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Vikki Stone is Putting on Her Stand-Up Song Show at Nottingham Playhouse

18 October 19 interview: Miriam Blakemore-Hoy

She’s serenaded the likes of Professor Brian Cox and Phillip Schofield, and now Vikki Stone is bringing her new stand-up show Songbird to Nottingham. We caught up with the award-winning comedian and musician to talk about her comedy inspirations, creative process and what she thinks of our fair city…

You’ve been described as the bastard love child of Victoria Wood and Tim Minchin with a Kate Nash edge. Would you say that’s accurate?
It’s always flattering to be compared to people who have pioneered the form. They are a blend of stand-up and musical theatre, so it's interesting to think about the origins of those things, rather than necessarily comparing myself to other people. There’s been criticism before that I’m not pure stand-up, but that’s not what I’m trying to do — I’m just trying to present something that I enjoy. 

Why were you inspired to combine music and comedy?
I went to the Royal Academy of Music to study Musical Theatre. When I was nineteen, I was trying to audition for all the funny parts in musicals, like Madame Thénardier in Les Misérables or Mrs Lovett in Sweeney Todd, but they’re generally for older women. I started writing my own funny songs; I didn’t really know where to take them, but then I got the idea to put them out into the stand-up world. It was either that or cabaret, and I didn’t know much about cabaret. I just guessed my way through and here I am!

Who were your comedy inspirations?
Growing up, Bette Midler was an inspiration. She can move from a serious song to a sketch to being daft, and, watching her, you see her represent what she wants to represent. In this country, and this business in particular, we like putting people into little boxes, like how the Edinburgh Festival is arranged into theatre, comedy and music. If you’re someone who straddles all of those areas, you feel like you don’t fit in.

I’m going into hiding and writing for four months as soon as I finish my tour

When you’re writing new material, which comes first — the comedy or the music? 
Normally it’s the lyrics. A song can sound nice and the jokes all work, but it’s just not quite in the right style. The hard work comes with the premise — chucking tunes on things is quite easy.

I love your Brian Cox song! Did you have any idea that he was going to turn up on stage when you performed it on the John Bishop Show?
No I didn’t! They deliberately kept it a secret from me — it was very stressful. The show didn’t go out live but, as a comedian, you don’t want to retake your material because it won’t get the same reaction from the studio audience. We were at the Hackney Empire and I wanted to get the sound right. It was all a bit fraught — the BBC were trying to get me to remove lyrics and we were fighting to keep them in. My call time kept getting pushed back too, and I thought I was going to end up getting cut out. What I didn’t realise was that they were pushing it back because Brian Cox was at a dinner party!    

Was it hard to keep a straight face when you were serenading Phillip Schofield on This Morning? He really wasn’t that far away from you…
Yeah, it was the first time we’d met! We’d rehearsed it with two floor managers, so I was prepared for how close he was going to be. Because it was live, I was far more nervous about getting the lyrics right because I’d rewritten the ruder bits to make it broadcast friendly. I was having to concentrate quite hard to make sure I didn’t go into any muscle memory and sing the original lyrics, which was far more stressful than the proximity of Phillip Schofield. 

Did you find giving a TEDx talk in Cern intimidating?
The TED talk was actually quite easy. It was really eye-opening because there were twelve of us filming at the same time. Imogen Heap and I were the only two arts performers, and everybody else was a scientist or a leader in their field and were incredibly nervous, desperately trying to memorise their talks. Me and Imogen do it for a living, so we felt fine! As a performer, you can sometimes forget how nerve-wracking it can be. 

A song can sound nice, and the jokes all work, but just not be in quite the right style. The hard work comes with the premise - chucking tunes on things is quite easy

After being in Howard Goodall’s Girlfriends, would you like to do more theatre?
I’m going into hiding and writing for four months as soon as I finish my tour! I’ve got three commissions to finish — one pantomime, one play and one musical. I’m really trying to establish myself as a theatre writer, and being in Girlfriends was a real step out of my comfort zone. We recorded a live album, and it had been such a long time since I’ve stood there and sang rather than trying to get laughs. But I would like to do more of it, because it pushes me to do something different.

You’re bringing your new show Songbird to Nottingham this month. Is it your first time in the city?
I have been to Nottingham before; it’s a really forward-thinking, contemporary city. You get to travel to loads of places when you’re doing my job, including lots of cities that you wouldn't necessarily go to on holiday. But Nottingham is a great place and the Nottingham Playhouse is a fantastic venue. I’m really looking forward to performing there.

Can you tell us a little bit about your new show?
Songbird is a stand-up show that’s really joyful. It’s escapist. I’m deliberately trying to make it more playful, fun and funny. And it’s the sort of show that actually manages to straddle generations, which is not what I intended to do, but when your audience come you realise there’s something in there for a wide range of people. I’m really pleased with it.

 

Vikki Stone will be performing Songbird at Nottingham Playhouse on Monday 21 October
Vikki Stone website
Nottingham Playhouse website

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