"Natural pessimist" Angela Barnes lines up Chichester date

Angela Barnes
Angela Barnes

Angela Barnes will be one of the very first comedians in the new Spiegeltent at Chichester Festival Theatre when she brings her new show Rose-Tinted to the venue on November 6 at 9pm.

“I have done a few Spiegeltents,” Angela says. “Spiegeltents pop up at festivals like Edinburgh and Brighton, and they are beautiful venues. It is good to be in somewhere that has got a bit of soul.”

The venue is an ornate, historic travelling tent, constructed from wood and canvas and decorated with mirrors and stained glass.

“If you are somewhere like that, it can’t help but have soul. There are some beautiful arts centres out there, but sometimes you can feel like something is missing. It can feel like a conference centre and it can feel a bit clinical with the audience all lined up waiting for something to happen.

“In somewhere like a Spiegeltent, the audience will be much more engaged from the start, and they are also such flexible venues.”

As for the current show: “It came about because over the last three years I have been doing mostly TV and radio doing topical shows like Mock The Week and The News Quiz. I have had to immerse myself in the news. I have always been quite politically engaged, but over the last three years I have had to be really up with what is happening and I have found myself getting really quite depressed because I have had to make jokes about what is happening.

“I was having to immerse myself in all these awful things that were happening and I was starting to feel quite down about it. I had to remind myself that there were also good things happening in the world.”

It doesn’t help that Angela confesses to being a natural pessimist: “I just always expect the worst. My family are a bit like that. Expect the worst and you will never be disappointed. Something awful happens and you say ‘I knew that was going to happen.’ But you can go to extremes with that, and I was just trying to look on the bright side.”

To an extent comedy generally does well when times are grim: “There was a reason why the alternative comedy boom happened when it did, but actually it is a very different landscape now. It’s harder with social media and all the immediacy of the news that we have got now. You have got to react quickly and you have got to have an opinion. There is no time to consider, no time for nuance. And everything seems extreme… which can be exciting. It is exciting to hold that stuff up and say ‘Look at what is happening!’ but you do end up getting a lot of abuse from people who are watching or listening and who are saying really quite nasty things, particularly after a topical TV show, particularly if you have the audacity to be a woman. After an episode of The News Quiz I can get labelled a raving leftie or an anti-Corbyn. Really, I think people just hear what they want to hear.

“But there is a middle ground that you are not allowed to inhabit. If you are going to go on TV and make job about topical things, then obviously half the population are not going to be happy with what you are doing. You can’t win. But my joke is to be topical. Perhaps it is obvious where my politics lie roughly, but my job on TV is to satirise whatever it happening, whether it is Johnson or Corbyn.”

Inevitably, the abuse she then receives can get very personal: “I just try to ignore it as much as I can. I don’t scroll through all the Twitter like I used to. You would go mad. It would give you a breakdown. But I think you do have to have a bit of a thick skin. But also I think if somebody was saying those things about you, then they can’t really have a happy and secure life themselves, and in a way you feel pity for them. If they are insulting you in that way, then they really aren’t having a good life...”

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