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Consignia: The Flatterers – The end of their anarchy at the Edinburgh Fringe?

Admirably anarchic comedy group Consignia are performing their show The Flatterers at the Edinburgh Fringe starting this Saturday (6th-14th August).

It is a free show – you can pay what you like at the end – and it is not listed in the Edinburgh Fringe brochure.

Last year, they got two reviews at the Fringe, both 4-stars:

“They actively want you to walk out” ★★★★ (Chortle)

“They eschew likeability” ★★★★ (The Scotsman)

I chatted to Consignia’s Phil Jarvis and (late-on) Nathan Willcox via Skype…


Phil Jarvis (left) at home with a non-Vietnamese doll with a beard (right)…

JOHN: What is that doll?

PHIL: I bought it in Poland the other day. It looks like Ho Chi Minh a bit.

JOHN: ho ho Ho Chi Minh… No it doesn’t. In my bedroom, I have a painting of Uncle Ho writing in a forest. That doll doesn’t look like him.

An inexplicable painting of Ho Chi Minh in a forest in my bedroom…

PHIL: It has his beard.

JOHN: Is the doll relevant to your show?

PHIL: No.

JOHN: Why is your show called The Flatterers?

PHIL: There was a 16th century painting called The Flatterers, so we just borrowed the title. It was about brown-nosing, so we thought we’d use that. By Pieter Brueghel the Younger.

Potentially relevant – The Flatterers by Pieter Brueghel the Younger…

JOHN: That doesn’t really answer the question Why is your show called The Flatterers?

PHIL: OK. The reason it’s called The Flatterers is because it’s about the billionaires leaving Earth in the near future and me and Nathan play people who are on a sort-of a waste ship that takes away the rubbish from the billionaires’ spaceship. Basically, our spaceship is full of shit and detritus from the billionaires and Nathan thinks that, by eating the billionaires’ ship, he will himself become a billionaire.

JOHN: That still doesn’t really answer the question Why is your show called The Flatterers?

PHIL: It’s an A-Level style metaphor about the billionaires just shitting on everyone else. So it’s just really hammering home a (LAUGHS) quite obvious idea. Originally it was going to be a show called The Urn – a person who is having the launch for his art show dies and… But we’re not going to do that because I saw the error of my ways.

JOHN: The Flatterers is only on at the Fringe from the 6th to the 14th August because…

PHIL: Money. I’m paying to go to one of those student dorms and it’s £700 for a week.

An unrelated Consignia show was Lemonade

JOHN: The Flatterers starts at 11.00pm and is billed as being one hour long. I find this difficult to believe. I saw that hour-long show you did which lasted about 3 hours. You are the Ken Dodd of anarchic comedy. You got to the end of the show, then just did the whole thing again. How performing a 1-hour show twice even lasted 3 hours I don’t know. Has any poor sod got a midnight show supposedly following your 11.00pm show in the Banshee Labyrinth?

PHIL: (LAUGHS) Last year’s show was 50 minutes and we ran to time.

JOHN: Is The Flatterers really going to be the last ever Consignia show?

PHIL: I would genuinely like it to be the last one. It feels like… Why not? Why not just end it? Once you get good reviews, why not just end it and do something different. I think that’s a better tactic than…

JOHN: A better tactic than being successful?

PHIL: (LAUGHS)

JOHN: Define “do something different”. Doing mother-in-law gags?

PHIL: (LAUGHS) Maybe not THAT different! Nathan and I already do a podcast: Modernist Cat Wee Wee.

JOHN: Nathan got married. Has that affected the dynamics of the group?

PHIL: Maybe. Well, it was quite a struggle to get Nathan to come up to the Fringe this year.

JOHN: You get an audience, though…

PHIL: You came to the early shows before we were even called Consignia – when the shows were billed as Malcolm Julian Swan Presents – and they had a funny energy to them. And then it kind of found its audience without any flyering, which I feel a bit smug about while being bemused about it too. It doesn’t make any sense.

JOHN: Sounds like a good show review.

(There is a recording of the 2015 pre-Consignia show Malcolm Julian Swan Presents: Hokum on Soundcloud),

Galaxy, scrambled egg or vomit? You decide.

JOHN: When I look at the poster image for The Flatterers, am I wrong in thinking that’s a picture of a bit of vomit on some tarmac?

PHIL: It is, yes. That is our anti-poster. You’re meant to have your picture on a Fringe poster, probably taken by that photographer Steve Best…

JOHN: …or Steve Ullathorne. The Fringe is over-endowed with people called Steve.

PHIL: You’re supposed to look like you’re in a Top Shop kind of thing, but we’re all past 30 now, so we can’t even look smart. We put on a nice 4-star review from Kate Copstick (in The Scotsman) and a good 4-star review from Steve Bennett (on chortle.co.uk).

JOHN: Like I said – over-endowed …

PHIL: We put the review stars on there and our two nominations from the Leicester Comedy Festival, but then we thought Fuck Off! We’re not going to put our faces on it!

JOHN: You reckon, once you are over 30, you are past performing anarchy at the Fringe?

PHIL: Definitely! Once you get into your 30s, you are… well, the advertisers don’t aim at that group. If you go to Berlin, as we did recently – all these hip and happening places – they’re all aimed at people in their 20s, really. 

JOHN: Consignia played Berlin?

PHIL: Yes, we did a show called Maastricht Reloaded, which was actually made in 2019. We built a ClingFilm wall, which we stood behind.

Maastricht Reloaded by Consignia in Berlin…

It was just an improvised show about three hours long about the Maastricht Treaty. We weaved-in a story about Guy Fawkes travelling through time, trying to torpedo John Major’s government.

JOHN: Social realism, then?

PHIL: (LAUGHS) Pretty much, yeah.

JOHN: Pseudo-realism?

PHIL: That’s a great name.

JOHN: You can have it… You played the Fringe last year.

2021: “50 minutes of Migraine…” at the Fringe

PHIL: Yes, It was called Migraine. That was the one we got the 4-star reviews for.

The show’s blurb said it was “50 minutes of migraine”.

We were being quite honest.

JOHN: This year’s show is not listed in the Fringe brochure.

PHIL: Why give money to the Fringe Society when you’ve seen what kind of shit-weasels they are with that duplicity about the app?

(The Fringe Society charged performers in advance but never told them there was no Fringe app for finding shows this year, as there had been last year,)

JOHN: Shit-weasels?…

PHIL: It’s disgusting. What kind of people do that? The Fringe Society is just a toff club.

JOHN: If this really is the last Consignia show, how are you going to unleash your inner anarchy in future?

PHIL: I dunno. Who knows? I think maybe that’s why Consignia was there in the first place: to fulfil that inner need and to get a release. Though I think it became a bit more than that.

JOHN: So that’s enough for the blog…

PHIL: … and here’s the fucking prick!

(NATHAN WILLCOX ARRIVES ON THE SKYPE SCREEN)

PHIL: Where have you been? We’ve been talking for 24 minutes.

NATHAN: You didn’t invite me.

PHIL: That’s no excuse…

On Skype, Phil Jarvis (left) and Nathan Willcox focus on explaining their show title…

JOHN: Why is your show called The Flatterers?

NATHAN: It’s a gross-out, state-of-the-nation piece. It’s set in the not-too distant future when Earth has become uninhabitable due to…

JOHN: …the French?

NATHAN: Probably. Your words. Or climate change. Could be something else. Never specified.

We are in space on Waste Ship 6668…

JOHN: I get 666. Why 8?

PHIL: It’s a Dante reference.

JOHN: Joe Dante, the director of Gremlins?

NATHAN: No. Dante. The Divine Comedy. The 8th level was where The Flatterers were – in the 8th circle of Hell.

JOHN: I thought it was something to do with Pieter Brueghel the Younger…

NATHAN: The show was originally conceived by Phil because of Navara Media’s Left Wing reporter Ash Sarkar. There was a Tweet I sent Phil where there was an article about the Elon Musks and Jeff Bezoses… Their ships, when they go up in space… their waste gets thrown out and burns up in the atmosphere and is often mistaken for shooting stars. The Tweet said something like: Oh what a perfect metaphor for capitalism or something.

I sent that to Phil and he said: “Oh, we should do a show about that!”

JOHN: Close encounters of the turd kind?

PHIL: That’s gotta be the pull-quote from your blog.

JOHN: I can die happy.

(THERE IS AN 18-MINUTE, 46 SECOND CONSIGNIA “WELCOME TO DUNGENESS” VIDEO ON VIMEO WHICH HAS NOTHING WHATEVER TO DO WITH THEIR NEW SHOW “THE FLATTERERS”… AS FAR AS I KNOW…)

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