Art & Events Interview Caro Meets

Odd Comic: My Champion Heartache

By | Published on Thursday 21 May 2015

Odd Comic, aka artists Holly Bodmer and Dot Howard, this month bring their new live art performance ‘My Champion Heartache’ to The Yard Theatre in London, following a premiere at the currently ongoing 2015 Norfolk and Norwich Festival.


The show focuses on people’s relationships with their pets, and features an appearance by an especially talented tortoise. I sent some questions over to the duo, to find out more.

CM: Tell us about your show. What happens in it? Is it observations or does it have a narrative?
OC: It’s one strand of a multi-faceted art project and the culmination of our findings. It’s about some of the surprising undertones of pet-ownership that go beyond the predictable. It’s humorous and includes extracts of real conversation about pets.

The show features a lost animal, a special moment with a tortoise, and some light-hearted interpretations of the formal mechanisms of performance. It’s a grotesque, nostalgic, teasing, playful, moving, humorous and frank interaction between audience, performer, animal and human.

Your feelings towards those little black bags of dog poo will be forever changed.

We’ve made this performance in an intuitive, sometimes improvisational way and this (in part) accounts for our mongrel, non-linear style and occasional “sketch-show” delivery.

CM: What was the inspiration? What gave you the idea for this?
OC: As long ago as 2011 (during rehearsals for ‘Would Be Nice though…’) we ‘accidentally’ did a bit of improvisation involving people waiting in a vet’s waiting room. It wasn’t right for that show so we stored it for the future. Since then we’ve had so many conversations about people and their pets and our own memories of pet ownership. Every time we’ve mentioned it to anyone, they have something to tell us.

It’s a brilliantly evocative theme that appeals to pet-lovers and pet-lover-haters alike.

CM: What genre would you call this? Is it art, comedy, theatre?
OC: This strand of ‘My Champion Heartache’ is a live art performance but we’ve also created an art exhibition of text-based artworks (and a LOT of artificial grass), photographs and a series soundscapes for radio broadcast. As well as this, we’ve hosted a series of public “bring your pets” events in Norwich and London.

CM: How did the show come together? Did you do research for it? Who did you talk to?
OC: In 2014 we got an Arts Council England grants for the Arts award for research and development and some funding from Norfolk County Council Arts Project fund specifically to work with the Hospital Arts Project at Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. We often work with people and their experiences. A personal account of an experience can provide excellent visual ideas and potential performance dialogue.

For ‘My Champion Heartache’ we have been especially inspired by conversations on the hospital wards with patients recovering from strokes and temporarily separated from their pets. We also had some brilliant interactions with dog walkers and their dogs in the park, including an art exhibition curated for them in our local woodland.

CM: Tell us about Rosie the Tortoise. How did she get involved with the project?
OC: We absolutely love tortoises. They are the perfect animal for this project. They can live for over 100 years so getting one is a life-long commitment and many more people than you’d imagine have known or owned a tortoise at some point in their life. They are quite odd (not at all cuddly) and that’s very appealing to us. They also behave particularly well on stage. Of course we auditioned, interviewed and selected Rosie from a variety of trained tortoises. She was the most talented of all.

CM: How did you two meet and form Odd Comic, and what made you want to work together? How does your creative process work?
OC: We met as postgraduate students at Dartington College of Art but it wasn’t until we both (for separate reasons) moved to Norfolk a year or so later when we formed Odd Comic. We both have independent arts practices and in 2011 we did a collaborative, improvised performance in a hotel in Suffolk and have worked closely in a variety of projects, work and artwork ever since. We are founding members of Norwich based live art collective Other/other/other and have a great support network of venues and artists all over the Eastern region. We laugh a lot in our studio and love the surprising, accidental and frankly very weird things that emerge when we are together.

CM: Your show is appearing as part of a double bill at the Now 15 festival. Can you tell us a bit about that and how you got involved with it?
OC: We approached The Yard to talk about an embryonic idea about people and their pets and some time later we were awarded Arts Council Grants for the Arts funding to develop the project and this show is where our research has bought us. The Yard approached us to include it in their programme and of course we said yes – it’s a great opportunity for us to reach beyond the east of England. The Yard is a perfect destination for the project as they’ve known about it from the outset.

CM: What’s next for Odd Comic?
OC: We hope to continue presenting ‘My Champion Heartache’ (the art exhibition and/or the performance) throughout 2015/2016 and then… well, we might get a pet! As I said, we have become very fond of tortoises…

‘My Champion Heartache’ can be seen as part of a double bill at the Now 15 Festival at The Yard Theatre from 26-30 May. See this page here for more info and to book tickets.

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