between us.'
'He thinks he's Terrence Malick and I'm just going to jump,' Connell sighs.
'I'm a Glasgow Woody Allen!' Florence counters. 'I think everyone wants to work with me!'
Theatre Royal, Glasgow, Thu 27–Sat 29 Aug.