Anu Vaidyanathan is possibly the busiest person in the world, embarking on a global tour of her debut comedy show after this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
Self-described as “a filmmaker, comedian, engineer and former international triathlete”, her debut show BC:AD (Before Children, After Diapers) addresses the intersection between life before and after being a mum and then ‘becoming history’.
Applying the endurance of her athletic successes, she has been honing BC:AD’s material and describes it as “an invitation to anyone that finds themselves slightly overdrawn, mostly obscure and definitely needing the sound of another voice to reason with their own challenges”.
Comedy and endurance; art and science – there are unlimited possibilities for Anu to explore on stage, promising to take us “from the equatorial latitudes of Madras, India to the glacial confines of Munich, Germany” taking the more scenic non-linear route. I caught up with Anu on how her latest scientific experiment – comedy creation and motherhood – combine, and what audiences can expect.
On the appeal of live comedy, Anu says: “I believe in structure and understanding how much you can push your material. It frees me – I can play and explore how I’m going to say it. Having the experience of the Edinburgh Fringe was a really great way to directly communicate with an audience.”
“As a filmmaker, I’m one step removed from the audience and must convey my ideas through actors. However, since the pandemic I was longing to leave the house. Unwittingly, I found myself at clown school and a month on found a few standup gigs. Comedy gave me a quicker feedback look on new material than films or books ever could. So, I worked on myself as a performer with this hour show that I hope brings people together as it did at the fringe now, I’m going on tour.”
Finding the space to explore comedy content has been accelerated by creating lives. Anu adds: “If I hadn’t had children, I wouldn’t have started writing. Children remind you of what human nature is about. Children don’t care about the things that most adults get caught up in the day-to-day, and it has been my children that have helped me reconnect with my instincts.”
After the Edinburgh Fringe got back on its feet this year, Anu took to the stage for a month in one of the ‘big four’ venues (Underbelly, Bristo Square). She feels, in part, the pursuit of live comedy came after two years of being disconnected from filmmaking, people, places and things, all of which inspire the art of her storytelling.
“During the pandemic, I felt extremely desperate – I did not bake any cookies or anything like that – I was extremely out of sorts because I feel like as a writer my life is very much based on observation of people and places. Then when you shut off you know a writer’s ability to even walk, I feel like that really hampers our ability to produce anything, so I felt very suffocated. Maybe part of this part of doing Edinburgh or this little tour afterwards is also a way for me to re-engage with the world and see where that takes me.”
“Comedy is an art and a science and being able to play around with material at the fringe was a great opportunity to hone the show and prepare it for the tour. It’s a truly immersive show to perform and I feel like I’ve got it well-timed as a piece of work to bring the audience along with me. It’s a great excuse to get out of the house and enjoy some live comedy again.”
“BC:AD’s premise has a universality that I’m very keen to explore. I’m going on tour because I’m very curious about the audience and how the show resonates in this way. Although I did have to take six weeks off after the Edinburgh run. It’s amazing how quickly you can feel incredibly lonely among 4000 performers. It forces you to understand sources of stress and anxiety to reduce the impact on the show, which meant I stopped using social media within a matter of days after joining the festival. I was also naïve to think that there were only four venues! When it came to the audience I was expecting, I was surprised by those that came to see me.”
“I thought that the audience for my show was primarily mothers you know or women who have had children and noticed to sort of gravitational shift in their lives but as the month progressed, what surprised me was a cross-section of audiences that I saw, and they were not limited to mothers or South Asians.”
“There was a whole variety of people; there were men that were relating to the show because of the loss of physical faculties as parents; there were women relating to the show who wanted to be mothers or who have been mothers and then have had detours and a lot of people came by all people who had no kids at all. I was just very pleasantly surprised by the number of people and the number of types of people that showed up in that little hour.”
“My kids visited me in the middle week, my husband did too – I feel like that festival atmosphere was not appropriate for them beyond the time that they visited now because it got too hectic. In fact, when I got home, I started to enjoy the everyday tasks, focusing on my internal self and reflection as grounding experiences after the fringe festival madness and ahead of booking the tour dates.”
“I’ve met a lot of women whose careers have taken them away from home, particularly as a filmmaker. Having met several comedians, it’s a common theme for parents to have considerations around children and I’m sure it’s something I’ll find out more about. However, many locations for the tour have a personal connection to an era of my life and hasbeen part of my family units whether that’s with my parents, my husband or our family with our children, so it feels like a natural progression to explore.”
“I’m only now awakening but the possibilities in an artistic life. I think before I came to Edinburgh I was something of a very bashful filmmaker who knew my range and reach as an engineer or in terms of grasping things. I’m only at the start of my comedy journey and I know I need to spend many more hours exploring the development of the work and testing the half-truths about the process that I’ve learned so far.”
BC: AD will be touring on the following dates and locations: 5th November – Bangalore, India; 6th November – Chennai, India; 18th Nov – Heidelberg; 23rd Nov – Glasgow; 25th Nov – Canal Cafe and theatre, London; 9th December – Prague/CZ; 14th-15th; Jan – NYC Festival; 29th Jan – Rotherham, Yorkshire; March – Junction Cambridge. For more information visit https://linktr.ee/comedy.Av