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The Marvellous Snake Boy - Interview

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by Tema (subscribe)
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Image sourced from the Adelaide Fringe website

Hailing from Sydney is a young yet seasoned comedian - Alexander Richmond - who has been creating and performing in shows for a while now. From sketch comedies with Baby Boy Bolognese 3 years ago, to penning an original musical (Holt! The Musical) last year, Richmond's work has attracted consistently rave reviews.

Now, Richmond will be bringing to Adelaide his solo piece - The Marvellous Snake Boy - as part of the upcoming Adelaide Fringe season. Using his audience, this show will involve the evolution of a creature into something that understands what it means to be human.

I was able to conduct an e-interview with Richmond, in anticipation of his participation at this year's Adelaide Fringe festival - have a read of our exchange below:

Tema: Can you please tell us a bit about yourself, Alex?
Alex: I have two hot tips.
Number one: If you want something different at your favourite Thai place, order a pad thai and order extra chilli.
Number two: Never perform with children or animals, only with child-animal hybrids.

Tema: What is the basic premise of your show (without giving too much away)?
Alex: I play a character in a solo show called "Snake boy". Snake boy is a real human boy, who was raised by snakes, but now wants to learn what it is to be human. And the audience is who is going to help him towards that goal. It's interactive and fun, especially if you enjoy karaoke.

Tema: What inspired you to create this show?
Alex: The first concept of Snake Boy was that I wanted to do a sketch, where the audience would teach me how to use my hands - and so, I created Snake Boy as a character who would need that kind of guidance. From there, I enjoyed the audience dynamic between this happy-go-lucky innocent creature, who was putting all this trust in the audience and wanted to play with that for an entire show.

Tema: What made you pursue comedy as a career?
Alex: My interest in comedy definitely stemmed from the extensive education that my Dad provided me. He introduced me to a great number of classic television comedy and movies, mostly British. This then spread out to me, looking into and searching even further afield for comedy and introduced him to quite a bit in turn. I did my first proper comedy performance at high school with my best friend doing a kind of two person comedy routine for a school talent contest. It went well and so it began to feel like a life goal more than a hobby.

Tema: Was it something you jumped straight into, or were you in another profession prior?
Alex: I went to the University of Sydney and while studying a media degree, I also took part in the vast amount of performance opportunities that were there - far more than anything offered at my high school. The amount of opportunities and like-minded people convinced me that comedy could be a real path I could take.

Tema: Did you undertake professional training / studies to become a comedian or is it a natural thing that you've had from the start?
Alex: No professional training or studies, as my school had nothing even close to a drama program. I didn't even really get to participate in any performing arts at all, until I was in Year 11. That's why I was so overwhelmed by the stuff offered at my university, even though I quickly learned that these kinds of programs were pretty common in most of the schools my friends had gone to.

Tema: What about comedy appeals to you?
Alex: I genuinely think that comedy is a wonderful genre for storytelling. Satire (in particular) plays such an important role in critiquing society. There is a lot of comedy at the moment that works with this wonderful one-two punch mode of storytelling by relaxing people with humor and then disarming them with a dark truthfulness underneath the joke.

Tema: How does it feel to prepare & perform a solo show?
Alex: It has pretty much just been me writing the show, performing it, making the music etc. On some nights, I've managed to rope in a friend to do my tech and perform with me for some of the bits that function for the narrative of the story. But, when I'm doing it all by myself, it's a very stressful experience - especially with trying to run all of the tech while onstage as ostensibly a mute character (for the first part of the show at least). It's a real workout.

Tema: How did you decide on the name of the show?
Alex: He is a boy raised by snakes and boy, is he marvellous! I wanted it to sound like one of those sideshow attractions.

Tema: What can people expect from attending your show?
Alex: Interactive theatre is a scary thing. Most people enjoy going to a show and feeling safe in the audience. Protected from the things going on onstage, especially for comedy shows, where nobody wants to be the butt of the joke - I've worked really hard to craft an interactive show, where it won't be intimidating to come and join Snake Boy on the stage.

Tema: What are you hoping for your audience to experience from attending your show?
Alex: I hope they get a real sense of being a part of Snake Boy's journey toward returning to human society.

Tema: How did you get involved with the Adelaide Fringe (AF)?How long have you been a part of the AF family? How have you found the journey so far?
Alex: I've attended the Adelaide Fringe the last three years, the last two with shows. There's no other festival like it in Australia, I love coming and hope it loves me as much as I love it.

Tema: How does it fare, compared to other Fringe festivals that you have been a part of?
Alex: For the answer to this question, I would like to direct you to the Sinead O'Connor song: "Nothing Compares 2 U".

Tema: Where has The Marvellous Snake Boy made an appearance so far and how has the reception been? Will The Marvellous Snake Boy continue with his adventures after his time in Adelaide? If so, where would that be?
Alex: I've performed the show a couple of times in Sydney, as part of the Sydney Fringe and hope to perform it in Sydney again soon, if the reception here in Adelaide is good. If it's not good, maybe I'll abandon him in a river like the scene in "The Ballad of Buster Scruggs" and buy a chicken that can count instead.

Tema: How did you score the venue Live from Tandanya for your show?
Alex: I begged desperately for the space with a projector, so that I could play my karaoke videos. So now I have 80 seats to fill each night. Plenty of room to party at my place, everyone!

Tema: Are there any specific activities that you're hoping to do, when you get to Adelaide?
Alex: I'm going to see at least 50 shows and doubt that I'll be in bed before 2AM any night. My partner may strongly encourage me to visit the in-laws, so I may have to get some rest to prepare for that.

Tema: Are there any performers that you're really looking forward to seeing at this year's Fringe?
Alex: Oh boy, there's almost too many to name! My good friends from the sketch group BKI are putting on an amazing sketch show and Issy Phillips and Juliet Timmerman's solo shows: "ASMR Live" and "A Perfect Debut" are a real treat.

Tema: Is there anything else that you'd like your audience / our readers to know about yourself and/or your show?
Alex: If you're afraid of snakes or boys (both entirely rational fears), I encourage you to come to the show and face them, because you will never encounter a snake nor a boy as innocent, demure and kind as the Snake Boy.

The Marvellous Snake Boy will be performing at the Tandanya Theatre from February 15 - 24, as part of Adelaide Fringe.

Book your tix here and follow Alex on Twitter to keep up with his updates.
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When: February 15 - 24
Where: Tandanya Theatre
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