“We’re drawn to things that are dark and weird.” | Your Aunt Fanny talk bringing their shameless sketch show Minge Unhinged to Vault Festival

Tell us about the show you’re bringing to the Vault Festival.

It’s called Minge Unhinged. We wrote it last year. We took it on tour between May and August to a couple of places, mostly in the North East and we went down to London for the Wandsworth Fringe Festival and a couple of nights at The Cat’s Back. So we’ve performed it a few times now.

It’s a sketch comedy show. It was our first thing that we’d written ourselves.

How did people respond to your tour?

We sold out everywhere and had to add a couple of extra dates. The name and the buzz about us writing stuff for ourselves for the first time really drew people in. We got loads of amazing feedback. People seemed to really like it.

I think what we like about doing sketch comedy is that you get a different response from every audience, people laugh at different things. It means the show becomes really versatile. We can play up to certain things if they’re going down well and we can have fun with the audiences.

How did you get into sketch comedy?

We all met at Youth Theatre. They were setting up a project there for girls in comedy. We all went for an audience for a Youth Theatre sketch group they were setting up. We used to have writers and a director and we performed for them first, for about three years when we were all in Youth Theatre. Since then, we’ve come back together and started writing for ourselves.

With sketch comedy, you can do one show that hits a massive range of different types of comedy in one thing. We can different types of characters and different types of sketches and it makes for a really colourful and exciting show.

Once your group came together, what made you think this was the team to stick with?

We’re best friends. We just love each other so much.

We finished working with the Youth Theatre after about three years and while we were there they’d taken us to the Fringe for ten nights. That was amazing. Then a lot of us went off to uni. Some of us went travelling or started working professionally in the industry. We had a few years doing our own thing and then it just so happened that in September 2018 the majority of us were back in Newcastle.

We decided to meet up and it all came about because Lydia wanted to get more into producing. So she wanted to do all the stuff that the rest of us didn’t want to do. Things like contacting venues and organising funding and things like that. That was really the catalyst that got us back together again.

We arranged an R and D to see what it would be like trying to write for ourselves. We did even know whether that would necessarily be successful. But we gave it a go and by the end of the R and D, which was only a week long, we had half an hour’s worth of rough material. We did a little show for the people at Live Theatre and it got really, really good responses. On the back of that little show we could programmed for a couple of things.

We started doing scratch nights and we did our first proper performance at Christmas at Alphabetti. We did half an hour’s worth of material and in the New Year we applied for our Arts Council in February. We were successful and that meant we had the resources to develop more material into an hour long show and rehearse it properly because it was paid work. Then we had an hour long show that we’d worked very hard on that we could take to London and around the North East.

You’ve got a lot of recognition in a short space of time. What are your plans to top that in 2020?

We’re going to do Vault Festival in February, which we’re really excited about doing. Then the plan is to make a new show, which we’re going to preview again at Live Theatre in July and then hopefully take to the Fringe in August.

Because we’ve done so much in the past year – and we were commissioned to write a Christmas show at Live Theatre, which we did last year with another local theatre company – I think we’ve learnt so much. We’re excited to put all that into practice and make something hopefully even better than Minge Unhinged.

You’re known for a comedic style that doesn’t shy away from the inappropriate. What inspired that?

We all have the same sense of humour and naturally we’re a little bit dark.

That’s just what we’re like, we’re drawn to things that are dark and weird. And because we’re all women as well a lot of our experiences and the things we want to write and laugh about aren’t so mainstream. You don’t hear about them as much because they’re women’s things, you hear more about men’s lives all the time. So maybe that’s considered a little bit outrageous, but we don’t see it that way.

We’re careful. We’re not outrageous for the sake of it. We wouldn’t go out of our way to do that and we wouldn’t want to ever offend anybody. But we are naturally drawn to comedy that is quite dark and crude.

What do you hope people take away from your show?

We bill ourselves as a night out on the town with your oldest, wildest, filthiest friend. That’s definitely the vibe that we want to go for. We want everyone to have a really lovely night out. Lives are hard. When people have been at work the whole week, the fact that they can come out and just piss themselves laughing for an hour is really special and important to us.

We laugh at a lot of things that are important to us. We have sketches about hideous people we’ve worked with, and we’re not the only people who have worked with people like that. We want people to go away feeling seen. We all have similar experiences and we’re on their side, we’re laughing at it with them.

We want it to be comfortable. Theatre can be really intimidating, so we want it to be really chilled, for people to feel welcome, that there will something they can connect with and laugh at and have a good time.

Are there any other shows you’re looking forward to at the Vault Festival?

We are doing a double bill with a theatre company called Bonnie and the Bonnettes, who are also based up in Newcastle. We just wrote a Christmas show with them for Live Theatre, which we’re bringing back next Christmas too. Their shows are absolutely brilliant, there’s one they’ve made themselves called And She. It’s absolutely lush, we’re really excited for people in London to see that because it’s absolutely cracking. We’re really looking forward to being there with them.

We’re going to Vault Festival as part of Northern Stage, who are taking up some theatre companies. The other people who are going with Northern Stage are all brilliant. They are definitely people to look out for.

Do you have any advice for anyone looking to break into comedy?

Specifically sketch comedy, our advice would be to find really, really good friends. People who you trust. People who you can cry in front of, laugh in front of and say anything in front of us. That’s how we’re so successful, it’s because as a friendship group we’re incredible and we just love each other so much it makes us a bit sick. Find people you love so much it makes you ill.

Take a few risks. Often sometimes you can be underestimated, especially if you’re a voice that’s not typically heard in the mainstream. Don’t listen to that. Know that it will exist, but you can surpass it and power through it.

In terms of getting feedback about your work, don’t pressure yourself always find professionals in the comedy or theatre scene. We’ve found that some of the most useful feedback comes from our friends and family who sit in on rehearsals that we do, who we’ve invited because we like their sense of humour or who they are as a person, rather than due to the work that they do. We always find that really helpful because, at the end of the day, that’s who most of your audience are going to be. It’s useful to get that perspective.

We write of our material by keeping notes in our phone or in notebooks. Anything you overhear that’s even remotely daft, write it down. Most of our characters are drawn from those interactions. Listen and watch everything that’s going on around you and pick out what you find funny.

Your Aunt Fanny is performing Minge Unhinged on 8th and 9th February.

Book your ticket here.

Find out more about Vault Festival here.

You can find out more about Your Aunt Fanny by following them on Twitter and Instagram.