A truly unique performer who manages to stand out as weird even among the Weirdos collective that he is a leading member of.
He’s performed as a river and played himself as a cello, and now he’s performing for an hour in a show all about parsley.
Hello. How are you today?
Great, thanks. I’ve spent the day relaxing at home, rewatching old original episodes of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. I love Robert Vaughn in that!
At this stage, how closely does your programme blurb match the content of your show?
Very closely. This year, my show is called Parsley, and it is literally all about the kitchen herb parsley. It’s important to me that I deliver on my blurb promises! Having said that, in any creative project there will always be small details that evolve over time. Take The Man from U.N.C.L.E., for example. We tend to think of there being two main characters: Napoleon Solo (Robert Vaughn) and Illya Kuryakin (David McCallum). But Robert Vaughn was originally intended to be the single main hero of the show, which is clear both from the name of his character and from the show’s title.
Have the momentous events of 2016 affected your comedy in any way?
My comedy is never explicitly political/topical – and it would be nonsense to put politics in a show about parsley – but unlike my previous shows, this year you’ll find there’s more of an underlying anxiety, which definitely springs in part from the troubling events of 2016: Brexit, rising political cynicism and the alt-right, democracy in turmoil, Tory austerity and of course the tragic deaths of celebrities such as Robert Vaughn, who played Napoleon Solo in The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
Who are you sharing a flat with this festival and how will you help each other survive the month?
Normally I stay in a cheap hostel by myself, but this year I’m pleased to have found a comfortable flat, very centrally located, which I’m sharing with some lovely funny people, including Marny Godden, Katy Schutte and Rhiannon Vivian. To help everyone escape the hurly burly of the Fringe, I’m bringing my collection of Robert Vaughn movies on Blu-ray: Bullitt, The Magnificent Seven, The Towering Inferno and Superman III. Oh, and a boxed set of Hustle!
Any shows you’re particularly excited about seeing?
I’m lucky to be part of Bob Slayer’s Heroes of Fringe, which is like one big extended family of highly distinctive performers. I can be certain of seeing remarkable shows from the likes of Mr Twonkey, Beth Vyse, John-Luke Roberts, Joz Norris, Lucy Pearman and Mark Dean Quinn, to name only a small handful. But it’s also very important in Edinburgh to take risks on shows that are outside your normal comfort zone, just like Robert Vaughn did when he was invited to do a short stint on Coronation Street in 2012. At the time, a few people scoffed at this unlikely casting choice, but he produced a superb and memorable performance.
Other than the great shows, what else are you looking forward to about your trip to Edinburgh this year?
Did you know that Robert Vaughn came to the Edinburgh Festival in 2014, with a play called Forgotten Voices? Coincidentally, that was the first year I brought a show up: The Human Loire. Of course, I snapped up a ticket to the special Q&A he did at the Pleasance Grand, but narrowly missed the opportunity to meet him privately afterwards. That’s a shame, as I’d kinda hoped we could have spent some quality time chatting about playing Napoleon Solo in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and his other major TV roles, and about life in general, and getting to know each other personally. Sadly, that turned out to be Robert Vaughn’s very last trip to Edinburgh, so I’m really not sure what I’ll do with my free time this year.
What celebrity death hit you the hardest in 2016 (mine was Wogan)?
Er, dunno. Maybe Prince?
Here’s a space to write about anything you want. Go for it.
Michael Brunstrom: Parsley
16-27 Aug, 4pm