Natalie Palamides – 'I had blood all over my egg costume and a tissue up my nose. Then this little kid started crying. It's a fun memory'
- Yasmin Sulaiman
- 2 August 2017
Fringe debut with a show full of eggs, eggs and more eggs, directed by Doctor Brown
If anything can prepare you for the messy, absurd humour of Natalie Palamides' LAID, maybe it's this anecdote: 'When I was going over to London for the Clown Festival,' she telIs me on the phone from LA, 'I had this big egg costume which I had to wear on the train and my nose started bleeding – it was so embarrassing, I looked crazy. I was getting a bunch of looks, I had blood all over my egg costume and a tissue up my nose. Then this little kid started crying. It's a fun memory.'
Here's hoping for no blood loss as she makes her way to Edinburgh for this year's Fringe. It'll be the first time at the festival for this character comedian and clown, but over in the US, Palamides has form. Originally from Pittsburgh, Palamides worked with Philadelphia's acclaimed Pig Iron Theatre Company, and is now on a team at renowned comedy and improv breeding ground, LA's Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre. In LAID, which comes to the Fringe via Soho Theatre, she'll be donning said giant egg costume for the stage, where she'll lay an egg every day and faces the same decision each time – should she eat it, or nurture it?
'They're so fragile you know, which allows for a lot of comedy,' she says. 'They can break at any second, you can eat them but they also represent the life cycle as well. There's so many levels an egg can achieve. It can be really funny but also really sweet and sincere with the way it connects to motherhood and the fragility of life.'
Thoughtful words – but don't be fooled, this show has plenty of silly to throw at its audience. After all, it's directed by renowned clown and Fringe favourite Doctor Brown (aka Phil Burgers), who won the Edinburgh Comedy Award in 2012 for his beguiling, bizarre and utterly hilarious Befrdfgth. It's a partnership that was born when Palamides started taking Burgers' clowning classes.
'I asked Phil if he'd work on something with me,' she explains, 'and he was like, "how about you do a solo show and put it out next week?" So within a week, I just threw up the show for the first time, I beated out the outline, and improvised my way through it. That was in September, then every week since I've put up the show. I've never rehearsed it without an audience.'
And now it's coming to Edinburgh, she's feeling the pressure of having the Doctor Brown stamp of approval. Not that he's letting her rest on her laurels.
'Phil is a really supportive, generous teacher,' she says, drily, 'but he's also a hard-ass. He calls me Shat – it's a way of keeping me in my place, keeping my ego in line. It kind of sounds like my name – you know, Nat, Shat. But it's also a word for like, shit. He's always like "Shat, don't fuck this up". He's just kidding though. But kind of not.'
Burgers' success has done a lot to change people's perceptions of clowning in comedy at the Fringe, though Palamides says she still has to explain to people the difference between her clowning and circus clowns.
'It's more about being with the audience and being vulnerable,' she says, 'and being open to whatever the audience is giving you. Clown is all about giving the audience what it wants, you know. So hopefully if you have a good show or have a good bit, they'll want you to do your bit as planned but sometimes you have to change it up a bit. It always keeps you on your toes. The show's never the same.'
And with props that are as breakable as eggs – all of which Palamides pulls out of her costume – mishaps are inevitable. 'One show in Brighton,' she laughs, 'I ran out of eggs, Phil reamed me after the show. Now I have more, so that's good because throughout the show I continually pull out eggs, so I like for the audience to keep thinking "whoah, how many eggs this girl got up there?", you know.'
Loads, apparently – so many that Palamides has to put a huge tarp down to be able to clear up the soiled stage quickly enough after every show. 'I think people are grossed out,' she admits. 'But that's all part of it, it's raw. I've got eggs going everywhere, I've got this woman going through labour, eggs are dying, eggs are getting eaten. There's life, there's death. It's madness.' Perfect, then, for this mad month of August in Edinburgh.
Pleasance Courtyard, 5–27 Aug (not 14), 4.15pm, £10–£12 (£9–£11). Previews 2–4 Aug, £7.