Baking up a treat She’s an old hand at the Fringe but this time around Mel Giedroyc feels like she’s starting over, finds Caroline Bishop.
58 fest edinburgh festival preview guide 2012
el Giedroyc remembers her first year at the Fringe all too well. It was 1993, and she and comedy partner Sue Perkins were performing their first standup show in a 10am slot, having borrowed £2,000 from Giedroyc’s brother to fund the run. “First performance, one friend came, so we performed it to him and he just laughed all the way through, mainly out of embarrassment. Show two, one person there – somebody we didn’t know. That’s good, a step up,” cackles Giedroyc. The Fringe was where it all started for Cambridge Footlights alumni Giedroyc and Perkins, who went on to write for French & Saunders until bagging their own TV chatshow, Light Lunch, in 1997. “That was our training,” says Giedroyc. “Certainly we didn’t get into drama school. It was our busiest month of the year, August. Who might come in, who might spot you?” Nearly 20 years later, Giedroyc may feel like “an old harridan of the festival,” but she’s also recalling that familiar ‘will-they-come?’ feeling that permeated her first Fringe. Because this year, rather than performing comedy, or starring in a musical such as 2007’s hit Eurobeat, Giedroyc is presenting her debut play. Slice, which premiered in Glasgow in March as part of the Òran Mór’s lunchtime A Play, A Pie and A Pint series, is a dark comedy about fractured sibling relationships. And cake. Victoria (all three sisters have cakerelated monikers) has spent years looking after her “gorgon” of a mother, who demands tea and cake at 3pm every day. Now she’s dying, and Victoria’s hitherto absent sisters arrive to say goodbye, with resentments and recriminations rising as fast as the cake, baking live on stage, in the oven. Sipping on her tea in a London cafe—we resist the cake—Giedroyc stresses Slice isn’t based on her own relationship with her mother and two sisters, though her age (44) has been an influence. “You are straddled in the middle, you’ve got young kids at one end and at the other you’ve got parents
who are getting older that are needing care and attention. It’s an odd age.” She’s also been influenced by co-hosting— with Perkins—her strangely successful baking contest The Great British Bake-Off, which broadcasts its third series on BBC2 this year. “Cake is on my mind a hell of a lot,” she smiles, saying she liked the idea of setting a drama within the timeframe of baking a cake, which fits neatly into a 50 minute show. There’s more to it than that, though. The squeaky-clean programme seems to have provoked a touch of rebellion in Giedroyc. “[Baking] is a wonderful thing, it gets people together, it’s nostalgia, it reminds you of your mum, it’s back to traditional values. But there was something about it that I just thought, does it always bring families together, does it always remind you of great things you did with your mum? What if your mum’s a bitch?” It took some serious nagging from “total legend” David MacLennan, producer of A Play, A Pie and A Pint, for her to translate these ideas into a play, despite having wanted to write one for years. “I’m really bad at getting off my arse basically,” she laughs.
“It’s ruddy scary when David says ‘right, you’re going to do it’, but you feel somehow it’s achievable with his support. Òran Mór is a very good place to start.” Being an admirer of the Glaswegian venue, she felt “like it was a good thing to do” to write Slice specifically for three Scottish actresses rather than starring in it herself, adding modestly: “I think with these parts there are a lot of people who could do it better than I can.” But sitting in the audience rather than performing on stage proved no easier. “I have never been so ruddy nervous in my life,” she says. “Sat on my own, seriously crapping myself and necking brandies and whiskeys and praying that people would respond and laugh in the right places.” “I tell you the learning curve was like that,” she adds, raising her hand. “But I’m really glad I did it. You’ve got to put yourself out there, if you want to write you’ve got to write.” f Slice @ Gilded Balloon Teviot
1:00pm – 2:00pm, 1–27 Aug, not 13, 20, £6 – £10
Published on Jul 15, 2012