TVLOS will introduce Melbourne audiences to a whole new stable of characters.
TV Live on Stage – Sketch Comedy Without the Idiot Box, honours the Aussie tradition of TV sketch comedy, but unlike our small screen heroes, TVLOS introduces Melbourne audiences to a whole new stable of characters live at Gasworks. Written and performed by VCA Grads Scott Dawkins and Sheona Urquhart, the pair are Coburg-tough as brother and sister Chantel & Elias, wonderfully clueless as dancers Kate & Pete and just plain loud as ”Everyday Chef” hosts Cathy Bakes and Marty Roland. Then there is the fierce takeaway owner-come-pimp Gloria and the painfully honest Spring Street hopeful Tim Goodfellow. The TVLOS family will be joined at Gasworks by music video re-workings, live music and a Navman. Also, TVLOS features adult humour and some naughty words.
I spoke with the enthusiastic and funny creators Sheona Urquhart and Scott Dawkins about their show – before and beyond:
You and Sheona are both graduates of the VCA – was it your ambition to pursue comedy or was it the dramatic arts that first grabbed your attention?
Sheona and I both studied Music Theatre at VCA, but we were fortunate that the course partnered with The Butterfly Club (South Melbourne) to allow us to produce and perform an original cabaret as part of our assessment. This was definitely the highlight of my time at VCA – working with Queenie Van de Zandt on script and David Young with music was just brilliant.
Being the complete Philistines that we are, both Sheona and I skipped over the whole legit cabaret genre and went straight for comedy – Sheona doing a tribute to Daniel Radcliffe (aka Harry Potter, complete with stalker megamix) and me playing a disinterested flight attendant working for Virgin Intergalatic.
I ended up doing a full show later on that Queenie was dramaturge on called Open Season: Auditioning Has Never Been So Wrong – the character of which has been updated and become Pete (of "Kate & Pete" our dancer characters in TV LIVE ON STAGE).
Where would you like your comedy to take you?
Well right now comedy is taking us both into debt! But we love it and can’t wait to set these characters loose on the world. We’re so lucky to have brilliant comics in this country who have been successfully making their own work – Gina Riley, Jane Turner, Chris Lilley, Rebel Wilson, Julia Zemiro, Wil Anderson…the list goes on. So much proof Australian comedy can work. So we’ll stick to what we can control – the writing, keeping things fresh and having fun with it, and we’ll let fate decide the rest.
So, this is ‘TV Live On Stage’ – can you talk a little about the process which lead to this path?
Well the name was originally a tongue-in-cheek tribute to the shows that were going around last year where a known format was suddenly "live on stage!" (always with an exclamation mark!).
However the idea of doing multiple characters came from our love of TV sketch comedy – the obsession particularly long lasting and severe in my case. Everything from Fast Forward to Big Girls Blouse to Little Britain to Catherine Tate to SNL to We Can Be Heroes to French and Saunders– I love them all. I love watching the skill of someone like Catherine Tate who completely transforms herself for every character – it really is an incredible acting feat (let alone brilliant writing!). So stupidly we thought we’d give it a go but do it live, one character after the next. Cut to ALOT of costumes with a strong reliance on Velcro.
Funding for the arts is often difficult. How difficult was it to find funds for this project?
We’re funding this season ourselves aka we eat less and have no social life.
Can you talk a little about the inspiration for the characters we will see in the show?
All the characters in the show are original and are an over-the-top smoothie of Sheona and my real life experiences.
There’s Marty Roland and Cathy Bakes, the hosts of EverydayChef – who are this ridiculous mix of bad daytime TV, a reality cooking show, and a complete lack of any ‘think before you speak’ faculties.
Dancers Kate and Pete were born out of the Idol, X-Factor, SYTYCD phenomena, with associated expectations of fame and absolute blind (yet wonderful) belief in your own talent. We also borrow from our own experiences as performers for these two (aka our stuff ups!).
The Coburg-tough brother and sister Elias and Chantel just seemed to pop out of our mouths one day (although I have an upbringing in south Sydney and some Middle Eastern heritage to thank as well).
Chinese takeaway-owner-come-pimp Gloria began as a German matchmaker (which came from a cinema ad!), who became Asian when Sheona came out with the accent. Throw in some unusual customs from a very real Chinese takeaway I visit (which ISNT a male brothel….I think) and there she was.
Tim Goodfellow the State-Government hopeful came from experience with politics over the last couple of years (and my sheer disbelief of what really goes on). Seriously – our political landscape of late is so terrifying it’s funny!
There are a few more characters we have kept secret for the Gasworks Melbourne season.
How much fun has it been to create them?
SO MUCH FUN! Sheona and I tend to start with an idea and we just talk as the characters until the scene comes. Unfortunately we tend to do this in public places. I think our local café think we ARE Kate & Pete.
Our show has a strong music element as well – Sheona is a master of the song spoof. There is one song Sheona does that makes me revert to being a nagging 5 year old – “DO IT AGAIN! DO IT AGAIN!!!”
What has been the biggest challenge in getting this show up and running?
Because we do so many characters, some with quite elaborate costume changes (and we have no costume helpers backstage!), we have made a few mini movies / skits that are spread throughout the show.
We now know why movies cost so much money to make!!! Days and days of filming for even the shortest 3 minutes music video spoof (and many more days of editing!). On the up side though, we’re been lucky to be able to shoot, direct, costume, stage and write all the films that we use, so it’s been a great learning curve. Thank heavens for some very patient friends who did everything from guest roles to manning the hose (that last one will make sense when you see the show!).
As comedic performers, do you feel that all topics are up for satire?
Well our style is to poke fun at elements of ourselves via the characters. For instance, I liked to think we’re not as delusional as the dancers Kate & Pete, but there is definitely some of us in there!
Can you talk about the logistics of your working life re. writing, rehearsing, preparation etc?
Like most actors, both Sheona and I have our ‘day jobs’, so we’ve gotten ourselves into the habit of working intensively for the time we have. We work alone from Tuesday to Thursday, and then from Friday night to Monday midday is devoted to the show. And that’s been going on for about six months. It’s safe to say there is very little mystery in our friendship now!
We’re also both lucky that we have employers that understand we’re passionate about this work and haven’t fired us!
What is next for you both?
Right now all our energy is focused on our Gasworks Melbourne season (13-16 Oct) – we want to exceed everyone’s expectations.