FLADAM, the York musical comedy duo of Florence Poskitt and Adam Sowter, are making their Edinburgh Festival Fringe debut all this month.
At 4pm each day until August 29 – except August 16 – they will be performing A Musical Comedy Hootenanny! at The Pleasance at The EICC [Edinburgh International Conference Centre].
Followers of York’s musical theatre and theatre scene will be familiar with Florence, wide-eyed northern character actress, comic performer, singer, dancer and multi-instrumentalist, and Adam, face-pulling character actor, comic performer, pianist, harmonica and ukulele player, singer, composer, comedy songwriter and cartoonist.
A couple both on and off stage, they have branched out into presenting their own heartfelt, humorous songs and sketches, tackling the topical with witty wordplay, uplifting melodies, a dash of the Carry On! comic spirit, admiration for the craft of Morecambe & Wise, Bernard Cribbins and Victoria Wood, and an old-school sense of charity-shop comedic fashion.
You may have heard them in their regular slot on Harry Whittaker’s Saturday show on BBC Radio York; or seen an early taster of A Musical Comedy Hootenanny! in Fladam & Friends at Theatre@41, Monkgate, last November, or spotted them among the five-minute showcases at York Theatre Royal’s Love Bites in May 2021 and Green Shoots in June this year.
Now comes the giant leap: heading to the Scottish capital to be among more than 3,000 shows at the 75th anniversary Fringe on its return from Covid hibernation.
“It’s been a long time coming,” says Adam. “We’d planned to perform there in 2020, before Covid struck. We were going to do a small-scale show at a venue we knew, Greenside, but now we’ve ended up at one of the Pleasance venues this year: a cabaret spot they’ve opened at the EICC called the Lammermuir Theatre.”
The two-year delay has worked out well. “Our plan was to go back to Greenside, but then we saw that a bursary scheme was available through York Theatre Royal in association with the Pleasance,” says Adam.
“We had an interview with Juliet [Theatre Royal creative director Juliet Forster], and though we weren’t selected, they said, ‘we really like you’, and the Pleasance offered us a slot.”
Better still, York Theatre Royal paid for Fladam’s Fringe registration and the Pleasance waivered a deposit. “We’ve been extremely lucky because from the first ticket onwards that we sell, we take 50 per cent,” says Florence.
“We’ve also had support from friends in York and we’ve received £400 from the Pleasance Debut Fund scheme to support debutant performers playing for more than a week in venues with fewer than 150 seats.”
Fladam’s Edinburgh bow is an introductory show that captures the spirit of their topical yet somehow nostalgic songs. “Our humour isn’t racy, but there’s a little hint of Carry On to it,” says Adam. “Well, there’s a dabbling of ‘racy’ in there,” interjects Florence.
“It’s sort of ‘Greatest Hits of Fladam’,” continues Adam. “We’re exploring different styles of performance, making sure it’s a varied hour, where we play lots of different characters, present familiar things in a new way and add new things.
“Like how we’ve re-written a country song that didn’t work as a country song. It now has new lyrics, which we’ll have to remember for a new version for the finale!
“I’m sure that the show we finish with on August 29 will be completely different from the first one as we’re still an evolving act and we’ll continue to evolve.”
Fladam have progressed from bedroom beginnings to the stage. “We’ve gone from recording videos of songs on phones from the corner of our bedroom in lockdown to doing it live, first with one number at Love Bites and then last November’s show with friends, when we had to rehearse in the kitchen,” says Adam. “Now we’re developing again.
“Having a long run at the Fringe, we can try things out, playing to totally different audiences over so many performances – and with our shows being topical we may well have to update and re-write things. We’ve already adjusted our Boris Johnson song after what’s happened to him.”
Florence is relishing the Fringe experience. “What’s great is that so many people want to see musical comedy shows,” she says. “One of the joys of being here is that you never know who you might meet for future collaborations, which was one of the lovely things about doing Love Bites and Green Shoots at the Theatre Royal.”
Fladam will benefit from spreading their wings from York. “This is our first time playing to a ‘cold audience’ after playing mainly to our friends in York,” says Florence. “The advice from [York theatre director and actor] Maggie Smales was to talk to the audience to establish a connection with them, and I’ll be handing out biscuits and Adam will be playing the piano before we start.”
Spending a month in Edinburgh will be a learning curve for Adam and Florence. “We’re not producers, so we have to do our own publicity, organise the posters, build our props, do everything ourselves, and that’s where the Theatre Royal and the Pleasance have been really supportive when we’ve dropped them an email asking for their advice,” says Adam.
“That’s all helped us to mount an Edinburgh show for the first time, when you know you’re going to make mistakes and it’s not just an easy home run.”
What definitely has worked is their Fringe poster with its combination of photography by Charlie Kirkpatrick and a design by Steph Pyne. “It’s a bit retro, a bit Morecambe & Wise,” says Adam. “The first design played too much on being like a Seventies’ tribute, so we’ve dialled that down to still be a little nostalgic but above all quirky and colourful.”
Florence is chuffed. “We’ve had do many people tell us, ‘that really captures you and what you’re all about’,” she says. “Our style of humour is gentle, like Morecambe & Wise’s humour was so warm and lovely. We like to do songs that are clever and make you smile at the same time.”
Fladam: A Musical Comedy Hootenanny, Lammermuir Theatre, The Pleasance at Edinburgh International Conference Centre (EIFF),Venue 150, 4pm daily, until August 29, except August 16. Box office: 0113 556 6550 or pleasanceco.uk.
Fladam also will do six 20-minute street-busking spots at St Andrew’s Square and Cathedral Square from August 19.