Interview with Goronwy Thom
We interviewed Goronwy Thom of Slightly Fat Features after their fun and silly shows in the Spiegeltent during the festival.
Have you performed in Canterbury before?
“This is our third year in Canterbury, we did it two years ago for two nights, then last year we did two nights with a slightly different show, and this year is the best-of.”
You mentioned in the show that you went to a circus school when you were sixteen, so did you always know that that was what you wanted to do?
“I did. No, I did acting as a kid, professional as a really young kid, and then amateur, and I learnt to juggle when I was about 11 or 12. Then when I was sixteen I took a BTEC, which is like A -Levels, and it started in London, so I left Sheffield and I went to London and I got a BTEC in circus-based performing arts. Although the course wasn’t that great, the people I met there, the things I did and saw there, it led me into this world. I have never done anything else, I have only ever done shows as a living.”
How did you meet the rest of the group? Did you know immediately that you wanted to create a show together?
“We have known each other for a very long time, a lot of us have worked in Covent Garden, in a street theatre pitch and shows there. Some of them have known each other for the best of 20 odd years. About, 10 years ago we said should we do a show together - I had moved to Devon and I wanted an excuse to bring them down to where I lived. So I said that I would put a show on in the theatre, and they came down and we did it together. It was such good fun, that we did more and more, and, when you look back at these things in hindsight, you see how the pattern works, but actually when it’s happening you are not sure. We formed officially in 2010 when we started ‘Slightly Fat Features’. We have done touring around the world since then, slowing down in the last year or two as lots of us have had kids, but we have done Montreal, France, Germany and all around the world and then Canterbury three times.”
Do you find it quite hard creating a show that both children and adults will enjoy?
“Our shows are always family friendly, we make a point of making sure there is no swearing and it’s clean. Sometimes it’s a bit cheeky, like the evening show last night, which was also much longer, about 2 hours in total. Sometimes making it for all ages it a bit of a hard sell, for example, this [matinee] show was clearly a children's show compared to the [evening] show we did last night, however, all shows we do are always for all ages.?
How long does it take to create a show? Where do you practice?
“We still create as we go. The way we work, because we have done street performing for so long, you do improvise as you go. You will improvise something and if you think it’s funny you put it in again the next night and try and tweak it, so you never really finish, you always change it and always make it better.We do have rehearsal periods and sometimes you spend a week rehearsing something without anyone watching it,so until you show it in front of an audience you think oh that was a good bit. We put it in front of an audience quite early, and then re-rehearse it and retweak it after. That’s the way we work really, I like to put things on stage quickly. Sometimes it’s impossible as you need props built and stuff like that but we try and put it on as quickly as we can and we get the reaction and think oh actually, your audience likes that more than that, and we go with what the audience like. We live in different places and rehearse in groups and then get together and rehearse before shows and stuff. We haven’t done a show together in a few months”
What is the best part of your job?
“The travel is amazing - we all also work solo, but the travelling without your family is also the hardest part. But, also doing the shows, a full audience that laughs and enjoys the show, the drug of doing a show that people like, that’s pretty addictive.”
What is your favourite trick?
“My favourite trick in this show was the Diablo, although I like the bounce-a-phone as well. I’ve done a unicycle for 20 years, so that’s the mainstay of my career, it’s something that I do pretty much every time that I do a show.”
Do you have any advice for young aspiring performers?
“Just keep doing it. Whatever it is, whether its amateur dramatics, a school play, a fair, if you enjoy the show just keep at it. You learn things every time you do it. Just keep going with it really, because you will get better and better, and you won't be scared on stage because its natural to be up there. Perform any way you can in any form. “
So you don’t feel nervous going on?
“You still feel nerves as an energy before you go on, but you feel more comfortable and confident out there, and that will lead to better pacing - if you can be more relaxed out there things will be better.”
Do you think it makes it easier, having people onstage with you that you know really well?
“Yes, because if you start to do something we will all start to go with it, and improvise together, if you are on your own, or you are working with a group that you don’t know that well, you have to be careful with where you improvise, because you have to be careful not to block them. You have to be improvising with everyone involved, otherwise you might as well do a solo show. With this group, because we know each other so well, it is brilliant.”
By Daisy O’Connor and Angelica Wright