What do you get when you combine clowning, pranks, comedy and creativity? Narin Oz knows
Narin Oz is an actress, comedian and writer known for her exciting, interactive theatre shows. Her shows are clever, hilarious and blur the lines of reality and fiction. She co-starred and co-wrote Channel 4's Girls Go Trolling, brought a prank show called Addicted To Love to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2014 and explored vile human behaviour and language in a theatre show called #DirtyWoman. Oz is currently performing her latest show BonQrz at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and here tells Mandy News how she came to be a performer, how to be successful at Edinburgh and more.
Narin, can you tell us a little bit about how you first got involved in comedy, television and theatre?
I studied at Aberystwyth University and did performance art, with film & TV.
I didn’t like my degree and I wasn’t very satisfied with it. So, I started taking the piss out of it. I was just doing any old thing. They would give us assignments and stuff, and I would mock it. They found it funny and I thought “oh, they like this!” I was getting good grades as well.
I started researching into a theatre group called Ridiculusmus – they are a performance art, comedy, theatre group. I didn’t research them back then, but a few years later, I realised that they studied with clowns, Philippe Gaulier was among them. At the time I didn't know that. I just liked them because they were funny and had their own rules
I also entered a comedy writing competition for Edinburgh and won Original TV idea. I was around 20 years old, I went up there and they gave us a workshop about TV and I thought, “wow, I think I want to do this.”
I did some stand up for a while and entered a competition called “So you think you’re funny”. They didn’t put me through to the second round, even though I was quite funny and everyone was laughing. I called them and asked, “why didn’t you put me through?” They told me the stuff I was doing wasn’t stand up, it was something else.
I was quite disheartened. I was only 21 at the time, so it hit hard. From there, I started looking into method acting. I went to the The Actor’s Centre and trained in simplicity. I looked at screen acting, because I love sketches as well. I’m a big Monty Python fan and like alternative comedy.
Afterwards, I started learning about clowning. I watched performers doing this weird comedy and I thought – “where’s the joke? There’s no punchline”. People were laughing and I thought that was genius. When I spoke to them they said to me, “what we do is clown.”
I started clowning and that was it. I started creating my own work. I used all the things that I’d learnt and put them together to create my own humour. It’s taken me a long time to have the confidence to write my own show. I’m 33 now.
I also dabbled in pranks as well. Addicted to Love, the show that I did in 2014, was a prank show. I didn’t know it was pranking though! I tend to encounter all these disciplines and then learn about the descriptions later. I’m like “ah, it’s a prank show! Oh, what I’m doing is clowns”.
I just thought, “wouldn’t it be really funny if I did a show and then it was destroyed because I fell in love with one of the audience members? Wouldn’t it be really funny?” That’s how I think.
That’s the mantra for all my shows really, I just think “wouldn’t it be funny if I did this?” It’s always tricky. I mean with clowns, one of the rules is to follow your pleasure and my pleasure is trickery. I just love it.
Tell us a little bit about BonQrz, the show you’re at Edinburgh with. How did it come about and how long did it take to put together?
At the end of The Fringe last year, I did a show called #DirtyWoman, which involved real topsoil. Afterwards, it was really difficult to tour in different venues, because it gets muddy. No one wants mud in their venue! BonQrz is an evolution of that really. It has a different name and a different character, but a similar theme of being conflicted with your identity.
I started creating BonQrz in October. I wanted to do straight stand up. I thought, “I’m not doing this theatre stuff anymore, I’ve had enough. I want no props. I just want to do straight jokes”. I just wanted to come alive on stage. I was nodding off, the people were nodding off and it was horrible. Then I thought, “how am I going to sabotage the show? I want to sabotage it somehow, I’m not enjoying myself”.
Originally, the show was about all my disastrous life choices, but that wasn’t selling it to people and it wasn’t selling it to myself. I have two budgerigars at home and I was looking at them and thought, “wouldn’t it be great to be a budgie?” They have no concerns and they are so carefree – all they care about is eating, shitting, f***ing and flying. That’s when the penny dropped and I thought, “what if the show was about how all my disastrous life choices make me want to be a budgerigar?”
So, that’s what happened. I changed the show. I found a straight jacket that looked like a budgie outfit. From zero props, I went to having a straight jacket from eBay that was £67, a budgie cage, a perch and s***loads of Costa coffee cups.
How did you go about collecting all of those?
I’m in Costa coffee right now, just to get more cups. I drink one and then I go downstairs and ask, “do you have any cups you don’t need?” Then, they look at me funny and I just turn around and say, “it’s for an art project”. Then it’s OK.
If you ask for something obscure and then say it’s for an art project, people tend to be more forgiving.
Edinburgh is difficult. How do you manage to put a show together, take it to Edinburgh, be a success and be able to bring another show back again?
The only competition I have is myself. I always film my shows. I’ve done about 18 previews. The audience approach me afterwards and they give me their feedback, or they email me.
I’ve had great responses so far. I’ve had emails telling me they loved the show, because essentially this show is all about being free to be completely yourself. It’s about embracing your own individuality. A lot of the time, we sabotage ourselves through addiction, love interests and things like that, and that’s kind of running away from yourself and your responsibilities. People can connect and understand that kind of stuff.
Lots of people have come back to watch it three or four times, just to see the development. When I go up to Edinburgh, I just give them the tagline and they come and watch. Obviously flyers help.
I make sure the show is just me. I don’t try to copy anyone else’s show. I try my best to use my own skills and do the best I can do and be the best I can be.
You co-starred and co-wrote Girls Go Trolling for Channel 4 – how did that come about and what was it like working on that?
The lady who created the show is one of my best friends, her name is Stephanie O'Keefe. I was doing lots of pranks for an online channel and she knew about my stuff. She’s a fan of my work and I’m a big fan of her work. She was doing a lot of pranks for the Metro newspaper.
We got together and created a pilot show about four women doing pranks. It was fun. I put my own kind of slant on the character. I was playing a detective anarchist. She loves playing sexy characters and she’s quite sexy herself. Whereas, I like playing morons, so it kind of works.
I enjoyed doing it. Screen performance and theatre are completely different. I come from a screen background, so theatre is all completely new for me.
I also did Hooligan Legacy. I played a crackhead named Crysta. The way I prepared for that role was drinking loads and loads of coffee to the point that people on set thought I was on something.
After Edinburgh, are you continuing with the same show? What’s next for you?
All I want to do is this show. I don’t want to do any other show, because I keep throwing away shows all the time and that’s like a form of self-hatred. I was sick of the last show. With BonQrz, I just want it to be really good and something that I’m proud of.
After Edinburgh, I’m not too sure what I’m going to do with it. It depends on the feedback from the audience and how it’s received. There’s no point doing something that people don’t like. If I receive great reviews and people loved the show, then I want to play bigger venues and maybe do it again at Edinburgh next year.
Ultimately, and this is the secret of why I’m doing the show, I really want a good agent. I’ve had different agents and I just end up finding my own work. I would like to be picked up by a very good agent, because I know I have the skills to handle it.
That sounds really bold, but I’ve been doing this for a long time. I would love people to come along and have a look. I have different skills that I can do. I can do happy and sad [laughs]. I’m joking. I can do angry. I’m single as well by the way, so if any agents are single as well [laughs].
More information on BonQrz can be found here.
BonQrz is playing at The Mockingbird (Venue 441) at Edinburgh Fringe Festival until August 26.
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