Edinburgh Fringe Q&A: Almost Adult

Charlotte Anne-Tilley tells Fest about her coming-of-age comedy, Almost Adult, which is inspired by her own experiences

feature (edinburgh) | Read in About 8 minutes
33769 large
Almost Adult
Photo by Zoë Birkbeck Photography
Published 29 Jul 2023

Tell us about your show and what audiences can expect?

Almost Adult is a boisterous coming-of-age comedy and a confrontation of workplace sexual harassment, inspired by my own experience as a young woman taking on The Big City. It combines quick-witted character comedy and thrilling multi-roling with a hard-hitting story about the hardships of early womanhood. 

Can you talk about some of the creative team involved?

I am the actor-writer-producer of the show, and I am working with an incredible team of female creatives. Firstly, I am working with comedy advisor, Elf Lyons, who has been pushing the comedy moments and encouraging me to embrace my inner clown (particularly in the first half of the show). My acting advisors, Steph Parry and Olivia McLeod, have been guiding me on the more dramatic moments, with incredible insights into how to elevate the moments of tension and vulnerability in the script. My assistant producer, the wonderful PJ Cunningham, has always been on the other end of a Zoom-call throughout the past few months and has brought her artistic flair to our marketing and outreach. Finally, I am working with the powerhouses at Chloé Nelkin Consulting who have been instrumental in projecting Almost Adult to a wider audience. 

Where do you draw inspiration from for your work, both in terms of creation and performance? 

In terms of performance, I try to draw inspiration from as many different performance styles as possible. For the past three years, I have been training in screen acting which taught me a huge amount about performing in a way that's compelling and detailed. But, equally, I try to see boundary-pushing clown shows or uniquely devised shows which inspire the wackier physical comedy elements of my show. And, I think, as a performer, it’s super useful to watch things with an analytical eye, going, 'OK, what do I like about that? What can I learn from this production?' 

Looking at this production, how would you say it links to previous work personally and thematically? 

My mentors once observed that I have a thematic preoccupation with characters who feel out of place or alone in the world, whether that be struggling to say goodbye to their old life or struggling with the fact that they feel they’ve been left behind by their peers (this is something I explored in my short film, Birthday). This conundrum is a through-line in each of my shows so far, and, perhaps, it will continue to crop up in future productions. 

What do you find special about this work and why do you think there’s still an appetite for it? 

I’m most proud of the balance of comedy and drama within the show. As I mentioned above, the show begins as a light-hearted coming of age comedy, and then turns into something more complicated, a confrontation of workplace sexual harassment. I love the way it evolves over the hour. Secondly, it may sound simple, but it’s a good story. We see the protagonist go from being a naïve nineteen-year-old to a more self-aware young adult, and I think there’s something instinctively compelling about seeing a character change and grow.

Why is this an important story to tell? 

Because workplace sexual harassment is still happening to women every day. And that is bad enough but what is equally heartbreaking is that, when they have the courage to speak out, they are silenced, gas-lit and blamed. I know, because it happened to me, and I have spoken to tens of women who have had strikingly similar experiences. 

What would you like audiences to take away from seeing you at the Fringe?

I’d like them to think about the impact workplace sexual harassment can have on a woman’s outlook and well-being. But, also, I hope they leave with a sense of hope for the future that we can keep resisting this behaviour and at some point workplaces will sit up and listen. 

Do you tend to take inspiration from events happening in the world around you in terms of your work? Do you think artists have a responsibility to respond to what's happening? 

My work is both inspired by the events of my own life and the social issues I see around me. For example, Almost Adult is based on my experiences of zero hour jobs, the cost-of-living crisis, and workplace sexual harassment. But, these are, of course, issues that go far beyond my personal life. So, by sharing my story, I am also making a statement about society and work that needs to be done. In regards to our responsibility as artists, I definitely think it’s important for writers and theatre-makers to examine the moral message of their show and whether it aligns with what they originally intended. However, I also think it’s OK that some productions' sole purpose is to make people feel joy or optimism. I don’t think we all need to make work that seeks social change (but I love work that does). 

How do you feel about the current arts landscape in your country and your part in it? Does it excite you and inspire you to keep pushing the boat out?

I think there’s a lot of exciting stuff happening in the UK’s fringe theatre scene at the moment. Despite the fact that we are in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis, and the government seems to be caring less and less about the arts, we persist in telling our stories. In particular, I am so excited by the wave of female and non-binary solo shows hitting Fringe this year. Phoebe Waller-Bridge opened that sticky door for the rest of us to strut through. These shows inspired me to create the #FemiFringe Podcast last year (which is now sponsored by The Skinny!) I invited some of these incredible performers onto the podcast for a chat in the run up to the Fringe.

Why are arts festivals such as the Fringe so important for international exchange?

Festivals like the Fringe are incredible for opening up opportunities to perform internationally. For example, I met with the Adelaide Fringe team last year, who were incredibly kind and generous about offering guidance on transferring to an international venue. It is a hub of opportunity, and international fringe festivals are a huge part of that. 

Similarly, artists from across the globe flock to the Fringe each year to share their art and it is so vital that we have their presence. Some of the international shows I saw in 2019 and 2023 (such as FishBowl) blew my mind and made me re-think the boundaries of what a theatre show can be. 

What can the wider arts community do to get more people involved in their specific disciplines?

My main advice would be to do everything you can to get your work in front of your target audience. There are cheap or even free things you can do to platform your work. So, in my field, that would be doing a scratch night or doing a few shows at a venue that works on a profit-share basis. And engage with as much art as you possibly can. Fringe theatre, short films, television shows. If you live and breathe storytelling, you will become a person who can be authentically confident in your field without breaking your bank on training courses. 

In terms of the Edinburgh Fringe, I recommend artists take part in the free Fringe Society events happening through the Fringe. I am hosting the Live #FemiFringe Podcast as part of this programme, where I will chat to the incomparable Francesca Moody. 

Have you got your eye on any other shows that are part of the programme?

Yes, there are lots of shows I can’t wait to see! Here’s a few female and non-binary-led shows that I am looking forward to: 

Beasts (Why Girls Shouldn’t Fear the Dark) by Monica Dolan 
Pitch by November Theatre 
Santi and Naz by Guleraana Mir and Madelaine Moore 
stark bollock naked by Larisa Faber 

What’s next for you and how are you feeling about the future in general?

After Edinburgh, I am working on developing a television pilot script of Almost Adult which I have already started and am super excited to dig into. I’ll also be working on my new two-hander, Oh, Calm Down, a comedy-drama that explores inter-generational OCD. The plan is to bring Oh, Calm Down to Edinburgh in 2024. 

How can Edinburgh audiences keep up with you beyond the festival?

You can follow me on InstagramTwitter or Tiktok. You can also check my website for updates of what I am up to.