Comedian Brianna Williams is making her triumphant return to Perth after having moved to Melbourne over a year ago to further pursue her comedy career. She’s bringing her one-woman sketch show, Little Mountain Goblin, to Fringe World after a successful run at Melbourne Fringe late last year. I caught up with Williams for a conversation about the show, life in Melbourne, and coming back home.
If you’re a cricket or footy fan, you might have seen Williams in the ‘Demand a Commander’ advert. And if you’re really curious about that ad, you can do a little Google search and see that there’s a reddit thread dedicated to it. I haven’t taken the time out to read the whole thing, but one particular comment stood out about Williams’s performance in the ad: “She looks like she’s thinking about bees.” This may very well be the case, knowing Williams’s penchant for non-human creatures: she’s currently working at the Melbourne zoo and gets to do things like touch/handle a Ball python (she didn’t say whether it was named Monty), which she deemed “the most snaky of all snakes.” It’s true. There’s a lot of snake in that snake.
When she’s not thinking about bees and handling snakes, she’s performing with The Big HOO-HAA and writing and performing in one-woman sketch shows. Being a seasoned improvisor, she’s used to working on the fly, winging it and working her way through a scene on the spot. Most people, and indeed many performers would find that frightening, but not Williams. She says, “working with a scripted show, I find that absolutely terrifying.” Having to gauge the audience and go with what you’ve got, rather than having the freedom to take a right turn to somewhere completely different would certainly be limiting to an improvisor.
But not to fear, since she’s already had a run at Melbourne fringe, she’s had a chance to iron out the kinks. And the important thing for her is to communicate the show’s message, which is about living with anxiety and depression. “Little Mountain Goblin is a show about embarrassment, anxiety and the small things that stop us achieving the things we want to achieve.” Williams says she herself suffers from anxiety and depression, and writing this show has been one way to face these head-on.
“Many people who suffer from depression, and are trying to deal with it, describe it as going on a journey, often like going up a mountain. That’s where the Mountain Goblin comes from.” She goes on to say, “People feel like in order to defeat it, they have to become a better person. But I think we have to realise that we already are good people, and everything we need, we already have. We’ve got to own it, or it will own us. That sometimes means owning that we’re going to act really shitty.”
And by ‘really shitty’ she means things like not wanting to be social, wanting to retreat from the world, and even hurting the feelings of others. She looks at depression and anxiety as illnesses, but not only that, they’re the only illnesses that have this social component that affects how its sufferers deal with others as part of its major symptoms. It sounds like a very frank approach to the illness, and perhaps that frankness lends itself well to comedy.
Her show includes a mixture of sketch, audience interaction, story-telling, improvisation and songs. She explains that she’s currently sitting on the fence about some of the anecdotes in the show; she’ll be performing it for the first time in front of her parents here in Perth, and she admits to feeling a little bit unsure about revealing stories or parts of herself that she didn’t have to worry about when performing the show in Melbourne. That’s probably one of the tougher things about being a comedian – it’s one thing to tell that story about that time you woke up half-naked on the lawn of some stranger’s house (this isn’t in Williams’s show, nor did it happen to me, but I had to come up with something) to an audience in some other town, it’s quite another to tell it to a roomful of family that includes your proud parents.
In any case, she’s worked through the material with friends in the business, and she says, “it’s great to be able to get feedback from all your creative friends, but I do want to get people’s input who aren’t in the industry. I ran an idea I had for a bit past my housemate, and he said just the thought of it made him laugh, which I feel like is the best compliment,” she says. And she’ll be flying back to Perth this week to make Fringe audiences laugh. She says, “the first thing I’m going to do when I get back? Well since I’m flying in at about 7:45 am, I’m going to have one of those expensive Perth coffees. And then I’m going to get to the beach as quickly as I can. I might even wear my bathers on the plane. It’ll be gross.”
Little Mountain Goblin runs from Feb 12-16 at 7:45 in The Shambles. Grab your tickets from the Fringe World website here.
Edit: the Ball python’s name is Columbus.