Beth Vyse has been a long time favourite of ours for her manic and insane characters. This year she mixed her trademark lunacy and penchant for silly props with the very personal tale of her cancer diagnosis. It’s a truly remarkable show which became one of cult hits of the fringe, as funny as it was moving. We were able to catch up with her before her Soho Theatre run.
Hey Beth, how the devil are you?
I’m OK a bit stressed, I’m doing too much as usual, but hey I shouldn’t complain, but we do love to complain don’t we.
Your show was one of the most discussed at the festival, what have the audience reactions been like?
Well what was it that Oscar Wilde said “There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about”
I made a show about me cancer diagnosis and treatment and the, very sad, yet hilarious things that happened to me along the way. The show’s not all funny and it’s very personal to me. I felt it was right to talk about it now as there was always a massive part of my life I was hiding when i was on stage and I didn’t want to hide anymore.
The audience reactions have been amazing they are usually moved and uplifted but I can’t talk for everyone, I’m sure it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.
I think I’ve only had 3 walk outs in the whole time I’ve been doing it, which, for me, is good going…HA! (but then you’d have to cruel to walk out I guess)
You were diagnosed five years ago, did you find writing and performing useful in helping your recovery?
I don’t think you ever recover from something like this, you change, adapt and perhaps look at life differently to everyone else, and you want things faster, harder, now! You lose patience very quickly because you have first-hand experience of how short life can be.
I waited until I had the five years all clear because I was basically scared it would come back and when I went to the hospital last year, on giving me the five years all clear, they told me you can now go and live your life as you’re the same as everyone else. Weird ay?
I was 28 when I got diagnosed and it’s a time in your life when you settle down, have children, get a house and I then you find all this a bit pointless but I got through it and I guess doing this show is attempting to tell the audience life isn’t always what you expect and the Big C isn’t that scary, if you approach it with a good sense of humour, but it is a life sentence, but not the way you thought, it does change you, for the better and worse.
I was lucky to survive it but everyone has shitty things happen to them. Why not make a show about it. I wanted to do it now as the timing felt right, it’s a new chapter in my life I guess, I also wanted to show I’m not a one trick, mental pony.
Your show this year was very open about your personal life, what was the reaction the first time you talked about your cancer on stage?
Well it was at Pleasance theatre In January I think I shared a preview with Pat Cahill, it was terrible, i was very nervous and I just sat on stool with my hands clenched under my bum and just got the story out. But it got a lot better from then, thank god!
As soon as the audience walk in it’s clear you haven’t abandoned using your trademark absurd silly props and characters. Did it come naturally to combine this side of your comedy with a more personal stand up?
It did really, I’ve always been an actor and I’m used to being stiller on stage i guess, and also not being afraid of emotions. I don’t think it’s absurd though I think it’s normal the difference this time it’s all true and (as you know) I just love props so I had to get some in somewhere.
We bumped into you a couple of times after your show in Edinburgh and you seemed to be euphoric and emotionally drained at the same time. What kind of emotional toll did the show take out of you?
I took everything a bit more personally this time, when you are being yourself on stage it’s like you are taking more of a risk, the audience have to like you to get your story, so if i was appearing Emotional and Euphoric, I guess i was!
Have your family seen the show? What was their reaction?
Yes and they are coming down from Stoke on mass to Soho and bringing my Gran in her wheelchair! Ha Ha! (I’d love to be on that train, god help ‘em) They found the show very moving and funny and although I talk about them a lot in show, they try to look at it objectively and my Dad gave me notes as always!!
You have recently made an appearance on ITV’s Loose Women, any gossip?
They are all FABULOUS (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it) No they really were, there was no J Mac, Jane McDonald so I was a bit gutted, if you’ve seen my previous shows you’ll know why. However Sherrie Hewson’s pretty cool.
Have you thought about what’s next?
I’ve been offered a slot at New Zealand Comedy festival which is very exciting, and also touring around this country. I may be doing a version of the show for radio. I would like to get back into doing a bit of proper acting (anyone who’s listening) and I’m working on show for next year but god knows what that will be…oooh I’ve just directed “Love and Information” by Carol Churchill at a Drama School which I really enjoyed, and I’m in the F**king Weirdos Panto again alongside all my favourite comics! Busy Beth Ahhhhhhhhh.