Looking suitably casual, as their name would suggest, and lounging on leather sofas, I sit with James Hamilton and Dave Newman, two Sussex students turned comedians. We are waiting for the third member of Casual Violence, the comedy group I am meeting today in promotion for their upcoming sketch show The C**T Monolgues (16th & 17th October, Marlborough Theatre). Meeting as members of the university drama society SUDs the collective was put together as an opportunity to create comedy sketch shows where they could ‘be free to explore avenues they had never gone down before’ without the limitations imposed by a society format.
Rosie Thomson arrives looking every bit the future comedy star and the conversation turns to how the collective actually functions: ‘Collaborative is one of the key words related to Casual Violence’ says Dave. ‘The really good thing about Casual Violence is that everyone has each other’s backs,’ Rosie continues, ‘for people who are first time writers they don’t have to feel intimidated or worried that their ideas aren’t funny, everyone can help out and contribute, share thoughts. It’s not rigid, there’s a lot of fluidity. Everyone’s up for… ‘ she pauses ‘Fun?’ I volunteer. Exactly it seems and they are really enthusiastic about it: ‘Everyone just wants to do what they love, you know, the more stuff we can produce the better. I just think it is going to be really exciting.’ I couldn’t agree more.
After two sell out shows and being asked to perform in London by the Sussex Alumni, they are modest when they admit that ‘the writing side is a learning process’- their brand of ‘quite dark, surreal comedy’, as they describe it, certainly seems to be working so far and with The C**T Monologues ‘the darkest yet, without a doubt’ it looks set to be a success.
Despite the shocking title and James admitting that ‘ those whose reaction to the title is “Ooh you can’t call it that! I wont come and see that!” probably wouldn’t find it funny anyway’, the shows aren’t as scandalous as you might expect. ‘I don’t particularly like shock comedy,’ James explains, ‘but I do like playing with audiences responses, I like trying to see what kind of things make people laugh, I don’t want to completely piss on their boundaries, but I do want to see if we can push them a couple of inches further-make people think it is going to go somewhere really horrible and then it doesn’t.’ ‘You throw the bomb in and then slowly defuse it?’ Alice Harman, Arts Editor injects. A resounding affirmative.
Dealing with sensitive subject, that Rosie laughingly explains, often causes ‘a sharp intake of breath’ from the audience, which the group relish as a ‘priceless response’, I wonder whether there is a hidden political or social agenda here. Is this engaged comedy? It seems not. They are all in agreement that ‘there is no particular social comment we are trying to make, no political stance we are taking or message we are trying to spread. It’s more comedy for comedy’s sake’. ‘But then again,’ Rosie adds, ‘all comedy is a comment on society and social behaviour. Its intrinsic, even if it’s not a clear statement, there are reasons that you choose to hold something up and make fun of it.’ And exactly as Dave had earlier said ‘comedy gives you the power to shed light on dark subjects, and see it in a way that helps you to understand it.’ Casual Violence aren’t just in it for the laughs.
In fact, Casual Violence seem to be anything but casual in their dedication to this project. With an anticipated output of a show a month, determination to make ‘every show we do better than the one before’ and plans to open the venture up to the public by working with a Brighton improvisation group to offer four hour workshops, once a month covering all aspects of comedy production from writing to acting, to stand up, they seem positively ambitious but then that isn’t really a surprise. After all ‘this is something we all want to do’ James explains ‘everyone doing it, wants to be in a similar sort of career be it, writer, film maker, musician, comedian, actor’ and I sincerely wish them all the best.
To join me in the front row, tickets for The C**T Monologues are £4 and are available now. For more information see www.casualviolencecomedy.co.uk