Double Fringe First Winners Xhloe & Natasha Share Secrets Of Their Edinburgh Fringe Success

Xhloe Rice & Natasha Roland are the creators of the 2022 Fringe First winning show, And Then The Rodeo Burned Down and the 2023 Fringe First winning show, What If They Ate The Baby. now showing as a double bill at the King's Head Theatre, London until 7 April 2024. We caught up with the jet-setting NYC-based pair having just stepped off the plane from the USA and asked them about performing in Edinburgh, London and (they hope) NYC.

Hello Xhloe & Natasha. I hope you're not too jet-lagged. Why not start by hearing about the two shows that you’re performing at the King’s Head. 

XR: And Then The Rodeo Burned Down is a meta-theatrical story of a Rodeo Clown who wants to become a cowboy but is confronted with his Shadow who threatens his position and his worldview. It’s a show within a show. We see the rodeo, outside the rodeo, and then the world of the play kind of breaks.

NR: What If They Ate The Baby? exists in a similar absurd universe. It tells the story of two neighbouring all-American 1950s housewives navigating the same seemingly banal conversation repeatedly, just one returning an empty casserole dish to the other. Throughout the show it is slowly revealed that something much more sinister is going on and the wives have to maintain that level of perfection and artifice to cover it up and protect themselves.

You won a Fringe First in 2022 and 2023 for each of these shows, making you one of the few consecutive Fringe First winners. But outside of the bubble that is the Edinburgh Fringe do awards matter as much?

NR: It certainly is a helpful draw to our shows elsewhere when people are aware of the Fringe and how competitive it can be. It gives performers as young as we are a bit of notoriety that would be hard to achieve otherwise.

XR: That being said, we are constantly trying to make the shows better, so we don’t want to act like the awards we’ve received are the end-all and be-all. What’s most important to us is people coming to see the shows, enjoying them, engaging with them, and having those post-show conversations that tell us people take a genuine interest in our work.

You’re becoming an established name at the Edinburgh Fringe. How does performing in London feel compared to performing in Edinburgh?

XR: There is obviously an unrivalled energy to Edinburgh in August: the number of shows, the spirit, the people from all over, but with that comes a lot of pressure. You’re sometimes being pulled in a hundred different (wonderful) directions that cause the month to become a blur.

NR: Here in London we’ve really enjoyed the ability to focus on our shows without distraction and to pull audiences composed of people that may not make it to Fringe. Edinburgh can be overwhelming for some, so having the time and space to chat with audiences after the show and connect with local artists whom we may not have otherwise met is something unique we’ve found here.

It seems strange that the shows haven’t been performed in your home town of New York City. Why do you think that is the case?

NR: Trust us when we say it isn’t for a lack of trying! We are so thrilled with the reception we’ve had here in the UK, and we’ve really come to love the culture of fringe and pub theatre here, but that doesn’t quite exist in the same way in New York.

XR: The New York theatre scene is booming but they’re a bit less aware of Fringe where we’re from. Our Fringe success doesn’t go as far there, but we’re working to prove ourselves in other ways and get on the right people’s radar, even while we’re here in the UK. We hope to perform in New York soon, so keep your eyes out.

Having come from New York to perform in Edinburgh and London, do you think UK audiences connect well to work from the USA?

XR: It’s funny. When we first came over to Edinburgh we had no idea how our work would be perceived; we had only performed in the US. We found that a big part of the charm in our work over here is the theme of Americana, be it cowboys or housewives. We had a lot of people in our first year of Fringe come purely because they knew cowboys were involved but then kept coming back when they saw we had much more to say. A diversion from what UK audiences might be used to could be a factor as well.

NR: I think our work speaks to events and circumstances going on around the world as well as feelings that are universal and deeply human. People go to the theatre already wanting to connect, and making art that speaks to things like unrequited love, the crushing pressure of capitalism, and literally just being hungry, it makes that connection easy for them and for us. Who’s to say if it is the “American-ness” of our work, but we think UK audiences are drawn to things that feel new and urgent.

For anyone thinking of coming to the Edinburgh Fringe from the USA for the first time what advice would you give them?

NR: In the most loving way, you have to be able to manage your expectations. In a festival where there are thousands of people trying to accomplish the same thing it can get disheartening when you don’t feel like you’re getting the sellout-breakaway-fringe-dream everyone talks about. We recognize that our experience is very lucky and very rare so while we definitely encourage everyone to go for it, we don’t want to pretend like we’ve cracked some sort of secret Fringe code to success. Try not to get tangled in the optics of sales and measured success and really try to just give the best show yet every time to every audience, no matter the size.

XR: The other would be to remember that Fringe is, in our opinion, the best place for new work. The support that we have found for new writing, new companies, and young people like ourselves, whether it was from theSpaceUK, our venue, audiences, or press, makes the scale of your first Fringe much less daunting. Don’t be afraid to premiere new work, we think new writing is really the spirit of the Fringe.

NR: Well the best piece of advice would be to come see us this summer, A Letter To Lyndon B. Johnson or God: Whoever Reads This First will premiere at Fringe 2024, it’s already on sale so we hope to have some fellow Americans there.

And Then the Rodeo Burned Down and What If They Ate The Baby are at the King's Head Theatre, Islington, until 7 April 2024. Tickets available here.

A Letter to Lyndon B Johnson or God: Whoever Reads This First is at theSpaceUK, Edinburgh Fringe, from 2-24 August. Tickets available here.

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