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DarkChat - Reviewing the Edinburgh Fringe since 2008

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As the festival approaches we are getting VERY excited here at DARKCHAT. As a performer do you feel the same way or are the opening days like sitting an exam?

I'm very excited indeed. In fact end of last week I just wanted to be up there doing it. This final week before it starts is sort of the hardest, its a bit like waiting on your first child.

It has been a while since you last appeared at the Edinburgh festival. Why the absence?

Mainly I'd been doing other stuff. Also having a family. To be honest the last time I went up I really enjoyed but I think I was doing too much and it was a good year but didn't really blow me away, so i didn't want to come back till I felt I had something really excellent to peddle.

And why have you returned this year?

I've well and truly missed it. Now I have a family who are coming up with me, it takes out the usual drinking / stress/ unhealthy Edinburgh life, so it'll be a far more pleasant enjoyable experience I hope. Also, as I say i have the show that I really want to do, so should just be fun fun fun.

What can we expect from “Anna Mann: A Sketch Show for Depressives"?

Its an hour of extreme silliness from one of the greatest unheard of stars of the stage and screen . Anna is talking about her life long struggle with depression and how she has crawled out of the pit, and may be able to help you too. Its a life affirming, joyous show that hopefully deals well with a very difficult issue.

You have been coming to Edinburgh for a few years. Does it get harder to write new shows?

It entirely depends on what you're trying to achieve and why. In my experience if you're doing something you like and want to do it should be hard work but fun, if you're doing something that you feel you should do or have been told to do but your heart isn't in it or you don't have the idea its probably going to be grim.

In "Inferno" in 2011 you moaned at me on stage for taking too long making a cup of tea with butter and sprinkles. Do you have much audience participation this year?

There is some, but thankfully it involves far less perishable props. I learnt the hard way to never include food in your shows. Its weirdly something everyone, myself included feels the need to do. I'm sorry for moaning at you but I hope you've learnt to always be ready to go with the audience participation. But no, I honestly can't be bothered to make anything too elaborate with audience participation so this years' is jolly and requires very little from the audience chums. The whole show is kind of interactive in a chatty relaxed way.

Your show is on at 7.00pm, How will you pace your day?

I'm going to be spending the whole day on the park and watching shows with my daughter then writing a novel when she naps. At least that's the current dream!

In 2013 we saw " Real Horror Show " at Assembly Roxy, a strange show which proved nothing is more frightening than a completely dark room. What are your memories of that show?

Its a funny one. I really loved developing that show. We actually did 3 versions in London that were more walk through interactive ones. In the end I think the time and venue were all wrong for it sadly. The cast were all excellent and lovely and I was proud of a lot of the writing. It was also a case of doing too much - it was far too ambitious with a comedy show and a play I was in. I've learnt to keep my focus on one thing at a time now. I'd love to revisit the Horror Show as I think it had potential to be really awesome and the ideas it touched upon about society creating monsters are more and more relevant. So will perhaps return to it, but probably start again in a smaller, London context.

Most performers appear in more than one show. Will you be popping up elsewhere?

No, as I say I just want to focus on the one masterpiece this year. I'll be gigging with whoever will have me though.

A couple of years ago we saw you in a preview show at the Full Moon Club in Cardiff. These shows are obviously a good way for you to hone your material. Generally, are you a good judge of which parts of your material work or do you need an audience's reaction to keep up on the right track?

You can learn a lot from a preview audience, but the danger is they can often be a small bunch and often not really want to be there, so I think its important to make it work as much on the page as you can. Its surprising though how many very closely worked out gags don't zing with a crowd.

Have you always had an interest in dark and weird material?

I guess so. When i was little I was obsessed with hammer / universal horror. I also read 2000ad comics which were brilliantly darkly comic comics. But a lot of the weird, parochial character stuff is actually just the world I grew up in so not that dark to me at all.

Who are/ were you comedy heroes?

I've always loved Rowan Atkinson for Blackadder. I love a lot of the old school British character actors, Kenneth Williams, Frankie Howard, Steptoe and Son, Sid James and so on. Spike Milligan, Peter Sellers. I've never been a comedy aficionado to be honest, I find all the Monty Python quoting stuff a bit of a drag.

When and why did you first come to the Edinburgh festival?

I first went with a Nottingham Youth Theatre Group when I was 17 playing Anthony in Anthony and Cleopatra. I had a mohican and it was probably better reviewed than anything I've done since. After that I went when I was 25 with my double act Colin and Fergus. It was a lot of fun.

What have been your best Edinburgh festival experiences?

Proposing to my wife on Arthur's seat. And the whole run of Carnival of Monsters.

What have been your worst Edinburgh festival experiences?

Its really horrid when it rains. The audience come in like the Bring out your Dead lot in Holy Grail. Inferno was ironically one of those years. Loads went wrong with that show even though it had great moments.

What is your weirdest moment on stage at the Edinburgh festival?

I think when I was doing Len Parker , my karate character - there's a bit where I get someone to grab my arm and do a silly twist out of it. I did it to Simon Brodkin's Dad who pulled me into the audience and sort of started fighting me. I also remember that year the only odd night was when Reece Shearsmith and Jimmy Carr came to see the show and the whole audience just looked at them throughout for their reactions. It was deeply unnerving.

Can you suggest a theme we could adapt for this year's festival?

Mental illness.

Finally, how do you plan to survive that month of mayhem?

As Ramirez says in Highlander 'With Courage and Steel' "

To see Colin's show:
https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/colin-hoult-anna-mann-a-sketch-show-for-depressives
19:00 at Pleasance Courtyard from August 3rd to 28th (not 17th)