Interview with comedian and writer Niamh Denyer

"There’s always that moment before a show where you ask yourself why on earth you put yourself through it, but then at the end you want to go back out and do it all again. It’s the adrenaline rush, connecting with people, making people laugh, there’s nothing else quite like it."

Interview with comedian and writer Niamh Denyer

Could you first introduce yourself to the reader?

I’m an actor and writer from Ireland. I moved to London a few years ago to go to drama. I started writing my first play, Exile, for my dissertation; it eventually turned into an hour-long show. I went on to perform it at the Kings Head Theatre, Lion & Unicorn Theatre and Southwark Playhouse as part of the SWK Festival. Over the pandemic I began doing comedy sketches of this character called Áine on my Instagram, just to pass the time really. Now it’s evolved to becoming material for my debut hour at Edinburgh Fringe. I’ve never done a run there before so it’s nerve wracking but exciting. 

How would you describe your show?

It’s a character comedy solo show. I play funeral celebrant Áine Reilly. She's at Fringe to teach the audience the art of the perfect send off. “Learn how to turn death into a living!” is her mantra. It’s interactive, fun and there may or may not be a powerpoint presentation.  

What is your favourite part of your show?

The audience interaction, you never know quite what’s going to happen.

If your show had a theme song, what would it be and why?

Money, money, money by Abba. She likes to make money.

What is one thing you hope audiences will take away from your show?

A tummy ache from laughing.

If you could add a surprise celebrity cameo to your show, who would it be and why?

Sharon Horgan, I love her work and she could play a character in Áine’s world no bother. Can I have Aisling Bea too?

Why do you want to perform at Edinburgh Festival Fringe?

I wanted to push myself out of my comfort zone, and finally experience it as a performer.

What differentiates it from other festivals?

The length of the festival, and the sheer amount of shows in one city across so many different genres, it’s a world of its own.

What is one thing you would change about the Edinburgh Festival Fringe?

The cost to bring a show there. It is very unaffordable.

How has your background, upbringing and education had an impact on your artistic career? 

I grew up in Ireland where theatre, music and drama are a big part of the fabric of society. Luckily, I had very supportive parents who enrolled me in drama classes from a young age. I was also a member of two youth theatres, which helped me to grow in confidence. Ireland has great opportunities for drama and for performing outside of school, but unfortunately you can’t take drama as a subject in school, which I think is a crying shame. When I was just about to finish school, the main drama school in Ireland that you could obtain a BA in Acting at shut down, so I ended up doing a general degree in Drama & Theatre studies at Trinity College instead. In some ways this gave me a broader education in the subject, I took classes in a range of subjects from performance theory, playwriting to directing as well as acting. I also got the chance to study abroad at University of California Berkeley, which was an amazing experience. Despite all of this, deep down I knew I really wanted to be a performer, so I eventually moved to London to train as an actor. 

What is your favourite thing about performing for a live audience?

There’s always that moment before a show where you ask yourself why on earth you put yourself through it, but then at the end you want to go back out and do it all again. It’s the adrenaline rush, connecting with people, making people laugh, there’s nothing else quite like it.

What is the strangest thing that has ever happened to you while performing?

My show is all about training people on how to deliver funerals and all manner of ceremonies. An old friend came along to a preview and brought her Aunt and Uncle with her. I found out after they were both pastors. Thankfully they saw the funny side of the show and rolled with it.

What's the most challenging or unconventional venue you've ever performed in, and how did it impact the overall experience?

I performed a work in progress of Get Blessed! in the basement of a Thai Restaurant. To be honest it added to the show, it was very random and therefore very funny and the character could use it for material. Another time I toured in a play around the Islands of West Cork. We performed in some unusual places including an old schoolhouse, our dressing room was a building site around the back of it.

Is there a piece of feedback you've received from an audience member or critic after a performance that’s stuck with you? 

My last show Exile was about a young Irish woman travelling to the UK to obtain an abortion when it was still almost completely illegal in Ireland. I had several people tell me afterwards they had gone through that experience, or knew somebody who had, and that I had portrayed it very accurately and sensitively, that always stuck with me. You want to get that right.

What is your favourite thing to do in Edinburgh when you're not performing? How do you relax and look after your mental health?

I haven’t been a performer there before, but I intend to get out for a decent walk or run as many days as I can to clear my head. I’m also saving a few TV shows to watch while I am there.

Is there a show you’re excited to see when you’re up there?

So many! My husband is doing a work in progress show called Infinity Mirror. We have both been caught up in our own worlds making shows, so I am excited to see how his show has progressed. I also can’t wait to see Catherine Cohen live again and to see Alsion Spittle and Sofie Hagen. 

What is one piece of advice you’d give to someone thinking about taking a show up to Edinburgh? If you’ve never been before, what would you say has been (potentially) the most useful?

Doing previews to test out material, it helps you grow in confidence before the run. Also, getting help with my PR has taken a big weight off my shoulders (thanks to PR Master Julian!). Everyone told me that it’s worth investing in, and I completely see why now. When you’re writing, producing and performing in a show, taking one big thing off the list makes a world of difference. Oh, and start saving, like now. 

When and where can people see your show?

1pm in Gilded Balloon’s Patter Hoose in the Coorie!

And where can people find you online?

Instagram @niamhdenyer and Twitter @NiamhAgnesRose

Header Image Credit: Provided

Author

Tom Inniss

Tom Inniss Voice Team

Tom is the Editor of Voice. He is a politics graduate and holds a masters in journalism, with particular interest in youth political engagement and technology. He is also a mentor to our Voice Contributors, and champions our festivals programme, including the reporter team at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

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