It’s been a hectic few months for Liverpool actor Graham Hicks, about to culminate with a reprisal of his role in one-man show Next! this weekend.
Devised by Hicks and Chris Tomlinson as part of the Unity’s Making Art Plus scheme, the play is described as a darkly comic tale of solitude and loneliness, and returns to the theatre after an initial outing last year.
“It’s about a guy who never leaves his flat and gets lost in his own fantasies. He is always auditioning, but is scared of rejection,” Hicks says.
In Next!, the boundaries between the real world and his surreal world of acting and performance become blurred. Will he ever become the star he feels he is destined to be?
Clowning is in Hicks’s blood as a performer. Alongside comedy partner Aiden Brooks, he is best known to city audiences as one half of Random Acts of Wildness; he has also received acclaim in recent months for his poignant role as Carl, the guide on the Anfield Home Tour, a weekly Biennial event that highlighted the problems caused by the Housing Market Renewal initiative in the communities of North Liverpool.
You might have even have seen him perform in the work-in-progress production of Spike Theatre’s Sink or Swim, as part of the Everyword Festival last month.
Which all sounds about right for someone who trained at the famous Gaulier clown school in Paris (where classmates included Simon Amstell).
But whatever projects come their way individually, Hicks and Brooks always come back to RAW. The pair met in 2005 while studying on Hope Street Ltd’s physical theatre programme. They claim not to have got along at first, but now, like a classic double act, even live in the same house.
Their first and only full length show so far, Legless ‘n’ Harmless, proved such a fertile ground for their comedy, they kept coming back to it, touring it extensively and enjoying a run at the Edinburgh Festival. “We had so much success with it, we didn’t want to let it go, and we’ve been doing our debut show for four years,” Hicks laughs. “But when you’re writing comedy it’s not about the quantity but the quality, and that takes time.”
Fans of old-fashioned, vaudeville and variety style sketch comedy, they recently hosted their own night, RAW Comedy (not to be confused with, erm, Rawhide) at Sefton Palm House. It was a sell-out event that they hope to repeat in the new year.
And last but not least, they have developed their own theatre company, RAWD drama group, which works with vulnerable adults and puts on several shows a year. Currently based in Wirral, they plan to expand across Merseyside in 2013. With arts funding at an all-time low, the future plans for the company and its work will hopefully enable them to continue making a living doing what they do.
“We just like to entertain an audience as much as possible,” Hicks says. “A lot of people can forget about the audience a lot of the time, but that’s who the show is for.”
Next! is on at the Unity Theatre this Friday and Saturday (November 23 & 24).