STILL Game duo Ford Kiernan and Greg Hemphill have said they are ready to return to the stage of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe – for the first time since their Jack and Victor characters made their debut there almost two decades ago.
The Glasgow comics – who were unknown when Still Game was launched at a tiny venue – have said they are prepared to take on untried material and new characters at the world’s biggest arts festival.
The pair famously turned Jack and Victor into television stars on Chewin’ the Fat before they were given their own show, only for Kiernan and Hemphill to call an end to Still Game seven years ago after a much-publicised falling out.
The pair praise the freedom that the Fringe, which featured more than 3,000 shows last year, offers acts, because performers are able to put shows together without any interference from TV producers.
Kiernan and Hemphill revealed they almost took the Still Game reunion to the festival last year to road-test new material, opting instead to relaunch comedy at their sell-out shows at the SSE Hydro arena in Glasgow.
The comics, who met in Glasgow in the mid-1990s, had only tried out a couple of sketches of Still Game before being offered a slot at the Gilded Balloon by the venue’s artistic director Karen Koren.
The success of the 1997 show, which resulted in sold-out performances, helped win the pair their TV deal, but Still Game was never to be performed live again until its run at the Hydro.
Four shows were originally announced when Kiernan and Hemphill hosted a press conference, but such was the demand to see them reunited on stage that more than 210,000 tickets were sold for a 21-show run, which generated more than £6m at the box office.
Kiernan and Hemphill have spoken out about a possible return to the Fringe more than a year after they revealed plans for Still Game’s comeback, when they revealed that negotiations were also under way with the BBC to revive the comedy series on screen.
Those talks were ongoing at the end of last year, by which time the BBC had screened a one-hour programme of edited highlights of the Hydro show, a special tribute programme to Still Game, which was given a prime-time Hogmanay slot.
Hemphill said: “The thing about the Fringe is it is completely unedited.
“If you work on a TV show, you will spend a year and a half arguing with people arguing about this, that and the other about what should and shouldn’t be in the show.
“At the Edinburgh Festival, people say to you: ‘You’ve got a room between 7 and 8pm, just do what the **** you’re going to do, and good luck to you.’
“It was the most amazing experience to perform at the Hydro. We had never had the chance to be in the same room as fans of the show since that first run at the Edinburgh Festival. We were completely bowled over.
“We actually toyed with the idea of taking the live show of Still Game to the Fringe to work up some of the material – it just didn’t come to pass.
“I definitely wouldn’t rule it out for something new, or even someone else’s work. The Festival is a great garden for new stuff, it is just the whole immediacy of it. We hadn’t really done Still Game at all until we took it to the Gilded Balloon.” If Kiernan and Hemphill can be lured back to the Fringe, they would be following in the footsteps of a host of big-name comics who have returned to the festival years after making their names there.
Frank Skinner, Alexei Sayle, Alan Davies, Daniel Kitson, Stewart Lee and Eddie Izzard are among those to have performed in some of the festival’s most-intimate venues.