MEET – Holli Dillon

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Holli Dillon

How did you get started in cabaret?

I was looking for a medium that would allow me to experiment as a performance artist and decided that good old fashioned variety was the way forward after watching one of the Finger in the Pie showcases when it was at Madame JoJos.

What training have you had?

I trained as a comedian. I have an MDrama from Kent University and specialised in Stand-Up for my final year. I realised very quickly that physical and abstract comedy were more my thing and so I looked into training in clown when I graduated. Spoken word and poetry is just something I’ve done since I was little and I feel more confident with my writing these days.

What was the most useful thing you learned?

The best thing I learnt was to connect and be there in the room. It sounds obvious and simple but some people have a hard time with it and others forget about it completely. Clowning really helped with my performance skills on all levels.

How did you get your first gig?

I actually had my first spoken word gig years ago at a friend’s club night in Stockwell. I was bricking it as poetry is such a personal thing and I’d never said it aloud to paying audience before. It went down really well and I actually had someone thank me personally afterwards for helping her settle an argument with her sister. I’d said something in one of my poems that made her think twice. Couldn’t ask for more really.

Where did the character/act come from?

I have a couple that I am still moulding. My clown is named after my first dog and just kind of appeared one day at uni, when I was working on a slapstick and physical comedy module. So I guess it’s always been there. And with spoken word, when I opened my mouth on that very first gig I heard my Essex accent for the first time. I’ve never had an accent, its always been quite neutral, but suddenly getting up and spitting rhymes I found I had a hidden inner Essex girl who came out. I thought that was hilarious. So I kept it.

What was the inspiration behind your clown?

Anna Key is a mischievous but adorable dick who gets away with pretty much everything. I’m still forming her but so far she’s been great fun to play with.

Take us through your process, from idea to performance.

Woooooaaahhhhh. It really depends. I write when I have to or when I feel passionately enough about something. I always have a notebook with me. I usually write with my cheeky sense of humour in mind and abstract way of looking at the world.

How many people are involved in your creative process?

Up to 5. I like testing my work on people. And I love working with others – not only for the support but for the feedback from others who I respect.

Why cabaret? Why is it important?

It’s live. PLEASE SUPPORT LIVE PERFORMANCE. It gives you instant energy and inspiration and there are things that will happen in a moment on stage that could be once in a lifetime because it’s an ever changing organic thing. It provides a platform for people to express and experience all varieties of performance and allows us to comment on current or past affairs in an open forum. Essential.

What first got you interested in cabaret?

Clown and lounge singers. Not together… but now I have new act 😉

Why is cabaret the medium through which you express yourself?

It’s not the only medium I express myself in but it’s an extremely giving and very powerful experience.

What’s the most important thing for a cabaret artist to be?

Giving and loving. The best work comes from a deep appreciation for life in general. We want to feel the love as an audience.

What do you get out of being a cabaret artist?

An instant platform to create, play and explore. And the people are amazing.

If you were not a cabaret artist, what would you do?

Well… I’m an actor. I write. I also draw. I direct and I sometimes produce. I will always be doing one or all of these things. I tried not doing it once… I didn’t last very long and was extremely miserable. I learnt my lesson.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Know that you care more than anyone else does in the room and it’s really ok, just do what you want to do and listen to the feedback. Listening to your audience is key – but also context. And always be ready to adapt and learn.

What advice would you give people just starting out)?

I think I would just add that confidence is key. Even if you have no clue what you’re doing but you do it with conviction you will carry a crowd.

What’s your message to first-time audiences?

 Be open, be giving and share lots of love. It takes a lot to go up on stage and bare your soul, so even if you’re not a fan of the act, give them some love. And if you love the act make sure they know !!

Favourite act, either current or past?

Spoken word HAS to be John Cooper Clark
Clown… Dr. BROWN mostly when he’s with his singing tiger.

Which other artist would you most like to collaborate with?

 There are so many awesome poets out there, I’d love to work with a drag artist to help me develop my persona and character… ooh lucky me, I am !! I’m taking Michael Twaits’ drag course as of later this month.

Aaaand obligatory fun question: what’s the weirdest skill on your CV?

 I can burp on request.
Holli Dillon is a regular performer with Finger in the Pie, with her clown show ‘Appetite‘ continuing to develop. She is teaching the Spoken Word (In Cabaret) Workshop on 25th October.

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