This week we had the pleasure of interviewing the wonderful Felicity Ward ahead of her stand up tour 50% More Likely to Die which kicks of this Sunday October 2nd at the Bike Shed. Massive thank you Felicity for chatting to us and for such an interesting interview.
Hi Felicity! You’re kicking off your tour in Exeter, are you looking forward to being here?
I’m so excited, I love that theatre. I wish that my whole tour was in little eighty seat rooms in Exeter. I mean, I would love it if you had another train that left after nine o’clock but apart from that, it’s a beautiful city with a beautiful theatre. I hope the rest of the tour won’t be a disappointment after that.
I’m sure it won’t be! It is a very nice theatre, the Bike Shed, it’s very intimate. Have you got any other places you are looking forward to going to on tour?
I’m told that Harrogate is beautiful, so I’m looking forward to Harrogate. I’m really looking forward to Brighton because I love Brighton. I’m looking forward to touring a bunch of places in the North I have never been to before. I’ve never been to Barnsley; I’ve never been to – where else am I going? – Huddersfield! Where the fuck is Huddersfield? And then there is a really cool tour show that I’m doing in Glasgow, they have a mental health, arts festival up there. Sometimes you think things in life are specifically created for you, that is one of them.
You’re known for talking about personal things in your shows and autobiographical themes, do you still get nervous talking about that, or is all part of the fun now?
Both. It depends, I had a gig last night and I get really confident, not cocky, but you just get used to people being fine with it. Then you do a gig and people are like “Oh no”, and you’re like “oh that’s alright some people are still weird about this shit. Ok well, hi!”. Last year’s show was super personal, and that was where I really started talking about mental illness for the first time. I had mentioned it very, very loosely years ago but never in detail, and in last year’s show it was all about my irritable bowel syndrome and anxiety, and how they are related. This year’s show is more or less a story show about how I left a bag on a bus. This show was always going to be about mental health statistics, that was my aim. Then, five days before my first preview I left a bag on a bus which had my laptop, my wallet, my keys, these underwater headphones; all of these very very important things in my life I left in this bag. The twelve hours before and the twelve hours preceding the moment I lost that bag, you couldn’t have written it. The amount of coincidences that tied up, that linked in, about how London rallied to try and find this bag and it turned into a little search party, and all the other things that fell in to place was just amazing. I couldn’t believe it was happening. So the show went from being about mental health statistics, to a show about a lady with control issues who loses her bag, with mental health statistics woven in, so to speak.
Have you had any experience of audiences opening up themselves about their own mental health?
Oh my god, yeah. Last year’s show, it was pretty crazy. I’ve had a number of people write to me saying “I’m writing this from the doctor’s surgery after seeing your show”. Like, that’s pretty great. That’s not what I ever set out to do. The only thing that I aim to do when I write a comedy show is to make people laugh. That’s all I care about doing. I try to do it in an interesting and personal way, but I don’t ever try and change people’s opinions. I don’t ever try and get people to adopt art. That’s too great a demand I think, but if that stuff happens, and it has, then that is a wonderful side effect.
It must be a great feeling knowing that you’re helping people, as I think mental health is definitely something that needs to be talked about more.
There is a lot of shame in this country, and in Australia, about talking about it, which is bizarre because it’s 1 in 4. The chances of it being you are very high. When I did the show in Edinburgh last year, I had these two piles of toilet paper on stage, these two sort of pyramids, and I knock them down over the course of the show. There were two things that would happen. Either, people couldn’t say that they related to me but they wanted to. They would come up while I was packing the toilet paper away and they would put a roll of toilet paper in my box for me. It was just their way of going “me”, it is just this little symbol which is really beautiful. The other thing was, I reckon every four or five shows at the end of the show there was a person in the front row sitting there crying because they wanted to wait until everyone had left. Not that they would say anything to me, it obviously just brought up some stuff up for them which they might not have been looking at, and maybe they should have been. It sort of had a much bigger effect than I thought or expected or anticipated.
You did your documentary about mental health (Felicity’s Mental Mission), was that a good form of therapy for you?
No, I’ve got very strong beliefs that if you have got any mental health issues that you should sort that shit out with a therapist. It’s not for me; I don’t work anything out on stage. I try and make sense of the world but I don’t try and make sense of my medical problems on stage. What that means is when I go on stage and talk about it, it’s not going to sideswipe me and go “oh fuck, I hadn’t thought about it like that” and get all teary, you know what I mean?
You started out working on TV, do you miss working on TV, have you got any projects or film work coming up?
I haven’t acted for a little while, I think the last thing I did was Josh. It’s also different when you move to a new country and you do not have the same accent as other people, and they’re like “why would we get an Australian person to do an English accent when we live in England?” So I’m not doing as much acting over here, but I’m still doing a little but of TV and I’ve got little projects; it’s always just in the pipeline. There’s like three or four things that I’m waiting to hear back on that I’ve written. There’s always something happening, you’ve just got to sit here and wait for the right one to burst.
I’m looking forward to seeing what comes next.
Yeah, actually the reason I started talking about mental illness was because I made that documentary and they wanted between six and ten minutes of stand up on mental illness in the documentary. When we started writing the material there was so much to cover that I was like, this is a waste! There’s hours of material here, and it turned out there was, so I thought fuck this, I’m going to do a show about it.
When you’re performing you get that immediate reaction from the audience, do you miss that when you’re doing film and TV?
Yeah it’s different, there is something very immediate about stand-up where you get to find out straight away whether people like what you are saying or don’t like what you’re saying. Their opinion of you can change in a second, be that to positive or negative so it’s a very ruthless and immediate medium or art form. I know art form sounds a bit wanky for what we do, but it is. We’re the arts you know? We’re the arty farty arts!
I was in Edinburgh this summer and I went to a party you were the DJ at, which was a lot of fun. Is music an area you would every want to professionally delve in to?
I love DJ-ing, I absolutely love it. I used to be in a band, I play guitar and I sing. When I first started I would use music in my stand up, so every now and again I would do a song. I find singing very vulnerable and more exposing than stand up, weirdly. I find it so fucking personal, that if people don’t like a song I’ve written, that is devastating because they are feelings. Jokes are jokes, and even though they are your jokes that you have written and they are my babies, if someone doesn’t like my jokes I feel sad, but a song, this has come from a place.
If you had to describe your show in three words, what would they be?
Hopefully very funny.
Cats or dogs?
Dogs, no question.
Night-owl or early bird?
Depends on whether I have a plane to catch.
Salt or sweet?
Your go-to karaoke song?
To Be With You by Mr. Big.
Tim Tams or Penguin bars?
Never even had a Penguin, don’t want to put it near my mouth.
Tickets for Felicity at the Bike Shed are available here: https://www.bikeshedtheatre.co.uk/shows/felicity-ward-50-more-likely-to-die/