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Interview: Greg Chapman

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This Saturday, Greg Chapman brings his “one-man variety” show to the centre, with two performances – a family-friendly matinee and a more grown-up evening show.

But what can you expect? Well, we caught up with the man himself to find out…

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Hi Greg! We’re really looking forward to having you at the centre. First off, can you tell us a bit about yourself and your background, training and so on?

I was lucky enough to grow up on stage – quite literally! My father was a Square Dance caller, and at 3 weeks old I was sleeping in a cot at the back of his stage. I think, largely because of that, one of the most comfortable places for me to be is on stage in front of a friendly audience.

I left school at 18 thinking I would be a Shakespearean actor, then realised how much I hated learning lines, and moved into creating comedy shows. In 2007 I started work in Italy, and spent most of the following 9 years touring comedy and magic shows in schools over there - thousands of performing hours led me to my own style of performance, taking skills and tricks, mixing them with comedy, and trying to then create the feel of a 'conversation' with the audience!

How did you come up with a "one-man variety show"?

I enjoy learning new skills. I've juggled since I was seven, and studied magic since I was about ten, but I have always wanted to expand into new skills, and try things in different ways. A lot of performers end up working in one style - they are escapologists, comedians, jugglers or magicians for example. I never wanted to get tied down to one description of my performances, and so I became a one-man variety show. Some of the skills I have picked up were a surprise to me. I spent 2 years studying Physical Theatre at the Physical Theatre Studio in Turin because I happened to get to know the teacher of the course, and so I picked up mime skills – not something I had ever pictured myself doing.

This moving between areas also lets me blend skills. I look at juggling with a magician's eye, for example, or at escapology through the eyes of a comedian. This gives a little twist to everything I do!

Is there a "typical" Greg Chapman show, or can it vary from place to place?

I once had a family friend come and see one of my shows. Afterwards they told my mother that they were glad they now knew what my shows were like – and my Mum's response was to laugh and tell them they knew less now than they did before! From show to show, and even within the 90-minute shows, the style changes dramatically.

Of course, there are some perennial parts of the act – if you see me perform you will almost always see me juggling knives and animal traps for example, but if there is one 'theme' I could say underlines my shows it is spontaneity. I treat shows as a conversation with the audience, and I feed off of them, and I live for those moments when something off and unexpected happens and throws the show off down an unexpected rabbit hole. I think the moments my shows reach their peak is if you hear me utter the words 'It's all gone a bit weird now!'. I'm really looking forward to being at the Rising Sun Arts Centre for that reason – intimate venues like this always seem to boost the connection between the audience and myself!

We have two shows coming up – what can we expect from both the family-friendly matinee and the more grown-up evening performance?

First of all, don't expect the evening show to be a torrent of four letter words! A long time ago I made the decision not to swear on stage - not as a moral point against swearing, but because I see so many comedians 'cheating' – swearing to help a joke that isn't quite funny enough. I want my jokes to stand or fall on merit! That being said, escapology in particular lends itself to a whole range of jokes that won't be included in the family show! You'll have to wait for the evening show to hear any comments about the 'Fifty Shades of Greg'...

You can expect some more in-depth pieces and some slightly darker pieces from the evening show, and the evening show does feature a few tricks which take us into the world of fraudulent mediums from the late 1800s and early 1900s – a period I find particularly fascinating. But that doesn't mean the show doesn't also include the same style silliness as the afternoon show – it’s just packaged a little differently. If people want to see both, they may see a few crossover tricks, but they will see a different show.

And finally, is there a particular trick or part of your act that you're the most proud of?

There are so many little pieces of the show that make me smile just thinking of them, and ones I get requests to do over and over again. For me a 'favourite' piece has to be one that combines people asking me to perform it, with the fact that every time they do I leap at the chance. There are certain bits that fit that description which I would ruin for anyone reading this by giving away some of the surprise. However, the piece that leaps out when I'm asked about favourites is one I've been performing since 2010, and is a favourite I know with both myself and a lot if my audiences. I can pretty much guarantee that both shows will feature a few minutes dedicated to history, as I rarely perform a 90-minute show without including my personal retelling of the Battle of Hastings... through the medium of interpretive dance!

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Excited? We are! And you can guarantee your place in the crowd by grabbing your advance tickets:

  • Matinee – doors 2pm, tickets available here
  • Evening – doors 8pm, tickets available here

Listen to Greg's podcast, Greg Chapman's Tales From The Road right here

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