Caro Meets Comedy Interview Theatre Interview

Cassie Symes and Georgina Thomas: General Secretary

By | Published on Friday 2 April 2021

The edfringe fans amongst our readership may well be familiar with Cassie Symes and Georgina Thomas – aka Thick ‘n’ Fast – from their acclaimed show ‘Not Quite’, which was on at Gilded Balloon in the summer of 2019.

If you’re not familiar with them, well, I expect you will be before long, as I am sure you’ll be seeing lots of their work achieving critical acclaim in the future.

Their latest show ‘General Secretary’, created in lockdown, will be shortly presented digitally via Applecart Arts. I spoke to the duo, to find out more about the show, their history, and their hopes for the future.

CM: Can you start by telling us a bit about ‘General Secretary’?
CS&GT: ‘General Secretary’ is about what happens when the planet puts two inexperienced young people in control. Cassie and Georgie are just insignificant individuals until they are landed with the minor responsibility of taking over the world.

What global issues should the new leaders tackle first? Climate change? War? Unreciprocated orgasms? And will an in-depth knowledge of social media help them avoid the pitfalls that have befallen so many leaders before them?

From taking minutes to taking charge, Cassie and Georgie must work out if they have what it takes to handle this almighty responsibility. After all, absolute power corrupts absolutely, right?

CM: What themes does it explore?
CS&GT: The show explores partnership and the desire for power through a female lens. Global politics is largely dominated by men and we wanted to see what would happen if two young women were suddenly calling the shots. It’s also about our enduring relationship with technology and how it shapes the millennial experience.

CM: How would you describe it in terms of style and/or genre?
CS&GT: It’s a hybrid of comedy and theatre in a livestream format. In short, it’s confused! Part live and part pre-recorded, the show parodies everything from television news bulletins to YouTube videos, transporting the audience to multiple different worlds.

CM: What was the inspiration for it? Why did you choose this theme?
CS&GT: At a time when most of us are struggling to feel in control of anything, we thought it might be funny if we were suddenly in control of everything. We wanted to make an escapist show exploring global relationships and power without ever mentioning the global events that we are all going through.

Our previous show was about the two of us desperately trying to get a job, so we thought we would follow this up with a show in which we are suddenly given the most important job in the world – with absolutely no experience.

CM: Was ‘General Secretary’ written in the lockdown? Has it been hard to work on it in these circumstances?
CS&GT: Yes – we started writing the show in January, so lockdown is all it has ever known! We were very lucky to get a residency at Applecart Arts to create it. At first, we were like kids in a sweet shop, having space to rehearse and incredible cameras to borrow. As time goes on we have felt the lack of other collaborators, who usually form a large part of our process, but the support of the wonderful people at Applecart has been a huge boost!

CM: What are the challenges of creating work for this kind of format?
CS&GT: The size of the crew – aside from socially distanced help from the wonderful team at Applecart for live sections and a song/dance number, it’s been a case of setting up, pressing ‘record’ and running into scene, hoping for the best. A DIY approach which has its flaws. But we try to see the funny side when a scene is out of focus or muted!

CM: Can you see yourselves using this format in the future, even post-COVID?
CS&GT: It’s been great to reach to audiences further afield – people watched a work in progress performance from Canada, Ireland and around the UK. We want to expand our reach as far as possible and livestream is a great way to do that.

CM: Do you expect to be able to perform ‘General Secretary’ ‘in the flesh’ once that’s a possibility? When might that happen?
CS&GT: We hope to perform it at the Edinburgh Fringe 2021 and then hopefully give it a life beyond that. The process has given us new characters and ideas that we’d like to experiment with more. Watch this space!

CM: The pandemic’s given the arts a really big knock – how has the last year been for you personally? What did you miss out on? Would you have been at Edinburgh Fringe 2020, maybe, if that had happened…?
CS&GT: Within the arts specifically, it’s been hard to see small – and large – venues struggle, not to mention all the individuals who make the comedy and theatre scenes what they are!

We would have been at the Fringe in 2020 with a show about people’s relationships to their houseplants, which has ironically grown in relevance! At least we have abundant, leafy collections to console us.

We also really miss the socialising, it’s a huge part of the creative process and working ideas through. We’ve been lucky to have each other and the solace of cold beers – if only from the supermarket and not a theatre bar.

CM: Can you tell us a bit about your history – when did you come together as Thick n Fast, and what are your aims and ambitions for it?
CS&GT: We met doing a masters at The Royal Central School of Speech And Drama. We were really good friends but didn’t end up actually working together until after we left, by chance.

Cassie had a residency planned at Theatre Delicatessen, but someone dropped out last minute and Georgie was available. We ended up developing the resulting ten minute performance into ‘Not Quite’ and two years later we performed it at the Soho Theatre! It changed a lot for the better in that time.

In 2021 we decided to take over the world with ‘General Secretary’. We’re not quite sure what the next step is, deification maybe? But we are certainly going to continue creating work together.

CM: What’s coming up for you next after this?
CS&GT: We are hoping to perform at festivals this summer, in whatever capacity that may be possible! We’re crossing our fingers that the Fringe 2021 goes ahead. We plan to continue performing and developing ‘General Secretary’ and hope to work more with the amazing team at Applecart Arts.

‘General Secretary’ is streaming via Applecart Arts from 8-24 Apr, see this page here for more information and to book.

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