Colin Hoult’s rescheduled Leicester Comedy Festival Show Anna Mann – A Sketch Show For Depressives comes to The Little Theatre this month, and this time there’s no Storm Doris to stop it. We spoke to him to ask about what to expect from Anna and her show…
No comedian ever likes having to reschedule a show, but in the case of Anna Mann – A Sketch Show for Depressives then it may just have upgraded it from “highly recommended” to “unmissable”. The show was originally scheduled to be performed during the Leicester Comedy Festival, but transport woes caused by Storm Doris led to an unavoidable rescheduling. Shortly after this, both the venue and the promoter picked up Leicester Comedy Festival awards. The Little Theatre took home Best Venue over 200 Capacity and CCCP left with Best Promoter, and suddenly the show that Time Out described as “a masterclass of character comedy” has an even stronger pedigree than before. But who is Anna Mann?
You may have seen Anna on your TV recently – she had her own Sky Arts Valentine Comedy Short – and you may well have seen Colin Hoult, Anna’s creator, in Murder In Successville or Being Human. Anna is a “lush, visceral, occasionally saucy, always very truthful actor in her mid to late fifties,” says Colin. She’s an affectionate sideways look at the characters that you meet in casting calls, based on a variety of people he’s met throughout his years-long career in comedy, stage, radio and TV performances – one in particular. “She stormed in very late, latte in hand and asked me what I was reading. It was Crime and Punishment. She said ‘fuck off I love it!’ and that was when Anna was born.”
Fans of character and sketch comedy are sure to love the show – it’s received strong 4 and 5 star reviews, and is one of the best reviewed shows of last year’s Edinburgh Fringe – but what of the title, A Sketch Show for Depressives? While the show does feature themes about Colin’s own experiences with depression, he’s quick to point out that you really don’t need to know anything about it to enjoy the show. “I wanted to make a show that everyone could find funny whether you’ve experienced depression or not,” he says. “I didn’t want to do anything that was overly serious or self-obsessive – so every line had to be funny to stay in. People who have known depression seem to enjoy that I’m taking the mick out of it. The way to beat it is to imagine it in the most ridiculous way possible.”
The Little Theatre show represents one of the best value tickets that you can find this month, as immediately after A Sketch Show for Depressives, Colin will be performing a preview of this year’s Edinburgh Fringe outing for Anna, How We Stop the Fascists. “I’m previewing the new show straight after the old one… Once again it’s inspired by what’s troubling me, and like a lot of people it’s this horrific rise of nationalism/populism/Trumps. It’s all pretty gross and pathetic but terrifying and no one seems able to stop it. So Anna will try, in her own cack-handed way”. Is the thought of doing the two shows back-to-back daunting? “If I could change one thing, probably I would have taken out the incredibly energetic Voodoo snake dance in the middle and replaced it with something that doesn’t make me out of breath for the rest of the show.”
Colin originally hails from the East Midlands, so a performance at the Little Theatre is almost a homecoming – and one doing what he truly loves. “Doing my live shows is probably when I’m happiest,” he says. I ask him what the difference is between all of his various stage, TV and radio roles and how they feel to perform. “It’s great having a crowd in a room for an hour doing whatever you like to them in an attempt to make them laugh… That said, TV pays loads more and I love money.”
Colin Hoult’s Anna Mann: A Sketch Show for Depressives comes to the Little Theatre on Sunday 14th May, 7pm. Tickets are £12 (£10), and the show also features a preview of Anna Mann: How We Stop the Fascists.