• Sat. May 18th, 2024

Interview: Katie Pesskin

ByJames Hanton

Aug 13, 2017

NewsRevue are back at the Fringe for a 38th consecutive year. The Student caught up with its director Katie Pesskin, who is returning to direct the show at the Fringe for a second year running.


NewsRevue has been coming to the Fringe every year now since 1979. Do you even have to think about coming here now or is it second nature?

I think it is pretty much a given for both our producers and our audiences that NewsRevue will be up at the Fringe! The show is on all year in London but Edinburgh is always one of the highlights of the year as we get to bring together all our best material in one show.


Why do you come back every year? What is it that appeals to you about the Fringe?

Well, the great thing about NewsRevue is that even though we are at the Fringe every year, the show is always completely different. The show we do in Edinburgh is on a much larger scale [compared] to the London shows, so we get to be a lot more flamboyant, which myself and my musical director, Tom Barnes, love. I think NewsRevue would have withdrawal symptoms if we were not at the Fringe…and vice versa.


You are officially the world’s longest-running comedy show. How do you keep a show running for that length of time?

I think the key is change. The fact that audiences know they are getting a completely different show every year keeps them coming back for more. We also have had to develop the show to keep up with the news, which has been a bit crazy the last couple of years. It is definitely a case of adapting to the sort of news you are dealing with, too. For example, this year the news has been incredibly political and the celebrities of our world now are politicians. So we have found ourselves having a lot more politics in the show than ever before because that is what people want to see.


There is no shortage of material from the last twelve months since Fringe 2016. This time last year, would you agree? Clinton was still favourite for president and the Conservatives had a majority…

Oh absolutely! After last year, when we covered the fallout of the EU referendum, I did not think that things could get crazier, but they definitely have done. Politics worldwide have been moving so quickly and it has been a really exciting challenge to try and keep up with that. What has been particularly interesting is just how political the news has been over the past twelve months and therefore how engaged the public is with it. It means we can be much more hard-hitting in our satire because people are so clued-in.


Can you drop any hints as to what might appear in the show?

Ah, well, – I do not want to give too much away! You can expect to see a fair few world leaders, that’s for sure. And of course there’s the elephant in the room – whether we’ll touch on the terror attacks that the UK has seen this year…All I’ll say is that anything could appear in NewsRevue.


The cast, director and musical director change every six weeks, and is always two men and two women. Why do you do this and why do you feel that it is important?

The cast and creatives change every six weeks in London in order to keep things fresh and moving. It is important for the show to move with the times and the best way to do this is to have new brains working on it all the time. I think it is important that the show does not lose its identity though, so we do try to keep the format the same. We are definitely pushing the boundaries this year in terms of the content of the show but, as the world’s longest running live comedy show, audiences know what they want to see when they’re at NewsRevue.


What was last year like for you, directing the show? Was it your first time directing NewsRevue?

I had already directed the show in London a couple of times, which is the norm for directors working on the Edinburgh show. It really is it’s own beast in terms of directing jobs, so the producers usually want directors to get their heads around it and earn their stripes before directing it on the much larger scale that is Edinburgh. Nonetheless, it was definitely daunting working on the Edinburgh show last year, especially because the political landscape was changing so dramatically and so quickly in the weeks running up to the Festival. But it’s never straightforward with NewsRevue – this year’s news hasn’t exactly been easy to tackle either.


How long have you been involved with the show, in any way?

I actually interned at the show’s London home, Canal Café Theatre, when I was still at university. I think that was back in 2010. I remember helping out on that year’s Edinburgh show, as they were preparing to head up to the Festival. That was the first NewsRevue I ever saw.


Just how difficult is it to become part of the NewsRevue team? What process did you have to go through?

The casting process is very rigorous. The Edinburgh cast is selected from the past year’s London casts. So having performed in a London run, the producers’ favourite actors are invited to audition for the Festival show. It’s quite full-on. On the other hand, I went for a gin and tonic with one of the producers and here I am again.


What do you think of the Pleasance as a venue? 

The Pleasance is a great venue – perfect for NewsRevue. It really is the hub for comedy at the Festival and it is a lovely place to perform for a month. The staff have been wonderful too.


How long have you been preparing for the Fringe this year

Well, I was asked to direct the Edinburgh show again this year in March and from then on I watched the London show around once a fortnight to scout for material that could work up in Edinburgh. The producers are on the hunt for songs and sketches all year round though. We started rehearsing in June and have been previewing in London and tweaking the show since then. It is a fairly long process to get the show Edinburgh ready.


In three words, how would you NOT describe your show?

Cowardly, Tame, Slow


NewsRevue 2017

Pleasance Courtyard

Until the 28th August (not the 15th).


Buy tickets here


Image: Alex Brenner

By James Hanton

James is a former editor-in-chief having  been TV & Radio Editor before that, and has contributed over 100 articles to the newspaper. He won a Best Article Award in December 2016 for his feature about Universal Monsters in the film section, and also writes for Starburst Magazine UK and The National Student. James was part of The Student‘s review team for the 2017 & 2018 Edinburgh Festival Fringe. He can be reached at: jhantonwriter@gmail.com

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