The Weird Sisters, 1996-2002, produced high quality, award-winning comedy drama for a wide audience. We, the two actors in the company, Alison Goldie and Kath Burlinson, devised our own work, characterised by its imaginative, emotional and physical content. Our three shows were ‘It’s Uncanny!’, ‘Loveplay’ and ‘The Weird Sisters Get Around’.
We met at Hull University in 1979 and first worked together professionally as The Wild Girls comedy double-act in the 1980s. Friends for 20 years, we reunited in 1996 to form a new company, taking our first show, ‘It’s Uncanny!’, to Edinburgh Fringe in 1997. After that, The Weird Sisters had phenomenal international success and toured almost non-stop. We played in Australia, Canada, the USA, Holland, Germany and Belgium, as well as all over the UK. Our intention to produce high quality comedy drama paid off in huge critical acclaim as well as making us one of the best-loved companies on the fringe circuit.
Our live shows have been performed in theatres, tents, village halls, schools, in an Australian women’s prison and a Dutch organ museum. Our favourite programme description, translated from the German, was ‘The Weird Sisters are as stimulating as a biscuit, dunked in a glass of poisoned cherry juice.’
IT’S UNCANNY (1997-8)
Winner Vancouver Sun People’s Choice Award, Vancouver Fringe 1998.
Vibrant, funny and fast-paced tale of two girls whose lives are spookily affected by the meddlesome antics of two ancient crones from beyond the reach of time and morality. The Weird Sisters played a score of animate and inanimate objects in an exuberant display of physical and verbal invention. Masks, movement and mime combined to make mesmerising comedy that was sometimes surreal, sometimes disarmingly honest and sometimes entirely improvised. From boy-craze to drug-daze and New Age to old age, “It’s Uncanny!” travelled with glee, offering a unique and inspiring theatrical experience. Sheer entertainment with a fab soundtrack and a lot of juice.
Winner Outstanding Production Award, Vancouver Fringe 1999.
Winner Best Female Performer Award, Orlando Fringe 1999.
Nominated for Best Ensemble, The Stage Awards for Acting Excellence
‘Loveplay’ was a comedy drama set in London (no relation to Moira Buffini’s play of the same name which she wrote later). An outrageous emotional tour through the hearts and minds of contemporary people trying to find love and hold on to it. In ‘Loveplay’ Alison and Kath metamorphosed into ten human characters, a penis, a vagina, two taps and a lampshade, without a single change of costume and with just two chairs on stage.
How long will solid but sensitive Dave put up with his uptight wife, Julie, before he cracks?
Will Pippa, the 18 year-old nascent lesbian, find her Amazon?
Will meek and mild Sally, the martyr to lost love, have a dangerous liaison with Dave?
And will flamboyant, vicious Carla make peace with her icy, snobbish mother before it is too late?
THE WEIRD SISTERS GET AROUND (2000-2002)
Come on the trip of a lifetime!
A dark, dangerous comedy featuring a collection of extreme and unlikely characters. The Weird Sisters, internationally known for multiple role-playing, bold humour, big emotions, and rude bits, broke new ground in a lunatic show that had audiences begging for mercy.
Directed by Cal McCrystal, a world-renowned comedy craftsman, ‘The Weird Sisters Get Around’ was absurd, bizarre, and unforgettable. Not suitable for children or adults.
“Superbly performed.” The Independent
“Elastic faces and bodies that defy the norm…wickedly inventive and tear-inducingly funny.” The Glasgow Herald
“Superb…hugely talented…poignant and funny…A must-see for this year’s festival.” Forth FM
“Often hilarious, sometimes disturbing, but always honest…The Weird Sisters move like lightning, weaving a mesmerising spell…a unique blend of highly flammable humour.” Edinburgh Evening News
“Highly inventive…sharply observed…these sisters know how to bewitch.” The List
“One of this year’s Fringe gems…brilliantly written and performed…hysterically funny…a fantastic show.” Triple F
“An unbelievable tour-de-force…a must for anyone interested in intelligent as well as emotionally charged and highly physical theatre.” Arts-Talk
‘Absolutely delightful…they really know how to work a crowd.’
‘Vibrant, roaringly funny and touching; a definite Fringe must-see.’
‘Charming theatre for those looking for something more than stand-up.’
‘Extremely clever jump-cut comedy…brilliantly convincing. Not to be missed.’
Rip it Up
“Protean comic performers, absolutely compelling and fiercely honest in every incarnation…comically precise and executed with dazzling skill.”
“Outstanding…the two performers crackle with energy and presence.”
“Carefully scripted madness both weird and wonderful.”
“Irresistibly open-hearted…sheer delight.”
“The performers are very funny…[they have] the ability to instantly create multi-dimensional characters and they sure know how to work an audience.”
“Rapid, raucous and hilariously funny…hair-trigger responses and utter lack of inhibition…a winning comedy drama.”
“Remarkable…the rewards of the piece go far beyond marvelling at its cleverness and dexterity, deriving from the rich comedy and pathos intertwined in the characters’ stories, and the depth and definition The Weird Sisters bring to each one.”
“Acute observation and clever character-based comedy.”
Michael Coveney, Daily Mail
“Brilliantly performed…cuts straight to the marrow”
“Goldie and Burlinson are keen observers of people and their tangled lives…They inhabit their roles so well, and keep them so distinct, that a slight change of expression is enough to summon a new character.”
“Irrefutable comic talent.”
“A delicious comic play…Goldie and Burlinson’s technique sets them apart.” Evening News
“Spellbinding stuff from a wickedly talented duo.” The Stage
“Startling ingenuity … Loveplay excels at dramatising our common psyches.” Time Out (Critic’s Choice–Pick of the Week)
“At once poignant, touching and raucously amusing, this is a two-woman triumph.” Metro
“Goldie and Burlinson have an incredible ability to express emotion and force the audience to feel and reflect on their own lives and relationships.” Footloose Magazine
“Virtuoso skill…compelling and complex, intelligent and imaginative…Don’t miss this bona fide hit. ” Times Colonist
“A flawless mirror held up to families, love, marriage, death and sex. The best play and cast of this year’s festival.” Victoria News
“A sophisticated meditation on the fundamentals of love…rife with ideas, passion, self-doubt, yearning, lust, one-liners, moments of quiet reflection … alternately funny, sexy and anguished … Don’t miss it–this is the real thing.”
Alan Kellogg Edmonton Journal
“Amazing acting, fine writing, much humour…these are two fearless performers hungry for a challenge and ready to take on anything.”
Cam Fuller, Star Phoenix
“An outstanding production…tremendous talent and energy.”
Winnipeg Free Press
“Stunning…frank and often brutally funny…goes beyond tour de force.”
Colin Maclean, Edmonton Sun
“If you have to see one show, see Loveplay…it’s astounding.”
Bill Roberston, CBC
“It’s truly incredible what these women can do…a dazzling and a realistic portrayal of everyday people struggling to find love of all kinds and hold on to it.”
“Love in all its glory and dark dangers is given a richly engaging work out…Heart-pumping theatre of the highest order.”
“A celebration of dramatic timing and also, of tight, inventive writing.”
“A riveting…outrageous comedy drama.”
“The 2000 Festival and Fringe will be remembered for some great moments (Iets op Bach, The Weird Sisters)….”
Adelaide Advertiser (festival round-up)
‘The Weird Sisters Get Around‘
“Frighteningly good comic performers….but don’t take your maiden aunt”
Michael Coveney, Daily Mail
“Performed with much talent and commitment”
“Daring, lacking inhibition, original and bloody funny”
The Weird Sisters appeared as presenters and sketch-actors in two hugely successful Channel 5 programmes: The Female Orgasm and Female Fantasies. We were also featured in Channel 4’s History of the ‘F’ Word.
We broadcast on BBC Radio 4’s Loose Ends, played several female roles in The Nimmo Twins recent radio series (R4) and were interviewed on Woman’s Hour (R4).
As well as working in the UK media, The Weird Sisters appeared on numerous TV and radio shows in Canada and Australia, and hosted a live 90 min. radio broadcast for International Women’s Day from Adelaide Fringe Festival 2000.
The Weird Sisters regularly taught exhilarating performance workshops for young people and adults of all abilities. We had many years of teaching experience and taught in schools, colleges, universities, for adult education, youth theatre and women’s groups, and worked with people with head injuries and learning difficulties. We worked intensively, but in an atmosphere of fun and enjoyment, facilitating each student regardless of ability or previous experience.
PHYSICAL AND VISUAL WORK
Our workshops typically focused on visual and physical aspects of theatre and on character creation through body and voice. We introduced students to the techniques through which recognisable characters might be created, developing the students’ confidence in their ability to conjure different identities through exploration of physical and vocal resources. Improvisation was also used to explore the characters we created, through exercises done individually, in pairs, in small and large groups.
“The drama workshop for the Year 10 Expressive Arts students was a great success. The students thoroughly enjoyed the work and gave positive feedback in their written evaluations. The workshop also enabled me to observe a high standard of drama teaching, which has provided me with further ideas and fuelled enthusiasm for my own teaching.”
Sally McLintock, Parkside Community College, Cambridge
“The workshop was a very useful pointer towards building character and narrative through the body…the classes were well paced and the material handled with confidence, insight and humour” J. Brook, University of Portsmouth
“Thank you so much for teaching us some weird and wonderful skills in your workshop. We had so much fun and feel extremely inspired.” G. Wilcox, University of Leeds
We also offered mask workshops. Mask work is excellent for developing students’ physical communication skills and for creating comedy. It often yielded surprising results: the most timid students could find the mask very liberating, whereas the confident sometimes felt less secure when subjected to the discipline of mask.
“Focusing on maskwork, the workshop explored in depth the realms of the physical, the comic and the raw emotional. The Weird Sisters have an uncanny knack of drawing the best out of the simplest improvisations, intuitively guiding the actor into exciting new territory.” Toby Frow, Oxford University
“Fabulous. A real experience. I felt like I’d tapped into something really strong. I was amazed to do so much in 3 hours” Bronwen, Southampton
STORYTELLING AND NARRATIVE
Another possible subject-area for workshops was storytelling and narrative, which students could use as the backbone of comic sketches, scenes or entire dramas. Skills taught included techniques for improvising stories, finding an ending, telling stories economically, reincorporation, keeping a clear focus. We enjoyed developing students’ imaginations through encouraging them to incorporate inanimate objects or non-human characters and to use their bodies to create whatever visual effects were appropriate for their stories.
“You did a workshop with me at Cowes High School and it was brilliant. A whole new look at ‘Drama’” (Jenny)
“Your help was not only well timed, but also instrumental in helping us to develop the Narrators for the school production of Blood Brothers. Your workshop was a real turning point. Thank you” Rob Thompson, Cowes High School
“Dynamic, innovative and hysterically funny, The Weird Sisters take the ‘work’ out of workshops and give a unique and unforgettable theatrical experience.” Naomi Lipscomb, Oxford
The Weird Sisters disbanded in 2002, but we do not rule out the possibility of working together in the future, in what would be a third incarnation for us as a duo. After The Wild Girls and The Weird Sisters, will it be The Wizened Crones or The Wise Old Birds? Time will tell….