TRCH Classic Thriller Season

Sophie Woolley

13 February 11 words: Rose Pearce
The star of C4's Cast Offs discusses her one-woman shows and her up-coming performance at Light Night
Sophie Woolley (in the dress) with other members of C4's Cast Off

Sophie Woolley writes and performs in her own one-woman plays featuring a mixture of flawed and poignant characters. She starred in Channel 4’s Cast Offs, and her satirical play When to Run was described by Irvine Welsh as ‘a stunning, electrifying show full of imagination and verve’. She will be performing at Word of Mouth on 18 February as part of Light Night alongside other members of the Nottingham Writers’ Studio. 

You’re headlining Word of Mouth on 18 February. Have you performed in the city before?
In 2009 I starred in a Channel 4 comedy drama series called Cast Offs. The show was set on a deserted island off Scotland but we filmed the back story in Nottingham - and the camp scenes were filmed in a nearby wood in Derby. I spent a month in Nottingham - staying in the Britannia Hotel. Cast Offs was made on a low budget but we were nominated for and won lots of awards. I feel lucky and proud to have been part of it.

I was also working with a computer programmer from Nottingham's Mixed Reality Lab recently, because my theatre company, Tin Bath, won a Theatre Sandbox award to create responsive subtitles for deaf people to enable them to access live performance.

Tell us more about Deaf Faker and how this represents your particular brand of humour? 
One of the darker strands in my comic writing at the moment touches on something quite topical, political and controversial, in a roundabout way.  I'm not being overtly political, you won't think that when you watch it. But it's taboo - TV and radio said no to me writing about this topic because it's "too dark". It's not offensive though, but sometimes people spit their beer out - it's that sort of laugh.

I'm making a series on You Tube called Deaf Faker. It's in the style of a 'faking it' or secret millionaire documentary. I play a hearing presenter whose mission is to fake being deaf. She says lots of idiotic, patronising, offensive and erroneous things, but they are based on things people actually say in real life. She's a very punchable character - according to my sister. Sometimes if something annoys or appals me, I make art instead of moaning. It's more powerful and more entertaining for everyone.

Photograph: Jamie Baker

What makes good comedy?
I think the way I do comedy is that people don't know where or when a joke is going to land. I'm not telling jokes, it's not joke, joke, joke. They don't know where my story is going. Sometimes they think they know where it's going and that’s when I change direction and do an unexpected punchline. 
Do you prefer writing material for yourself or others to perform?
Seeing other people do my writing is a good feeling. I am hoping to do more of it this year. The actors who did my Radio 4 play, Carbon Cleansing (Doon Mackichan and Joseph Kloska) last year were brilliant. The studio recording was really fun. They instantly understood the comedy in the writing. Right now I'm taking part in a new Channel 4 screenwriting scheme, writing a comedy drama serial. If it gets commissioned I don't know if I will try and get a part in it. Too early to say.

Has anybody in particular influenced your stand-up persona?
I don't think I'm influenced by anyone in stand up.  I hero worship Julia Davis though. She writes and acts too. Always loved Kathy Burke and Stewart Lee is brill.
What and where was the best on-stage experience of your career so far?
I think the first time I performed at a club, the first time I realised I could hold an audience has to be the best. I told a nightclubby gun massacre story at a cabaret in Brighton and got a really enthusiastic response. I felt euphoric.

And, if it's not too painful to remember, the worst?
A low point was performing in a basement club in Soho where the drains were overflowing in the toilets right into the club, it was pretty smelly, but it didn't seem to dampen the spirits of the crowd, who were all wearing rubber fetish wear.  I had to wear a rubber corset borrowed from a shop as well, to fit in like, but nobody told me you're supposed to put talcum powder on your skin to make it more comfy, and I found it hard to breathe.

Finally, could you tell us a little about what we can expect from your Word of Mouth performance for Light Night?
I'm doing character comedy, I'll be in character. But she looks like me...

Word of Mouth will take place in the Antenna cafe-restaurant at 9a Beck Street, NG1 1EQ at 7pm. Entrance is free and open to all. For more information, please see the Nottingham Writers’ Studio website.

Word of Mouth will also feature a poetic lecture on light by Alyson Stoneman, a comic tale in the Chaucerian style by Paula Rawsthorne, Michelle Mother Hubbard’s ‘Jazz Blues Woman’, managerial flights of fantasy from Robin Vaughan-Williams, as well as rising poetry star Debris Stevenson, Pippa Hennessy on bus trouble, novelist Maria Allen, and wordsound artist John Micallef.