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  • Writer's pictureHinton Magazine

Q&A : The Anniversary

The Anniversary is a physical comedy house party from hell. A blend of top-notch clownand physical comedy performance, by Daniel Tobias (The Orchid and the Crow) and Clare Bartholomew (The Long Pigs) who return to Edinburgh Fringe with physical comedy theatre that offers a visual feast from the set design to the absurd and joyful (sometimes raging) energy of its two characters Jim and Barb.

We asked Daniel and Claire a couple of questions, that they kindly answered, on a short break from trying to kill each other on stage.

Do you think old people are actually much more energetic on the inside that they have us believe?

Clare: Absolutely. My mum always used to say she felt like she was 26 in her head, and it was only when she looked in the mirror, she remembered she was older.

Dan: Every old person that I've ever spoken to all say that they feel like a young person on the inside.

Clare: They might not leap around and go out as much, and maybe they might want to get home earlier, my Dad is always happiest at home! If you engage with an older person about a topic that they're interested in, they'll tell you everything.

Dan: I think we underestimate our people all the time.

Clare: I often feel underestimated by younger people, even at my age!

Dan: I know some young people who are pretty old on the inside and not necessarily in a good way. Not all young people have a young spirit. Anyone at any age can lack imagination, wonder and curiosity.

What would you say is the one thing that old couples tend to be most frustrated about in a relationship? How did you work to convey this in your work?

Clare: I think being passionate about the same things or having the same timing and rhythm can be really important to each person in a couple, but it can change as they get older and some couples really need their partner to be invested in what they are engaging with and perhaps also to do things in a timely manner that they expect things to be done. In The Anniversary, my character Barb is all about precision timing and has great expectations that their party will be a super success and every detail is so well planned with the right food in the right place, at the right time. She is extremely concerned how they present to the outside world. The entire setup of the show is actually about Barb's desire to appear on top of things and as a hospitable, generous host.

Dan: We deliberately tried to think about the most dysfunctional aspects of people that we both grew up with; our grandparent’s, parent’s and even uncles and aunt’s relationships, and we've just tried to pick the funniest things that we could think of. That was the starting point, looking at our own families, but then when we had to tell the story of Jim & Barb and invent their narrative of what would happen to these two within one day in a pressure cooker scenario, so all their buttons are pressed. We also looked at our own dynamic as a performing partnership for 17 years; we have our own frustrations with each other that we’re very happy to poke fun at.

Clare: We’ve written scenarios that demonstrate differences in relationships and couple dynamics and it's all played out physically, with action and reaction. There's no text besides saying each other’s names and the names of our pets, Fluffy and Tiddles.

You have worked together creatively for a long time. Can you picture yourself at a golden anniversary of your own relationship? Do you think it would be wilder or somewhat tamer than the one in the play?

Clare: We’ve already been working together for almost 18 years, so whilst it’s hard to imagine that we would still be working together in our 80’s…anything is possible, and wouldn’t that be wonderful in many ways?

Dan: We do drive each other nuts sometimes backstage but what I would say is by that stage, we will have had so much counselling and therapy that our relationship will be so functional, that it's going to go really smoothly.

Clare: Yes! Much smoother than Jim & Barb’s party. We'd have lots of champagne and yummy food, amazing acts and live music. We might have to be wheeled in, in our beds but it would be fabulous!

Would you say that there is always a point in a long-term relationship when both completely run out of things to say to each other?

Clare: I don’t think that always happens, but perhaps if a long-term couple are just doing the same things every day, and not keeping active, reading books, seeing friends, going to films and theatre away from their partner with other friends, so then you have something to talk about.

Dan: I think Jim and Barb had definitely run out of things to say to each other. They’re both completely stuck in a pattern they’ve bought in to.

Do you think age is just a number? Does this apply to the fickle world of acting?

Dan: I think what happens when you're young is you definitely have a lot of energy, hunger and passion, (which I personally don't feel like I've lost), but I feel I've gained ways to get to where I want more quickly now because you learn from your mistakes.

Clare: Some people can attribute a certain set of biases or thoughts about someone who's a particular age, I mean I think everyone does this in one way or another. Some people do seem older than their biological age and some people defy the stereotypes of an older aged person. Definitely the commercial world of acting is extremely ageist, that’s why we write our own shows so we’re not boxed in by a casting directors expectations of what someone our age should be doing!! I think Australian television in particular is very conservative in regards to the age and appearances of actors who we see on our screens. UK has way more varied characters and actors in their shows.

In an increasingly noncommittal society, do you think we are likely to see many 50-year anniversaries of any kind of relationship?

Dan: I think all kinds of relationships are valuable. And simply being in a relationship for a long time is not automatically a sign of a healthy relationship. Maybe in the future we’ll see more 50th celebrations for relationships other than marriage.

Clare: Yes, but it is easier sometimes to have the best time in a short time because you’re still in the thrilling exciting time of the new relationship glow! The trick is how to keep that glow going in a 50-year relationship….or perhaps accepting that when the thrill wanes hopefully a deep friendship and trust is there which has its own value. But I’s say that the 50-year anniversary is definitely on the decline, so do come and see The Anniversary, the last 50th celebration in the world!!

The Anniversary, Pleasance Dome (King Dome), 12:00pm, 3-28 August (not 10, 17 or 24)