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Degenerate Fox presents The Dirty Thirty; Desiree Burch returns to the show and to VAULT Festival

Comedian, writer, solo performer, actor and NY-to-London transplant Desiree Burch is the Artistic Director and co-founder of Degenerate Fox Theatre. She was the 2015 Funny Women Stage Award-winner and her solo show ‘Tar Baby’ was the winner of a 2015 Scotsman’s Fringe First Award, a 2016 Vault Festival Pick-of-the-Week and was Shortlisted (High-Commendation) for the 2015 Amnesty International Freedom of Expression Award.

Hot on the heels of her critically acclaimed 2017 Edinburgh one-woman-show ‘Unf*ckable’, she has recently appeared on Live at the Apollo, QI, Have I Got News for You and The Mash Report. She has been heard as the voice of Pamela Winchell on #1 international hit podcast Welcome to Night Vale, as well as on podcasts like The Guilty Feminist, Made of Human, Dumb White Guy, Friends Like Us and Writing Excuses. She will perform with Degenerate Fox at VAULT Festival March 14th-18th 2018.

Laura Killeen: In one sentence: what is The Dirty Thirty?
Desiree Burch:
The Dirty Thirty is an ever-changing attempt to perform 30 original and honest plays in one original and honest hour.  

Laura: What are three things we should know about the show?
The show is a sporting event. We are definitely working as hard as possible to finish all 30 plays in an hour and it doesn’t always happen, but when it does, it’s glorious.

There is no fourth wall. We will talk to and with you. It won’t be stupid though because we won’t be making fun of you or pretending that some other weird conceit is at play. We’ll just be decent people having a good time together in a room while some art happens.

It’s not improv. As much as it looks slapped together at times. It’s because we literally don’t know what is going to happen next in the show (because the audience always calls out the number of the play they want to see next and there’s just no way we can know), and because between 2 and 12 new plays have come into the show the Tuesday night before you watch it. So, no matter how much we are fumbling and struggling to put it together, we definitely sat at home and wrote things down and tried to make you have a certain experience, or at least allow for one. And at the end of a week, we will ruthlessly rip out between 2-12 more plays (based on two nights of audience rolling a 6-sided die) and do the whole thing over again.

Laura: When did the show come to London?
The show began running in London in 2017. Myself and Kate Jones are both alum of the New York Neo-Futurists (NYNF), where we learnt the specific performance aesthetic we have now adopted for Degenerate Fox. We both ended up living in London and wanted artists here to be able to create in the way that we were able to with NYNF. We presented a run here of the NY show with members of the New York Neo-Futurists and creators of the podcast, 'Welcome To Night Vale’. A London company was born soon thereafter and we started performing at the Rosemary Branch Theatre in April of 2017.

The aesthetic of the show demands writing authentically and responding to an ever-changing world landscape. Being Americans living in the UK, I think we both felt ourselves drawn to want to create that way, in a way that neither stand-up nor traditional theatre could quite satisfy.

Laura: You mention stand-up, would you say that’s where you find yourself most comfortable on stage?
I think I find myself most comfortable onstage doing a show like The Dirty Thirty. I think that even more than in stand-up, where the emphasis is on being funny as often as possible, performing in The Dirty Thirty emphasises being honest and present. It’s harder than it seems, but it’s the achievement that underpins all the others. I think that kind of honesty and presence is what I am still working on achieving in stand up and on TV gigs. But I know what it feels like from having that connection with an audience through doing The Dirty Thirty. Just that feeling of knowing that you are worthy of being looked at and really seen, as you are... it sounds ridiculous, but every performer struggles with it, and the harder the thing you are doing, the easier it is for that feeling to leave you.

Laura: How come you’re on QI, HIGNFY, etc. now?
Um. Because they pay me money to be?

Laura: Does your work in TV and radio influence your work in The Dirty Thirty?
I wouldn't necessarily say there is a lot of direct feed back and forth from one to the other. What I will say, is that I can write in the way that I do - express the personal and political as I do on shows like The News Quiz and others - because of the work I did with the New York Neo-Futurists and do currently with Degenerate Fox Theatre in The Dirty Thirty.

Laura: What has been your most memorable moment performing The Dirty Thirty?
There are so many, because the show is absolutely different every night and certain plays will have a knock-on effect to others, depending on how the audience request them. One of the last times I was doing a run, I was performing a play called 'A Degenerate Fox Attempts to Manufacture a Sneeze' and had tried so many things: pepper, plucking, staring into a light. Nothing. Four plays later, I am in the middle of a play called Timelord, in which time and movement is supposed to be frozen, and of course, apropos of nothing, huge sneeze in the middle of attempted nothingness. It was one of those moments when everyone in the room felt the same thing at once and it was just a little piece of magic.  
Laura: When can we see it?
Best time is to catch us during the Vault Festival, 14-18 March at 7:40PM in the Vaults, Crescent. The whole active ensemble will be together. If for some sad reason you can't make those shows, I'd say, come and check us out 1st and 3rd weekends of every month at the Rosemary Branch Theatre.

Desiree Burch