Notting Hill based real life siblings Maddy and Marina Bye have formed a comedy duo and are performing in London and then taking the show on tour around the UK. I was lucky to interrupt their comedy writing and ask them some questions as they start out on the comedy circuit.
Tell me about Siblings Comedy…What prompted you to start working together?
When we were foetuses we always did funny character Ping-Pong together in the back of the car. We always impersonated pretty much everyone we met and learned to pick out characters from a crowd at a very young age. We would find them and then spend the entire day playing them. Nobody was safe.
One fine evening in Edinburgh 2016 we got jealous of all the cool performers so we decided to sign ourselves up for a free comedy cabaret with nothing but two party poppers a sausage and a cagoule. It went terribly, but made us cocky as hell and thus … the journey began.
What’s it been like working so closely with a sibling?
Horrible … but really convenient. No, in all seriousness, its pretty great, if we argue we have no choice but to be friends again. Also, the perk, or pork, of being siblings is that we can really bounce off each other on stage, we can hear when its our turn to play and we have an amazing talent of saying the same thing at the exact same time …really … ask us to do it when you see us, it’s shocking.
Are you both equally involved in the writing/creative process? What has the process involved so far? (I know its early days!)
Yes, both of us come up with ideas and then play in our living room. Once Maddy had an idea in the shower and was convinced it was ground breaking … we never used it. The best, most effective, scary and fun way to see if our writing works is to put it in front of real people, which is why we love testing out our new scenes at comedy nights all around London, with Malcolm Balcony (tech, janitor, painter/decorator). We have been to some amazing ones. Henry Cafe’s ‘It’s Gameshow Time’, Elf Lyons ‘The Matron Presents’ ‘Piñata’, sausage, the whopping ‘ACMS’ and loads, loads more. We will be at ‘It’s Got Bells On’ on the 24th and ‘Scratch that @ the Vaults Festival on the 2nd March. WE NEVER STOP!
You both trained professionally but in very different settings/schools – tell me a bit about Philippe Gaulier and the Guildhall….
MADDY: Studying for 2 years at Ecole Philippe Gaulier was without a doubt the weirdest but best thing I ever could have done with my life so far. The way Philippe teaches comedy and theatre is completely original, painful, but can be absolutely beautiful. He taught us that within all theatre is a game. When you see an actor playing, their spirit is alive and so the audience is able to enter into that game. It’s about impulse and play and being totally in the moment. The biggest lesson I learnt there is how to fail, how to fight back, take risks and have the confidence to lose your ego and try to be vulnerable on stage. I can see his training in everyone who is performing now who has studied there, it’s a very unique style of comedy that, I think, is apparent in all of his students. For me, studying characters with Philippe taught me so much in what I am doing on stage now. His training and his little banging drum is always in the back of your mind.
MARINA: Due to my A Level results, I either had the choice of Drama School or a university in Slough. Tough choice, but I chose Drama School because for some reason they liked what I was doing. It was an exciting time for me because the parts I was given at school were prostitute number 3, a sausage and a dog (true) but I ended up playing Hermia in A Midsummer Nights Dream, which is a sexy role! The teachers who trained me were unbelievable. They taught me how to be confident and how to own the space and that’s something that I will carry for the rest of my life. It taught me a whole lot and I’ve ended up performing in a couple of films which will be coming out at the end of this year.
Are there similarities in what you’ve learnt ? How did the training differ? Presumably you share a similar sense of humour?
It was really strange when we were both studying because we were doing the same modules at the same time – Shakespeare and Chekhov, Greek Tragedy, Neutral Mask. However, Maddy was being taught by a famous clown so comparing our tactics was always hilarious.
We very much do share a similar, sausage-y sense of humour, because we grew up with parents who were in the comedy industry so it was with us from a very young age. As we grew up we realised we have a very strange sense of humour, we love absurdist and alternative comedy. The weirder it is, the funnier we find it. Our brother Max also showed us loads of strange YouTube videos when we were young so moulded our minds to the wilder comedians.
What or who have been your biggest influences in the acting and comedy world? Are there any comedy duos that you hope to emulate?
We have so many performers we love and are inspired by a lot of people. We are also theatre fanatics so its not always just comedy. One specific actor who influenced us massively was Alan Rickman. We were lucky enough to have him as the greatest and deepest godfather of all time. He was also the reason Maddy ended up in a Parisian clown school and supported Marina by being at every single performance she did throughout the start of her acting career. He made us the performers we are today and so our shows will be dedicated to him. One top tip he gave to Marina when she was performing in South Downs as Belinda was “One must not go down to sip the teacup, the teacup must come up to ones mouth to drink”.
In terms of comedy, it goes really far! Branching from obviously the AbFab duo, Smack the Pony, French and Saunders, Victoria Wood. We love Nick Mohammed, Sausage, Spencer Jones, Dr Brown… we could go on forever. Also, shout out to Ace Ventura Pet Detective.
Any mishaps on stage?
Always! Mishaps are the best things that can happen to you when performing live comedy. They are gifts. Once when performing at Scratch That Brixton we kicked the entire microphone stand onto an audience member and Maddy completely broke character and screamed like a small girl so loud into Marinas ear hole.
Marina also once tried to give Maddy the microphone but smacked her in the eye with it like a sausage. We once forgot to bring a lemon to set so used a sponge instead. We once did a gig in Cape Town South Africa and after doing a dance on stage we asked the audience what the dance meant, someone shouted “Nothing”.
Most memorable comedy you’ve seen…
This is the hardest question we have been asked. Recently we have seen so much brilliant comedy it’s so difficult to say. I think in terms of memory it would have to be eating sausages and watching Absolutely Fabulous growing up. Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley remain the funniest female comedy duo that ever existed in our eyes. There hasn’t been anything like that since.
Maddy, you have both acted and directed (or maybe you both have) – is it too early to know which direction you might take? I suppose you don’t need to choose and can always do a bit of both…
I have always enjoyed directing, I did it quite a bit as well as classical acting before I went to Gaulier. I wanted to give everything a go as I wasn’t sure what direction I wanted to go in. I even ended up writing a play about a talking Radiator, which was on at the Tristan Bates last year. I also co-wrote and directed a brilliant comedian called Nicola Cross in her solo character show Adventures of Tracey Tracey, which will be hitting the Brighton Fringe this year. I think when it comes down to it, I just enjoy performing the most. I really get off on the thrill of being on stage and having it be your job to make people laugh, there isn’t anything like it. For now, Siblings is the one for me, performing with my sister is too much fun to let go of right now. But who knows, it might be a pile of poo, so I may be back in the directors chair soon.
What other upcoming comedy duos/groups should we look out for? I love Birthday Girls….
We love The Birthday Girls too. Big fans. There are some great comedy duos and groups out there right now especially all female groups. Look out for Norris & Parker, Massive Dad, Lazy Susan and the Travelling Sisters to name a few. Our duo Gualier friends Zach & Viggo are taking over the world right now, sausage. We are also huge Auntie Donner fans. I know she’s a solo but Lolly Adefope is a brilliant character comedian dominating the comedy scene right now and we. Love. It.
Biggest tips for any one thinking of going into comedy/acting?
Know how to fail. Failing is the greatest way to succeed. Really feel that flop. Loose your ego, let go of that sausage. Some people will always hate what you are doing but you can’t let that make you quit. Have fun on stage! Even through its hard work and sometimes can make you feel like you are in the fiery pits of hell, what we are doing is fun, and should be fun. If the audience can see you are having a good time, they will too and if you are really enjoying the character you are playing the audience will respect that whether they think you are their worst enemy of your best friend.
Have you been able to draw any comedy ideas from the Notting Hill area/local people? (I saw your tweet about the nail salon?)
Please see video below:
And what do you both enjoy most about the area?
We are so lucky to have lived here all our lives. We like that you can walk down the road to Portobello and find yourself in a music fuelled food festival with giant paellas and sausages and lemonade and burgers and falafels and reggae music and yummy mummies. The vintage market on Saturday is always amazing. The mix of cultures in Notting Hill is so cool, because of this there are so many options for different nights out. Dancing to live drumming and Mexican music at Santos to Jamaican rum at Mau Mau and the Rum Kitchen. The Electric cinema is the greatest cinema in the world! Plus the Electric Diner serves great sausage.
Where or when can we see you in action next?
We are always doing gigs around London, the comedy scene here is huge and so friendly, welcoming and just plain great. We have met some amazing people from other performers to the people who run comedy nights and so many different bars and venues.
We will be at It’s Got Bells On in Peckham on the 24th February and Scratch That at the Vaults Festival on the 2nd March. We will also be performing at the BRIGHTON FRINGE 2017 for our first ever hour show at the Warren on Wednesday 24th May, Thursday 25th May and Friday 2nd June all at 9:30pm. We are also going to be doing the Edinburgh Fringe 2017 so see ya there!
I have already seen this hilarious duo in action and you must too – you’d be a silly sausage not to. Seriously, it’s a porker – I mean corker of a night out. Interviewed by Miranda (procrastinator/carrot cake lover @mirandasmurmurs)