“We do ask the audience to abandon all common sense at the door,” Graham Hicks says, explaining his latest project.
Together with Aiden Brooks, this is pretty much par for the course from their comedy partnership as Random Acts of Wildness; and this Christmas they are turning the Unity into a party zone – of sorts – with their brand new show, For One Night Only.
As the bow ties and 80s daytime TV quiz host knitwear in the promos might belie, the show is about a pair of past-it comics giving their schtick one last go. Aiden plays Bernie Sunshine and Graham is Les Bryan; their pride and joy the Sunshine Club has been relaunched and the show is set during the big re-opening.
Described as “an old double act who never took that next step”, RAW are aware that to some extent they are treading a familiar path. The washed-up entertainer and the warring comedy partners are familiar characters throughout sitcom and theatre. But therein lay some of the attraction.
“We have always been interested in the vaudeville style and have watched a lot of old music hall comedy, so it’s a lot of our inspirations from growing up and as a double act,” says Graham. “We have been conscious of the whole Phoenix Nights thing as it was such a massive hit, but comedy constantly repeats itself, like all [stories] – it’s just told in different ways.”
Aiden chips in: “Plus it’s a lot of fun playing around in that setting and in that world. Initially I had it in my head that I would play loads of different characters but it’s turned out the exact opposite.”
When they first started out, RAW were so pleased with their first full length show Legless ‘n’ Harmless that they continued to tour it for four years after a successful Edinburgh run. This year, they have hosted regular comedy nights at Sefton Palm House. And they actually do live together in Aigburth, along with significant others, pets and kids.
But they don’t do everything together. Among other projects, Aiden toured extensively in critically acclaimed show Eddie and the Goldtops; Graham has recently returned from working in Brazil, and before that directed How to Fall in Love, a new promenade piece from his company RAWD, that works with actors with learning disabilities.
So in all in all, it’s not surprising it’s taken so long for them to get round to that difficult second show.
“It’s got all the hallmarks of a RAW show but I feel we’ve raised the production values and theatricality in this production,” Aiden says.
“We made the last show on £100 so this time we have a budget and we have gone mad,” adds Graham.
This means working with designer Ros Henderson (“boss”), composer Patrick Dineen (“genius”), and roping in mucker and city actor Joe Shipman as a part time director for an unbiased eye. In the last week, Alan Richardson from Scottish street theatre company Conflux has helped them whip the final version of the show into shape.
The pair are looking forward to the challenge – taking the pre-Christmas slot at the Unity usually reserved for Liverpool theatrical comedy icon Terry Titter.
“We were buzzing they offered us the slot. It’s amazing that we’ll get the chance to showcase our brand of ridiculousness on such a focused platform,” says Aiden.
“It’s an amazing opportunity to be honest, and we are really grateful to have even been considered for the job. It is definitely big shoes to fill. We have felt the pressure from this a little, but we have stayed in control and tried to focus on what we do and what we are good at. The show needs an audience now and we just need some folk to play off of, and I for one can’t wait to open,” says Graham.
Both performers seem keen to see how the show will go down with a captive audience – an audience that will, we are warned, be incorporated into the show to varying degrees.
“I can’t wait to see their little faces,” says Aiden.
“Comedy hinges on other’s misfortune,” adds Graham. It’s all starting to sound a bit sinister. But don’t be afraid, dear reader. “We have tried to bring the audience in as much as possible. As we fear if they are not entertained we have failed. FAILED!”
One Night Only opens tomorrow night (Thursday, December 12) and runs at the Unity Theatre until December 21.