Sketch team Delete the Banjax return after success of 2009
Word-of-mouth comedy hit of 2009 return for more
This article is from 2010.
Sketch team Delete the Banjax was the word-of-mouth hit of 2009. Jay Richardson finds a quartet with a very different set of worries this August
‘We came up with a bit of a reputation and it just went off!’ recalls Sam Champion, in a pub similar to the Free Fringe Royal Mile watering hole where Delete the Banjax established themselves last year. ‘We loved doing the Free Fringe and agreed with everything about it. It was fun but really cramped with four of us. So this year we’ve got more space, we can use lights, we can use tech, we can really go to town. There’s a lot more pressure too, definitely.’ Dan Cook grimaces: ‘People will be coming to see us with their arms crossed, muttering, “Go on then, apparently you’re well good, let’s have a look. Boooolshit!”’
Amidst the current crop of sketch troupes, Banjax stand out for being ‘more chaotic than most’, according to Cook. Champion prefers the description ‘ramshackle’, while Caroline May-Jones is keen to stress that theirs is an ‘organised chaos’. Gareth Cooper adds: ‘I think people find it difficult to know if we’re performing a sketch or improvising. We like that people assume a lot of it is improvised. Sometimes it is.’
Reprising some of their favourite skits, but performing mostly new material, the quartet will also be employing a director for the first time, Tommy and the Weeks’ Tom Bell. ‘We’ve branched out more in the type of sketches we’re doing because we knew we were in the Pleasance,’ Cooper explains. ‘Dan had written a couple of great ones that just happened to involve a bit more technical know-how. Cook adds: ‘It sounds like it’ll be really tech-heavy. It’s not.’ Cooper states: ‘There’ll be a few lighting changes and the odd sound effect. We’re saying this now. It’ll be full of blackouts when we get to Edinburgh, completely in the dark!’
Having met at the University of Birmingham, where their contemporaries included Idiots of Ants, Pippa Evans and Jessica Ransom – ‘it’s the new Oxbridge,’ snorts Cook – they decamped to the 2008 Fringe a mere two months after forming. With a bona fide female on board, they’ve never, as some sketch troupes are wont, needed to drag up for laughs. Though as May-Jones acknowledges, that won’t necessarily stop them. ‘It’s good because we don’t have to be as camp, slapstick or wink wink,’ says Champion. Cook interjects: ‘I never approach writing a sketch with the thought, “Ah, I can write a girl into this.” I have an idea in my head, and if a girl happens to be in it, fair enough. But it doesn’t mean Caroline’s going to play it.’
Indeed, if Banjax have a core dynamic, it’s perhaps three of the group channelling the fourth’s melodrama onstage and tempering it when they’re off. ‘Our show’s later in the day this year, which is nice,’ Cook says. ‘The last two years it’s been at lunchtime, which meant at the back of your mind you were always thinking, “Shit, I’ve got to get up at 10am,” which I’ve never liked, ever. It’s so miserable. It’s usually raining, I eat rubbish food, I drink too much. It’s stressful doing the show. And I have to share a room with Gareth, who’s a horrible cunt.’
Cooper: ‘We love it. A lot of beer floating around, a lot of parties. Everyone’s there to have fun, there’s a lot of creativity and everyone’s an actor or a performer.’ Cook: ‘Which is why I hate it!’ May-Jones: ‘What’s funny is you love it at the time, then we get to the last day and you say, “Christ, that was shit!”’ Cooper: ‘You’re a miserable human being.’ Cook: ‘He doesn’t exaggerate even.’
After the Fringe, they’d like to take Banjax on tour. But their ambitions are, for the most part, modest. ‘Dan would complain all the time, but I’d bloody love it,’ says Cooper. ‘We’ve not really thought much beyond Edinburgh, we haven’t got 18 TV scripts fired off.’ Cook leans in: ‘If I don’t have a six-part television series by September 1st, I’m literally going to kill myself after killing everyone else here.’
Delete the Banjax, Pleasance Courtyard, 556 6550, 7–30 Aug (not 17), 5.45pm, £8.50–£9.50 (£7–£8). Previews 4–6 Aug, £5.