Richard Gadd’s latest show Baby Reindeer won The Stage Edinburgh Award last month. Directed by Jon Brittain and produced by Francesca Moody, it is an autobiographical show about Gadd’s experience of being stalked.
The Stage’s joint lead critic Tim Bano described his performance as having “a rare quality of feeling dangerous, as if the real-world implications of the show haven’t quite been left outside the door”.
His previous fringe show, Monkey See Monkey Do, won the 2016 Edinburgh Comedy Award. In it, Gadd ran on a treadmill for the duration of the show, trying to flee his demons before revealing in the final moments that he had been a victim of rape.
That show was in the comedy section of the fringe brochure, but now Gadd has migrated to the drama pages with Baby Reindeer, a one-man tour de force that spares the laughs in favour of no-holds-barred honesty.
EJ: You started out as a comedian and your 2016 show Monkey See Monkey Do bridged the gap between comedy and drama. Baby Reindeer, your latest show about having an obsessive stalker, is pure adrenaline-fuelled drama, with little light relief. Does it conclude your journey from comedy to drama?
RG: I wanted it to be serious. It was a serious story. I also felt that because there were a lot of people involved, that it wouldn’t have been right to just make a joke. Plus it’s relentless – it didn’t feel funny. It was a relentless period of time. I think when we get into the Bush run, we’re going to put those jokes back in. The show is slightly funnier, but I wanted to try to write a show without the reliance of laughs. I wanted to test myself – to change it up. It just felt real.
EJ: How did winning the Edinburgh Comedy Award [formerly the Perrier Award] change things for you?
RG: You earn a lot of respect winning that award, people started to take you seriously. There’s so much saturation in the industry now. It’s not like the olden days. Stephen Fry was speaking [recently] at the Fringe First Awards and he said that there were 37 comedy shows the year he won the Perrier. Now that number is closer to 2,000.
EJ: What’s it like working with Jon Brittain, who directs the show?
RG: He’s a fantastic director and I’ve loved working with him. The whole team really was great. It felt like we were one membrane and I’ve never really felt that before. It’s almost like we all knew what the goal was so we were moving as one towards the same thing. It was very special. It doesn’t always work like that.
EJ: You open up so much and make yourself very vulnerable in your shows.
RG: There’s still a lot of unresolvedness in the emotion of the show and in my previous shows. But I think the more you do, the more you get used to it, the more you accept certain parts of it, certain parts of yourself and so it gets easier with time. So it’s like a process of catharsis really. But I’m emotionally and physically drained. Things get to me, you know, like the petty rages you can fly into just because somebody is walking slowly in front of you in the street.
EJ: Have you got an idea for another Edinburgh show?
RG: I’ve got some loose ideas but I think I’ll give myself three years off. I’ll tour this one for probably about two years and do things with it. Then I’ll probably do some acting stuff and some film writing and TV writing.
EJ: Your career spans TV, film and stage. Do you enjoy having that mix?
RG: It keeps it interesting. I do comedy, I also write and I also act. I couldn’t imagine what it’d be like just doing one. It’d be a bit tedious. I mean, if you had to write the same article every day. I used the same comedy set every day, you know?
EJ: How are you bringing the show to the Bush Theatre in London?
RG: We’re going to have to try and recreate the claustrophobic intensity of [the Edinburgh venue] the Roundabout in the Bush. All the conversations are happening and we don’t have a clue at this point, but I’m sure we’ll figure it out.
EJ: And what’s next after that?
RG: That’s the beauty of being a freelance writer, actor and comedian. I don’t know what’s next, but I don’t feel worried about it. I want to keep doing new things, challenging myself.
Baby Reindeer runs at London’s Bush theatre from October 9 to November 9
Born: 1989, Wormit, Fife, Scotland
Training: Oxford School of Drama
Influences: Laurel and Hardy, Ricky Gervais, Steve Coogan, Armando Iannuci
First professional role: #2 Scottish Guy in short comedy film Confused
Agent: Casarotto Ramsay and Associates
• Chortle Student Comedy Award finalist (2011)
• Edinburgh Comedy Award for Monkey See, Monkey Do (2016)
• Chortle award for Comedian’s Comedian (2017)
• The Stage Edinburgh Award for Baby Reindeer (2019)