Since winning Best Debut Show in 2020 at Leicester Comedy Festival, Liverpool based comedian Sian Davies has been patiently waiting to make her much anticipated Edinburgh debut aptly titled ‘About Time’. The show, based on a formative time in 2010 where she took a gap year aged 27, means Sian is no stranger to waiting for the right time to introduce herself, having first performed on stage aged 34.
“If I have an absolutely dreadful run, no-one likes the show and it’s awful, at the age of almost 40, after everything that’s happened to me in life, I’ll get over it, it’s not the worst thing that’s happened, it’ll be fine, I’ll do another show tomorrow, I’ll be alright and with age comes wisdom” says Sian.
On the inconvenient timing of a pandemic that saw live comedy cancelled overnight, Sian acknowledges it’s had its impact. “I found out that I’d won the award during lockdown and was presented it on Zoom. That’s the annoying thing about it really, I had a lot of momentum behind me and everything got cancelled. I hope that the little break we’ve all had to have hasn’t taken that momentum away from me. Three years’ worth of people are debuting all at once, it’s going to be absolutely saturated for reviews, nominations, and awards with a lot of talent.”
Sian has always been a hard worker, having started work from the age of 13. “I’d always wanted to perform but the timing wasn’t right. Everyone that knows me knows that it makes sense for me me to be doing comedy.”
The moment that crystallised taking a leap to go ‘all in’ and pursue her comedy career came in 2016. “In the same year Victoria Wood and Caroline Aherne both died and left behind a huge legacy, I was 34 and I had a huge realisation that ‘I haven’t even started’ and look at everything they’ve achieved. If I’m going to do it, I have to commit to it, and I was prepared to work really hard from the start, from that moment.”
Sian’s first performance in 2016 was at a new act competition at Laughter House, a venue for Liverpool Echo New Comedian of the Year. When it came to developing a show, she credits the support of a mentoring scheme and the influence of theatre makers in finding different ways to approach storytelling through comedy, including how it is staged.
“I’ve always had the idea of the narrative of this show, of wanting to tell this story. In 2019 I applied for a scheme with Greater Manchester Fringe and they gave me mentorship to write this show. If I hadn’t had that, an audience, industry mentor and space and time to write it, I don’t think I’d have written it. I wouldn’t have known how to write the show as I don’t have a background in performing other than GCSE drama. In fact having a theatre influence really helped in terms of how to present my ideas. I’m just really grateful to them for seeing the potential in the paragraph that I wrote about what I wanted my show to be about.”
“The year in which the show is based on, 2010, was a pivotal year in my life and so much happened that I needed to tell that story. One of my friends saw the show, who’s only known me a couple of years but she knows much more about me now and everything has clicked into place. It’s a year I found my place in the world. I was in Vietnam when the Tories got in while travelling. I didn’t realise the impact this would have on my life, with their attitudes to austerity. There are shades of political stuff in the show but it’s not heavy material. But I do talk about the way we treat people in society and capitalism and austerity. “
Sian has worked to fund her gap year and comedy career in jobs spanning retail and youth work, and now works part time for local council housing Ukrainian refugees.
“I know a lot of other people are debuting this year and in another world I could be their mum, I’m 40 this year, but I’ve lived a life already. I also think that if I’d have come into comedy aged 18 or 19, I was an absolute dickhead and would have burnt every bridge I made, going out drinking, causing more problems for myself. Now, I’m much more professional, and I say things like ‘I have to go home to sort out the dog'”.
When it comes to a visual identity for the show, Sian’s poster looks powerful and belonging to that of a seasoned comedian beyond their Edinburgh Festival Fringe debut year.
“I think the show poster for me embodies the feeling that this might be a debut show and I might be a debut act but it’s fully formed and I’m fully formed. I know what I’m talking about, here it is. I’m coming at it from another angle and perspective, which I think really comes across in the show’s poster. Andy Hollingworth took the photo and Haiminh Le did the poster design. It highlights why I love working with artists – you have an idea that you find very hard to articulate, and they ask a few questions and go on to create something absolutely fantastic.”
The show’s storytelling is targeted at everyone, with a motivation running through to connect people through similarities, differences and common ground. “That’s the craft” says Sian, “When I had to pick a genre for the show, I sort of ‘umm’d and ahh’d’ about whether I should include it in the LGBTQ+ shows section. It’s written by a queer women but it doesn’t matter that I’m queer. There isn’t much queer content in it. It’s for everyone so I purposefully didn’t tag it as LGBTQ+ because of that. Stories based on personal experiences are for everyone. Find common ground, similarities and differences that’s what it’s about, making an audience identify with you if your backgrounds are miles apart, if you can find that point through an overarching story, then you’ve achieved what the goal should be.”
Comparisons to household names have already started, which Sian thinks can play a role in bringing in new audiences, though does have its draw-backs. “It’s useful in some respects, the London centric comedy press has described me as ‘a cross between Zoe Lyons and Peter Kay’ which is essentially a cross between a Northerner and a Lesbian, or ‘What Jason Manford would be like if he was a Liverpudlian Lesbian’. I don’t want to be the next ______, I want to be the first Sian Davies.”
“I’ve not been doing too badly with the time I’ve had so far, winning awards. I’m a lot older than my contemporaries and not London based, and this is my introduction to the comedy industry, the show is about me saying ‘this is who I am and this is what I do'”.
Sian Davies: About Time is at Teviot – Guilded Balloon at 17:40 (1 hour) from 3rd-28th August 2022. Tickets are £12 (£11 concessions) with 2-4-1 tickets available on 8th and 9th August. Book here https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/sian-davies-about-time