Onion Talking: Messing With Colin Hoult

If any of you are lucky enough to have experienced Colin Hoult live, you’ll know why we’re getting a bit over-excited that he has a new show starting next week at Soho Theatre. 

© Ed Moore

© Ed Moore

Messing about with Ouija Boards is described by the theatre as “the terrifying true tale of what happened when Colin Hoult’s mum made contact with the spirit world.” 

Sounds pretty intriguing, huh? Indeed, our curiosity was sufficiently piqued that we simply had to ask Colin all about it. Here’s what he had to say:

Some of your previous live shows have taken audiences to fantastical nether-worlds, while others are semi-autobriogaphical. Where does ‘Messing with Ouija Boards’ sit on the spectrum?

It’s a ‘ha-ha-bonk’ exploration of my family and background. Sort of Colin Hoult – year one, an origin tale! It’s loads of little stories that revolve around the time we all did a Ouija Board on Christmas Day and something genuinely weird happened. (Spoiler: we didn’t get Jesus).

It’s also about Nottingham where I’m from, and loads of bits about horror movies and spooky stuff that I love. Its also about dealing with illnesses of the mind and hopefully gives a bit of courage and comfort for that.

It’s my first proper stand up show. Having flirted with it in the past – I’m going the whole hog as myself (with Anna Mann popping out in the event of hecklers), but fear not, I use a lot of characternesses as well.

What was your inspiration behind the show?

Mainly my family and brain for the actual stories, but in terms of this type of show probably a few different stand ups: Greg Davies’ amazing story-telling, also Rhod Gilbert and others. Richard Pryor for his jumping in and out of character, and Dave Allen for his calm relaxed manner. Not that I’m like any of these greats, just I think they’ve filtered in a bit.

Visually, I’m sort of going back to my first show, Carnival of Monsters, and embracing a bit of that Victoriana spooky, but in a more subtle way – Buster Keaton, and all that lovely silent world.

Do you have any plans to take the show on tour, given your fan base extends well beyond zone 1?

I’m not sure yet – it’s a bit different doing it this way, as in the past I’ve done Soho Theatre after an Edinburgh run. I’m really proud and excited about the show, so I’d definitely want to take it further – whether I’ll be able to do Edinburgh next year I’m not sure.

Who creates your props and costumes?

My amazing wife, Kat, always helps to design my shows, She’s actually responsible for a lot of what made my first shows do well. I’ve been lucky to have some great help from arty friends in the past; I think it’s a lot more interesting to use people from outside the comedy world. This show is going to be very much stripped back, so won’t use much design – but might develop that way later.

© BBC/Touchstone

© BBC/Touchstone

You have many strings to your bow: you write and perform live comedy, you’re a successful TV comedy actor and a stage actor; what do you prefer doing?

That’s a tricky one! I love the thrill of live comedy probably better than anything – I think the moment when I’m connecting with an audience and conveying something funny or interesting, and they get it, is the sweetest of joys!

That said, this year I’ve been doing a lot of different things – I’ve just finished doing a run of the Seagull by Chekhov – and it’s been great to really go back to acting, which is where I started. But I don’t think I’d ever want to give up live comedy.

The last time we chatted you told us that your latest ambition was learning to dance. Has it changed?

No I still want to do more dancing! My biggest dream is to do Shakespeare. This may seem an odd way to go about it, but I swear to you you will see my Dane!

© Ed Moore

© Ed Moore

How difficult is it for a comedian to break through to the mainstream, and do you think it’s the big deal that it’s made out to be?

I don’t know really – it’s probably all a bit of an illusion. I think I’ve had lots of little breakthroughs that have eventually amounted to me being able to do what I love and survive on it.

It’s the kind of thing you can waste years worrying about – as I have in the past. Nowadays I try to be more philosophical about it all; I think as long as you are really enjoying and believing in what you do then you’re luckier than a lot of people.

There’s no point thinking ‘is this my breakthrough?’ It’s all about a lot of factors you can’t control, so just make sure your own work is saying what you want to say, how you want to say it.

Thanks, Colin. Before we finish, is there anything else you’d like to tell us that we haven’t asked?

Yes. Life is Beautiful. Also check out a man called Dave Edwards in Edinburgh this year – he’s a living legend.

You can see Colin’s new show Messing about with Ouija Boards from Thursday 13th – Saturday 15th August at Soho Theatre, with performances starting at 9.15pm. Tickets are £10 (Thurs), £12.50 (Fri – Sat). Further information and tickets are available here.
Many thanks to Colin for taking the time to answer our questions, and we wish him the best of luck for the Soho Theatre run!

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