Rhys Bevan is a founding member of Laughing Stock Comedy, along with Arabella Gibbins, Lewis Doherty and Phoebe Higson. Next month they’ll be heading to Edinburgh for the third time, where they’re hoping to follow up their two previous five-star shows with another hit.
“Ours is a sketch show about the people that you meet everyday, the wonderful weirdos you see all the time,” says Rhys. “The show is set at a Caravan Club, a place of leisure and oddity cut off from the technology and cynicism of the big city. So that’s a big part of the show, a need to escape the city and to express yourself in a more basic way.
“Also, it’s just like our last two shows in that – hopefully – the audience won’t know what’s going to happen next. There’ll be music, dance, mime, and song all interwoven throughout the show. All sorts of weird and interesting ways of telling a story.”
The four friends founded Laughing Stock Comedy when they left drama school. “It was our combined ambition to get out there and perform as much and as often as possible. And we all loved comedy,” Rhys explains. “Our aim has always, first and foremost, been to make people laugh. But in recent years we’ve found that we also have the ability to tell more nuanced stories; stories with a bit more heart to them. And if you can make people laugh and feel something, you might as well.
“There are messages in there if you’d like to find them – but it’s certainly not serious. And we’re not going to tell you what it is. We just write what we know, and because we’re all of a similar age, and live similar lifestyles, our concerns and worries and insecurities embed themselves in the show every year. It’s cathartic in a way.”
Over the last few years, the Laughing Stock team have developed a tried and tested formula for success. “We spend six months daydreaming. Three months daydreaming about writing some of it down. Two months frantically writing, performing, re-writing, performing again, devising, plotting, writing, hair-tearing, writing… and then one month performing a PERFECT show. Right? It seems to work.”
Away from Laughing Stock, all four are established actors. “You’ve probably seen us in an advert somewhere!” says Rhys. “Phoebe performs regularly with The Gin Chronicles, an excellent comedy where they perform a 1950s staged radio-play. It’s brilliant and unique. Bella is a singer/songwriter, Lewis was in Hood Documentary on BBC3 and I’m Toby Fairbrother on The Archers.“
As for their comedy influences, they’re pretty varied. “I think we all have slightly different influences. Phoebe and Bella are big Smack the Pony girls, as well as The Fast Show and French & Saunders. Lewis is League of Gentlemen, Harry & Paul and darker stuff like Saxondale or 15 Storeys High. And I’m probably Big Train, Partridge, The Thick of It, Green Wing. Probably too many to name…”
As they head to the Fringe for a third time, Rhys reflects on what makes performing in Edinburgh such a unique experience. “You just cannot even begin to comprehend the amount of shows on every day of the Fringe. And the totally bonkers variety of it all is staggering. It’s like being on sensory overload for a month. It’s brilliant. But it does also take a toll on your bank balance, waistline and sanity.
“One of our highlights will always be… Due to various bits of disorganisation in our first year, I had to pull an all-nighter to fly back to Birmingham to record an episode of The Archers. In the meantime, the rest of the group were soldiering on using an audience member instead of me. When I touched down in Edinburgh slightly earlier than I’d anticipated, I decided to barrel into the show for the last sketch. The audience, having never seen me before, thought I was an intruder. Which sort of worked…?”
Catch Laughing Stock at Underbelly, Cowgate from 3rd-27th August at 4.20pm.