Brother Sun & Sister Moon embark on a ten day residency at Edinburgh’s Fringe Festival this week. Operating in the creative spaces between comedy, theatre, burlesque and cabaret, the pair use dark fairytale storytelling, nudity and audience participation to make poignant points about gender, race and the restrictions of binary identity. And, of course, have a bloody good laugh along the way. Porscha Jean and Natalie Walmsley told GIITTV all about the polar opposite characters they inhabit on stage and shine a light on what makes them tick.
You embark on your Edinburgh stint in a couple of days’ time – how are the preparations going?
Porscha: I’ve just been to Hackney to collect four kilos of glitter! We’re also looking for a stream for the set, which I think we may have found today. Tonight, I’m going to be making some jackets.
Do you have to take it easy when you’re up there in Edinburgh or will you be throwing yourself into the partying side of the Fringe?
Natalie: If it was my seventh or eighth year at Edinburgh I’d probably want to have a really chilled time. But it’s only my second time and our first together with Porscha:, who’s my best mate from university, so I think important to get out and about and meet people and socialise.
How did the two of you meet?
Natalie: We were both at Brunel University on the edge of London together. There’s a whole gang of about 20 of us who still knock around together now. Porscha was bin thea year below – she had had her septum pierced, which I thought was interesting, and she came up to me and said ‘oh, I see you’ve got your nose pierced too’ and it went from there.
Did you perform together when you were there or did that come later?
Natalie: We both appeared in a production of ‘The Vagina Monologues’ along with a lot of other women. But the idea for doing this show together was came about because I’d seen Porscha doing a show where the character she did was based on a vagina and I thought it was great. I’d just come back from Slovenia and I’d really been getting into a lot of the dark folklore and fairy tales that are part of the culture there. I had a book of fairy tales by (19th century German writers) the Brothers Grimm and I really wanted to do something based on that. So I asked her and she said yes.
So, the show is based around three Brothers Grimm stories?
Natalie: Yes – we do ‘The Boy Who Played Butcher’, ‘The Cooking Pot’ and ‘The Sausage Feast’. We’ve kept quite a lot of the text although we’ve written quite a lot of extra material, the more abstract stuff, for it too.
Porscha: They are quite dark. ‘The Boy Who Played Butcher’ has multiple deaths at the end which the audience seems to enjoy. People really like death!
Who are your comedy influences?
Natalie: The League of Gentleman, Julia Davis – ‘Nighty Night’ is one of the best things ever – Lolly Adefope, Mr Blobby, Teletubbies and Geri Halliwell.
Porscha: There are loads really but the first one that springs to mind is Catherine Tate.
Are the characters that you play on stage – the brash, pushy Brother Sun and the less confident, put upon Sister Moon – like your own personalities in real life?
Portia: I’m not mean in real life! Although it’s fun playing someone mean on stage though.
Natalie: I think it’s more like the opposite really. I’m probably the more forceful of us in real life and Porscha is a bit more girly.
You don’t fit into a convenient genre pigeonhole – where do you see yourselves?
Porscha: We didn’t want it to go under the comedy banner even though that’s part of what we do – but we haven’t dodged the cabaret tag. We touch on a few different themes, like gender, non-binary identity and race in the show. I don’t want to give too much away but there’s a very important part of the show that revolves around race.
Drag and nudity are involved too?
Natalie: We do drag, but we do it in a really different way. Obviously, the image most people have when you mention drag is of a man dressed as a woman, but there’s been a tradition of the other way around that goes back hundreds of years.
Porscha: The nudity isn’t a sexual thing, it’s about freedom, about feeling free almost in a childlike way. I’m actually much more comfortable wearing no clothes than just a few clothes.
Brother Sun & Sister Moon perform at The Space Tent, Symposium Hall, Hill Square Gardens (opposite Pleasance Courtyard) from Thurs Aug 15 – Sat Aug 24, 18:45pm (45 min show).