Sadie Clark makes serio-comic solo shows, among other things.
Her "bisexual Bridget Jones" is at Soho Theatre next week - and there is plenty more in the pipeline.
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Writer, actor, improviser and stand-up comedian Sadie Clark once emailed a photo of her bum to her entire contact list.
“The show is an amalgamation of stuff like that, which has happened to me, and feelings I was processing when I wrote it, and things I have invented for dramatic and comedic effect,” Clark says. “It has the tagline “A bisexual Bridget Jones for the online generation”, and I think that really sums up what it is. A friend said that to me. I probably owe them some money for it.”
Algorithms – in which Clark plays Brooke, a recently-dumped 29-year-old determined to find love via the dating app she helped build – was written while Clark was a member of the Soho Theatre Writers’ Lab in 2018. Directed by Madelaine Moore, it was a hit at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2019, transferred to the Soho Theatre in early 2020, and is returning there for seven shows next week. Along the way, it has been regularly likened to Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag.
“I wasn’t consciously trying to emulate anything, but obviously I was aware of shows like Fleabag and Michaela Coel’s Chewing Gum,” says Clark of the comparison. “I wrote it for myself, though. I wanted a showcase I could invite agents to, and I wanted to write about some of the big feelings I was having, and I wanted to take ownership of my own bisexuality, too. That was a big part of it.”
Despite Algorithms being loosely based on Clark’s own experiences, she still did a lot of research before writing it. “I read quite a lot of papers on the science of love and online dating,” she says. “I’m quite thorough like that. I’m terribly misquoting, but some famous playwright said something about only needing to know enough about a subject to blag it. I’m the opposite. I have to understand everything before I start making a show.”
“I’ve always felt this weird sense of being split between two worlds, the city and the countryside…”
Born in 1990, Clark spent her childhood in London, before her family moved to south Norfolk when she was sixteen. She swapped drama clubs for horse-riding, studied science subjects in Sixth Form, and went to the University of East Anglia to do a degree in natural science (that’s where her thorough, research-heavy approach to playwriting comes from), where she rediscovered drama. “I was like, “Oh, shit, this is actually the thing that brings me the most joy,” she remembers.
Clark completed her degree at UEA, then spent two years retraining with Fourth Monkey, including a two-month placement learning commedia dell’arte with Antonio Fava in Italy. Her first two years as a professional performer were largely spent devising immersive shows – “I was obsessed with it back then; I must’ve seen Punchdrunk’s The Drowned Man like fifteen times,” she says – but by December 2016, she was struggling to stay motivated.
“I went home that Christmas, and told all my friends I was going to give up,” she says. “I started thinking about other jobs I could do. Then, my sister got me the book Yes Please by Amy Poehler, in which she writes a lot about improv, and I thought it sounded like so much fun. I’ve always loved dressing up and being silly, so I started doing improv, and that really helped me rediscover what I loved about performance.”
Clark trained with improv companies Monkey Toast and The Free Association, and started performing stand-up and improv regularly in London. It helped her confidence grow, and convinced her that she could start writing her own material. “I thought if I could come up with a whole scene that was dramatically interesting and funny on the spot, then surely I’d be able to do it sat in front of a laptop,” she says.
Now, following the success of Algorithms, Clark splits her time between improv (she regularly performs with queer collective Hell Yeah! and is one half of improv duo A Little Bit Of Tender, alongside Laura Evelyn), stand-up comedy (“I just love making people laugh,” she says), the odd acting job (a minute-long movie, a Trainline advert), and developing her own work (a new solo show, Greedy, and a two-handed play, Gemini, are in the pipeline).
Clark lives in London with her cavapoo puppy, but still regularly returns to south Norfolk. “I love the flatness of Norfolk, and the open skies and the space to think,” she says. “I’ve always felt this weird sense of being split between two worlds, the city and the countryside, and I’m very interested in exploring that divide next, and exploring what it does to queer identity.”
What do you want to do?
When it comes to writing, I’m interested in continuing to explore that line between comedy and tragedy, between seriousness and silliness. I like making people laugh out loud, then suddenly taking things in a different, darker, more vulnerable direction. Or I like making them think something is going to be really sad or depressing, then flipping it with a punchline. I want to make work like that, driven by the questions that keep me up at night.
When it comes to acting, whether it is on stage or screen, I’m much more interested in comedy than I am anything else. Never say never, but I’m not that keen on doing heavy stuff anymore. The world is heavy, so why not explore that with some lightness and joy?
What support do you need to get there?
Algorithms is under commission to be developed into an audio comedy-drama, but if someone wanted to commission it to be adapted for TV, too, that would be great. We are hoping to tour it later down the line, as well.
I’m really enjoying writing at the moment, and I’m just going to take my time and see how it goes, but I’m keen to do more stand-up and improv. If anyone runs a comedy night – particularly a female or queer one – then get in touch with me!
How can people find out more about you?
Follow me on Twitter – that’s where I always post about the stuff I’m doing and check out my website, too – the trailer for Algorithms is on there, plus a sketch I wrote that won a comedy award earlier this year.
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If you want to get in touch with me to ask about anything, or to suggest someone who deserves a shout-out in this newsletter, you can reach me on Twitter - I’m @FergusMorgan - or by simply replying to this email. That’s all for now. Back in a week. Thanks for reading.