Hannah Croft and Fiona Pearce are two Oxford Graduates who have since become the comedy double act ‘Croft and Pearce’. Currently, they are touring a sell-out Edinburgh show and have also had their own series on BBC Radio 4. They come to the Old Fire Station in Oxford for one night only on Thursday the 23rd of February (£12/£10).
I begin by asking the duo how their comedy act began, to which they say “when we were at Oxford, we imagined we’d spend our twenties enjoying success as the greatest classical actresses of our generation, wringing our hands over a samovar in a Russian classic at the National Theatre, or falling in love with our leading man at the RSC (probably a tall actor with great hair called Dominic). Strangely, that didn’t happen. Life is cruel. And we discovered we had time on our hands, a desire to perform, and some terrible day jobs that were just asking to be written into sketches.” However, swapping classic for comedy certainly hasn’t been a bad shout for Croft and Pearce. “Our first gig was a three minute set on our friend’s comedy night downstairs in a pub in London and we’ve taken it from there”: yet three minutes soon became sell-out shows at the Edinburgh Fringe. Croft and Pearce took ‘Croft and Pearce are not themselves’ to Underbelly, where they gained huge critical acclamation: BroadwayBaby labeled the duo “fantastically talented comedians”, and the Daily Telegraph praised them as “masters of pinpoint observation and characterization”. This certainly doesn’t seem like a show to miss.
“And we discovered we had time on our hands, a desire to perform, and some terrible day jobs that were just asking to be written into sketches.”
They tell me that their show has “32 characters and 25 sketches over two halves” with “little story threads that run through the show to link the different worlds together”. For just two actors to perform all these roles seems a mammoth task and is nothing but testament to the talent of Croft and Pearce. Where, then, does the inspiration for their comedy come from? Croft and Pearce cue Des’ree: ““Life, O life. Ooh li-i-i-i-ife”. Our ideas start from things that have happened to us or our friends, or sometimes just from conversations we’ve overheard or people we’ve met, and then we take what we found funny from the real situation and blow it up into a sketch. We usually end up in a very different place to where we started.” I cannot help but get the impression that Croft and Pearce and genuinely honest and original in their work through a comedy that is hilariously relatable.
I then ask how the two go about preparing for their shows: “When we’re developing a new show we do lots of tester gigs. The first showing is normally just to a group of very honest friends, who we ply with pizza in return for their feedback. Then we move up to gradually bigger audiences until we get to our Edinburgh run, which is when things really get refined. 26 shows in a row in front of rooms full of strangers who aren’t going to do you any favours is a great way to work out what is actually funny. You never know for sure in comedy until you’ve tested it and we’re still often surprised by what really works and what REALLY doesn’t… ”
For Croft and Pearce, it is Victoria Wood and French and Saunders who have inspired them most. Further, they go on to say that “at the moment we’re really loving Amy Schumer – the sketches as well as the stand-up – so she’s a big inspiration”. Yet from their huge appraisal for their run at the Edinburgh Fringe, it seems we shouldn’t expect any less. Catch these rising stars back at home in Oxford for just one night for they might just be too hot a ticket in a few years’ time.