Spare Tyre reflects on humour and poignancy

Below is an excerpt from an interview with Clair Chapwell, Harriet Powell and Katina Noble, where they talk about the personal nature of the work, and striking the balance between creating humour and poignancy.

Audio transcript:

Harriet: My best memories, I think, and it’s be triggered by having a look at the songbook again this morning, I’ve had my grandchildren staying and I just opened it up, and I opened it up at ‘My Kids’, and I can remember singing ‘My Kids’ to huge audiences, and it was intimately personal stuff about drawn, I mean I was in character, but pretty much drawing from what I think, I feel about being a mum, and the lines like ‘a fridge full of rabbit jelly’, this weekend I made rabbit jelly for my granddaughter and then I read that, and I thought, Oh! Y’know it was really personal stuff, and it used to get laughs, and you know, that’s what I found amazing. I was writing this stuff which was just about me really, but it got to other people, y’know. It was all about recognition, about other women recognising…

Clair: That was the whole thing really, wasn’t it? If it worked for us, then it probably worked other people.

Harriet: And it was what made people laugh, it was about identifying, recognising really personal, intimate details of your life.

Katina: And there is nothing like the thrill of making an audience laugh.

Harriet: Yes, that is what I liked best.

Katina: That is just fantastic.

Clair: Yeah. ‘Cos, that is what we thought. We thought it’s a shitty old world, it was a shitty old world even then, and so why would you go around and make people feel rubbish, y’know? And y’know, it’s shitty to feel bad about how you look, it’s shitty to feel bad about the relationship you’re in and all that kind of stuff, so if you can get a laugh out of it, if you can kind of find ways to make people…

Katina: Laugh with the pain of it…

Clair: Laugh with the pain of it, y’know, find a way through that, that’s a huge art, and I mean to me, since then, I mean to me, I wouldn’t do a kind of sad song, I would just do a song that would be about the… that you’d find the humour in it.

Harriet: But I think we had the balance. Because I think some of the songs were not necessarily going for a laugh, some of them were just poignant because they were from what we felt.

Katina: [sings slightly] it’s such a pity, she had such a pretty face… [speaks] very poignant

Harriet: Or… lots of them were necessarily going for a laugh.

Katina: Lots of them. [sings] You’d think I was a mass-murderer, you’d think I was a thief… [speaks] that one, about being a lesbian… [sings] you’d think I… [speaks] whatever…

Clair: [sings] peddled heroine…

Harriet: [speaks lyrics] to cause so much grief.

Katina: Yes, and all I am is a lesbian in this play and I come off singing that song, and I was completely… ah!… it was just so moving, there weren’t many laughs in that.

Harriet: I think we did get a balance. And you wouldn’t have wanted, y’know, the whole thing to be a bundle of laughs. Y’know we were thinking about very serious stuff, so I think there needed to be that balance of poignancy and humour, and I think we did it.

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