Before he heads up to the Edinburgh Fringe with his comedy show Supernova, 2014 BA (Hons) European Theatre Arts graduate Alex Cofield tells us how his training has helped his career.
BA (Hons) European Theatre Arts
BA (Hons) European Theatre Arts (ETA) prepared me for many things as an artist, but one thing I didn’t anticipate was just how many titles it has allowed me to ascribe to myself. All at once I am a writer, performer, comedian, storyteller, poet, rapper, producer, director and dramaturg. It’s a list which is a little too verbose to fit entirely onto my business cards; but its elements all culminate together in my work as a solo artist, and can all be traced back to my time at Rose Bruford College.
I always knew I felt most comfortable when performing comedy, so it was quite an experience to have my horizons broadened beyond my comprehension through studying a multitude of alternative forms of theatre and visual art. I can remember looking my tutor in the eye after three years of studying and almost apologising for admitting that I still wanted to pursue comedy after all I had learned. But with a knowing smile, it became apparent that there was nothing wrong with that, and that ETA is not about forming the individual into an archetypal performer, but rather arming each prospective theatre-maker with as many tools as possible to enhance and compliment their own work.
And so I now write and tour my own solo comedy shows, with a special emphasis on storytelling comedy. My first show “Woolly: The Morose Merino” was devised whilst backpacking across Australia in 2016, and debuted at Melbourne Fringe of that year, earning a nomination for the Most Outstanding Comedy Award.
After further touring throughout 2017, I started to realise that I needed to establish my own style of storytelling, and this was where ETA’s teachings really had an effect; as after years of training I had the confidence and knowledge of how to push my own boundaries as a performer as well as boundaries in the genre to create something entirely new.
What followed, “Alex Cofield: Supernova” began in much the same way as an ETA dissertation piece: with a question. “Is it possible to tell a coherent and engaging narrative entirely in verse?” Just as with our studies, this question led to research into a particular genre, which in turn led to development of the practice, and eventually a full hour-long one-man hip-hopera rap musical. In the true spirit of ETA, I had to teach myself a lot of new skills to put the show together and add a lot of strings to my bow, as we were always taught to develop our own multidisciplinary skills where possible rather than outsourcing. As such, I learned the formula of hip-hop music, I developed an understanding of music composition, and most importantly, I learned how to rap!
Supernova debuted at Adelaide Fringe 2018 to much critical acclaim that allowed me to continue touring to Edinburgh Fringe 2018 before launching a full summer tour throughout 2019. In May I even received the Best of Brighton Fringe Comedy Award from the International Youth Arts Festival, which has helped me to grow my tour and my artistic profile. Supernova’s tour is set to culminate in one last season at Edinburgh Fringe before I move on to creating something new, whatever that may be.
My only guidelines for new work are the three key tenants for devising and touring that have stuck with me from my time on ETA:
Keep Playing – there’s always more to find in the work!
Make work that can fit into one bag – super handy for both you as the performer and the venue you are visiting!
Use less words – Ok, so I’ve thoroughly ignored this one since graduating. But it seems to have worked out for me so far…
Alex Cofield: Supernova will be playing at Gilded Balloon Patter Hoose (venue 24) from 31 July.