Friday, 14 December 2012

Interview - Abi Collins

Abi Collins: an award winning Burlesque Comedienne, creator of larger-than-life characters, multi-skilled performer, singer, actress... Abi has performed world-wide and has a string of titles and accolades to her name. Bonkers, loveable, obscene, creative... the beautiful Abi Collins: 

Photographer Credit: Mat Ricardo

What was your first experience of Burlesque or Cabaret, and what convinced you to start yourself?

My first experience was probably when I was about seven years old, watching Liza Minnelli in the film version of "Cabaret". It was amazing we had any kitchen chairs left after that. I grew up dancing, studied theatre to Masters level, and then spent many years touring to street theatre festivals. I've performed all over the world, from New Zealand to Colombia. I started performing in cabaret about four years ago and since then most of my work has been in the UK, more specifically London. Although that said in the last 12 months I've performed in Australia, Sweden, Norway, Spain, Italy and Brazil.That's the beauty of this job - you never know where your work will take you. But I can say with my hand on my heart that performing in Sheffield is just as much fun as Milan.

Photographer Credit: Mat Ricardo

How do you come up with ideas for your acts, and which is your favourite to perform?

My work covers lots of different disciplines. Time Out called me a "skills-based character comedian", which pretty much sums up what I do. I use skills as a vehicle for my characters - and I'm not sure if I find them or they find me. Things start with a voice, or a pair of shoes or spectacles, and then just snowball from there. "My girls" (my characters) have a life of their own. Sometimes people will ask me to come up with something for a theme, which can be frustrating if there's no budget for bespoke, but it does allow an opportunity to create a new act, and there's nothing like a deadline for making you get your sequins together. I really don't have a favourite act – my girls would get jealous if I singled one out for special treatment. I'm just very grateful that I get to do what I love for a living.

"The hilarious and flexible Abi Collins" The Stage

Who are your biggest influences/inspirations?

My biggest inspirations are female comedians; Lucille Ball, Carol Burnett, Tracey Ullman, French and Saunders. I'm also inspired by many of the great acts currently working in the scene. They remind me of what a rich, hyper creative industry this is to work in.

Lucille Ball ** Carol Burnett

Tracy Ullman ** French and Saunders

Tell us a little about your favourite experiences so far

It's really hard to pinpoint a particular experience - I've had the pleasure of working with and for many fantastic promoters, producers, performers and audiences. In terms of "extreme adoration" I guess I'd have to say Brazil for affection (people queue to hug you after a show), and Japan, where people will often give you handmade gifts to show their appreciation. But really, whenever I can make people laugh and smile it counts as a "favourite experience". If they're happy I'm happy. The feedback is instantaneous and the job satisfaction is immense.

Photographer Credit: Mat Ricardo

Have you ever had any stage nightmares?

I've had a couple of random things happen onstage. There was one time when I jokingly accused a volunteer of being a gynaecologist, then I asked him what he did for a living... and he was indeed agynaecologist. Recently as I slid down a volunteer's legs his trousers slid down with me. And another time I was sandwiched upside down between two volunteers who were a couple and they decided to have an onstage snog - between my legs. Oh yes, and the time in Germany when I grabbed a man's hair and only realised it was a toupee as it flapped on his head. Then the time a Dutch man got a little too excited onstage... maybe I should leave it there?!

Photographer Credit: Mat Ricardo

Tell me something no one would suspect about you

I meditate. I am capable of being very still and quiet. It's become a necessity to keep myself sane.

Photographer Credit: Mat Ricardo

Finally, any words of advice for newcomers to the scene?

Be professional. Be courteous. Be creative. Be original. Educate yourself on the difference between "stock" (i.e. generic) material and unique work - learn to distinguish between skills, routines, lines etc that are "up for grabs" and work that an artist has created his or herself. Don't plagiarise. Expect to work hard. And have fun. Always.

"Have fun. Always."

More Abi
Abi's Website
Follow Abi on Twitter
Abi's Facebook Page

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