Lady Garden - Women of substance

This article is from 2009

Lady Garden

Marissa Burgess meets the acclaimed all-female sketch collective Lady Garden and discovers a welcome earthiness to the group. But will they get through their next Fringe smelling of roses?

I‘m sure there will be a load of shit props in this year’s show,’ laughs Jessica Knappett, one sixth of all-female sketch troupe Lady Garden. ‘If there’s one thing we can guarantee, it’s a load of shit props,’ confirms Rose Johnson. ‘Yeah, we’ve got a potato chorus line. You heard it here first, it’s an exclusive,’ divulges Beattie Edmondson. ‘They’ll have mini bowler hats,’ chips in Johnson excitedly. ‘We haven’t quite agreed on this one have we?’ admonishes Knappett with a wry smile. ‘People will be protesting outside: "we came for the potatoes!"’ exclaims Johnson.

Potatoes or not, Lady Garden’s second Fringe outing will be something to catch. Last year, their debut show created a buzz with its sharp writing, impeccable comic timing and props that weren’t actually that rubbish. Sitting around with Knappett, Johnson, Edmondson (daughter of Jennifer Saunders and Adrian Edmondson) Hannah Dodd and Camille Ucan (we caught up with founder member Eleanor Thom on the phone earlier) on an unusually sunny day in Manchester, the way in which they bounce off each other gives an idea of the inherent dynamism that’s one of the reasons the group work so well together.

Remarkably, they had only performed one gig as Lady Garden before last Edinburgh, having first appeared on the same bill just two years ago when the six were all studying drama in some capacity at Manchester University after Thom organised a comedy night at a campus venue. ‘I really wanted to show some material that I’d written and asked around other people that wanted to do it as well,’ explains Thom. ‘So I set up a comedy night with Camille where it was all original material; there was no audition process, it was just for anyone who wanted to put some new stuff on.’

They reprised the gig and opened it out to the general public at Manchester’s Comedy Store. Then they decided to go to Edinburgh with a more streamlined show. ‘I spoke to Camille about it and we decided that we couldn’t take a show of 20 people for an hour’s slot in Edinburgh,’ elucidates Thom. ‘We said that we really like working with this person and that person and basically just asked the other four if they wanted to be involved.’

Despite the aforementioned one preview gig, the Fringe run ‘went very well, all these amazing things just kept happening every day,’ recalls Johnson. ‘We went there to do a good show and have a nice time and it was so exciting when people wanted to come and see it and write a review.’

This year, apart from threatening the inclusion of hat-wearing Maris Pipers, they’ve toyed with the idea of more audience interaction. ‘Some groups are really good at that like Pappy’s Fun Club and Tommy and the Weeks,’ states Knappett while Johnson adds: ‘also, a lot of those people do stand-up as well, but if you’ve never done stand-up and you come from an acting background like a lot of us here, the idea of coming out of character and acknowledging the audience is a big deal.’ ‘All of our scene changes were like: “move the chair, move the chair, don’t look at the audience, start the sketch, now go”!’ laughs Ucan of those awkward in between scene moments.

The ladies’ main concern at the moment is making the show good enough to live up to the hype from last year. So are they nervous at the prospect? ‘Yes, terrified,’ is the response from all. ‘Even if we are better, people will be judging us on an inflated view of what we actually are,’ confirms Edmondson. ‘Maybe we’re not the underdogs anymore,’ ponders Knappett. ‘I don’t think we are,’ considers Edmondson. It’s a tough gig but they’re more than capable of winning over Edinburgh a second time. And if all else fails there’s always the potatoes to roll out.

Lady Garden, Pleasance Courtyard, The Pleasance, 0131 556 6550, 9–31 Aug (not 19), 5.20pm, £9.50–£10.50 (£8–£9). Previews 5–8 Aug, £5.

Lady Garden

  • 3 stars

After accidentally signing up for two years on an Edinburgh flat, we're back. Pop in, we're just over the road. Hackney Empire New Act finalists 2009. 'One of the funniest, clever and sexy new sketch groups' (Time Out).