Richard Beck met up with Katie Norris & Sinead Parker and invited them to talk about themselves and their work. Then they took over!
Sinead: Like many fine double acts (such as Julie Walters and Victoria Wood), we met in Manchester at drama school, discovered that we had a shared birthday (26th February) and a mutual love of comedy.
Katie: The double act is rooted in British music hall and vaudeville, with one person traditionally acting as the ‘straight man’ or ‘stooge’ and the other as the ‘funny man’ or ‘banana man’.
Sinead: As Katie and I are both completely insane, our double act has no straight man, although I do have to consume four bananas every night as a pre-show ‘ritual’ and then spend the rest of the time worrying that I’m going to shit myself. Our first outing as a double act was in a Shakespeare scene study of Twelfth Night, where we played Viola and Olivia.
Katie: After being sent home with strict instructions to explore the sexual tension in the scene, we headed to Sinead’s flat for an evening rehearsal armed with copious amounts of wine. We tentatively liberated ourselves by taking off all our clothes and dancing to Kate Bush, and we’ve never looked back.
Sinead: Bickering and rivalry are key components of any double act relationship and luckily, we have this in bucket loads, both on- and offstage. During the Edinburgh Fringe, Katie has been forcing me to do late-night Instagram Lives against my will. During last night’s Live, I put my finger in her chocolate-based dessert (not a euphemism) for some classic double act banter; she got really angry and threw the dessert in my face, rubbing clumps of chocolate into my eye, and getting it all over her bed sheets.
Katie: Sinead will often dip her finger into communal household essentials such as butter, mayonnaise, and my chocolate pud; it makes me feel physically sick. She will make a cup of tea but always leave the milk out on the side, even during a heat wave. Her boyfriend Jamie and I have discussed this and would like to publicly shame her for this offence.
Sinead: Katie is very loud. She will often destroy a perfectly serene moment of quiet by screaming without warning or reason. I frequently find her stood outside in her garden in her nighty screaming for her cat Atticus, who refuses to come home because he hates her.
Katie: An important part of being a double act is to live next door to each other like Ant and Dec, but Katie and I took it one step further by living together for several years in Manchester. The flat saw many breakups, bouts of insomnia, and food discoveries; Sinead tried her first egg, mushroom, and tomato at the tender age of 25 in that hovel.
Sinead: On a trip to Tesco one day, we walked past a pet shop and bought a deceptively cute bunny sitting in the shop window, but when we got him home that bastard ate all the wires in the flat and relentlessly shat wherever he pleased. We rehomed him shortly after; to this day, this remains the most irresponsible thing we’ve ever done.
Katie: Singing is a classic part of a double act routine—if we can call what Sinead does singing; it’s more like growling vowel sounds interspersed with high-pitched banshee keening. I am a grade seven singer and played Joanna—the blonde virgin soprano—in our drama school production of Sweeney Todd, whilst Sinead was cast as ‘Beggar Woman’ and threw a tantrum about her costume.
Sinead: Like our favourite double-act Withnail and I, we are two out-of-work actors and often go on holiday by mistake in attempts to write material. Our favourites have been staying with Don and Beryl in Hull, who told us ‘all drinks must be taken up on a tray’; a caravan in Somerset where a woman burst into our garden rehearsal to tell us to shut the fuck up, and a trip to Deal on the coast in Kent, which inspired the Lighthouse Trilogy in our current show Sirens.
Katie: We have also been on holiday together to Thailand, Benidorm, and most recently Ibiza, where Sinead fell off the side of a boat trying to take a selfie and lost half a fingernail—classic double act slapstick comedy.
Katie: Like Eric and Ernie, we often share a bed, my sleep is continually disrupted as Sinead has the bladder capacity of a toddler and will often get up in the night for six or seven psychological wees, turn over to check in with an “are we okay?” and then fall asleep, mouth breathing and farting all night. Unfortunately, I’ve been known to spoon her in the night, which she absolutely loves because apparently, I don’t already give her enough physical affection.
Sinead: In the end, double acts are often together longer than most marriages, it has been thirteen years for us and we imagine that we will keep going until one of us dies.
Katie: Probably Sinead because she suffers from high cholesterol, low iron, and is three years my senior.
Both: But deep down, underneath it all we are dear friends; our new show is a love letter to that friendship.