Sleeping Trees are a narrative-driven sketch trio known for their irreverent riffs on the conventions of classic film and literature. World Tour is their new hour and is, remarkably for such fresh-faced chaps, their ninth show; their first being all the way back in 2010. The Wee Review spoke to them about their latest work, their comedy influences and their fondness for the myriad cuisines Edinburgh has to offer.
Can you tell us about your new show?
Josh: This year’s show is called Sleeping Trees: World Tour because we’ve all been travelling the world and the show is what happens on our travels. Ultimately it’s about our friendship and what it means to live and work as a trio every day for a decade. It’s probably our most ambitious show to date as we’ve tried to combine sketch, story, physicality and action all into one big knees up of an hour. We are very proud of it.
John: The scary thing is that we are exploring ourselves as characters. But don’t worry there are loads of silly ones too! We were completely out of our comfort zone because we chose to make a show that is completely different to what we have made before. I like to think the risk has paid off and it should be a lot of fun. There’s even a musical theatre number. Like I said: out of our comfort zone… It’s a right hoot.
James: I also get to play a centaur, that’s worth the ticket price alone.
How do you come up with your ideas?
Josh: A lot of the time they will arrive organically. Because we live together at the moment so we frequently come up with stuff when we are just milling about in the house. It’s handy for coming up with stuff but can very easily drive you insane.
James: My ideas are often so ground–breaking and visionary that they are immediately dismissed. I don’t mind though, I’ll just keep them all for my first solo show; The Magic Marshmallow Slime Machine.
John: Me. I come up with all the ideas. Ignore the other two
Who are your main influences, comedy or otherwise?
Josh: We all grew up watching things like The League of Gentlemen, The Mighty Boosh and Big Train. I think you can see the influences of that in the shows we make. More recently every time I see people like John Kearns, Nick Mohammed and Emma Sidi I always think “I wish I could do that.”
John: I’ve always loved clowning and over the top characters. Seeing Spymonkey when I was younger made me want to be in the stage. Once I started watching more Fringe comedy I got obsessed with Dr Brown.
James: Rik Mayall will always be a huge influence on me, I remember when I was little, every time my parents were out, me and my little sister watching their Bottom videos and loving it. Jim Carrey was also hugely influential in me pursuing a career in comedy, The Mask will forever be my favourite film.
You won a Spirit of the Fringe award last year. How did that feel? Is that kind of recognition important?
Josh: It was incredible to be chosen for Spirit of the Fringe. We really didn’t expect it. I wouldn’t say it’s important in terms that I know plenty of absolutely incredible acts that haven’t received any accolades, but it certainly does help in reassuring you that people like what you do. Plus Merv [Stutter] is a hero. Like your favourite uncle except he’s in a pink suit and it’s not acceptable to ask him to lend you a tenner when you’re skint on the last week of the festival…
John: Winning anything makes you feel great. The Fringe can certainly serve up a rollercoaster of emotions so feeling great is essential. You also get to meet so many cool acts as the Merv scouts are very good at what they do.
James: We were so chuffed, especially as we were up at the Fringe with three old shows last year, so weren’t really expecting any reviews or awards! I can only hope that The Magic Marshmallow Slime Machine goes on to enjoy similar successes.
Can we see you guys elsewhere during the Fringe this year, in guest spots or compilations?
Josh: We are hoping to be popping up on a couple of spots during the fringe. I know we are set to do Spank!, which we have never done before and have heard is a real baptism of fire.
John: I’m sure we’ll wangle our way on to some cool late night gigs all over the shop. Either that or we will be in the Brass Monkey.
James: And you can a catch us most nights at Opium doing heavy metal karaoke at around 4am.
What are the best and worst things about the Fringe?
Josh: I have seen some of the most incredible things of my life at the Fringe. I love taking a punt on stuff. One year someone dragged us along to see some Belgium guys doing a music gig which told the story of a missing child. It was called the Great Downhill Journey of Little Tommy and it was the best thing I’ve ever seen. Saw it three times. Bought the CD. Still listen to it. That’s the best thing about the Fringe. The worst, probably just how expensive it is. PLEASE MERV!
John: The best thing about the Fringe is sharing a tiny flat with the entire team for really, really overpriced rent. The worst thing is probably being able to watch comedy every night and have guilt-free nights out on a Tuesday. In all honesty I love the food. Having been going for a decade I have scoped out a vast number of places I HAVE to visit every time I come.
James: The best thing is probably the plethora of delicious food available all month, I mean I’m not saying I only go to Edinburgh for the food, but I really, really love all the food. I shouldn’t have answered this question hungry. The worst thing is the incessant sunshine, I mean come on, just one day of rain up there is all I ask.
Are there any other shows you would recommend, particularly any you feel deserve more attention than they may otherwise receive?
Josh: David McIver is a Nice Little Man. That’s the name of the show, but also he is, and very funny. That’s 2:30pm at Opium (and it’s free). Lazy Susan: Forgive Me, Mother! Lazy Susan are one of the best sketch acts around at the moment can’t wait for this one – 4:30pm at Assembly George Square. The Pin: Backstage. The Pin are incredibly clever. Everything they do is so well thought out for it to be the funniest it could possibly be. Every time I see them I am dumbfounded.
John: Our pals The Delightful Sausage are hilarious. Loose Brie are brilliant. Anything John Robertson takes is incredible. I think he has three shows this year so see any of them or all of them. Rob Auton is a comedy wordsmith genius too. I only met him recently but I’m a huge fan and he’s a lovely guy.
World Tour is at Assembly George Square Studios from Wed 1 – Sun 26 Aug 2018
Photograph is copyright of Mark Dawson