In Conversation with Lesley Robertson and Matt Shaw aka Rosemary & Jessop of The Diddlin’ Bibbles at the 2017 Toronto Fringe
Interview by Megan Robinson
It all started in Barrie Ontario in 2015 when Lesley Robertson and Matt Shaw were performing in Theatre By the Bay’s Nine Mile Portage. At the end of every show, there was a long walk back to where they had started. At the time, the two only knew each other so well. “I thought of Lesley like a little church mouse, who would not do anything vulgar. I only really knew you from afar,” Matt Shaw says, looking at her. Lesley matches him, “Yes, I thought of you as a lowly first year.” The two were in different years at George Brown College.
But after every show, as they walked, Lesley began to sing along to Matt’s guitar playing, making up lyrics that were surprisingly crass and vulgar. Matt joined in, adding in his own disgusting jokes, and they suddenly realized that they shared a very unique and weird taste in comedy. When Theatre Inamorata asked them to perform some of their “stupid songs” they agreed, launching their first ever performance as The Diddlin’ Bibbles, a married couple from Widdlywack Wisconsin.
Since their initial five-minute set in 2015, the two have gone on to create a full-length mockumentary show around The Bibbles’ foray into the Toronto Fringe. The story follows their seven performances as well as the egos and the drama The Bibbles’ experience at the Fringe.
Matt and Lesley’s own story reminds me of how lovers meet, but for creators. I ask if they are creative soul mates, but get throaty laughs and squinty eyes in response. The two agree they don’t really believe in soul mates, but Lesley assures me that they are creatively bonded for a long time. Lesley appreciates Matt’s “gentle kindness” in dealing with her perfectionism. Matt enjoys Lesley’s openness to be even weirder than he is, always saying yes to his strangest ideas and then adding an even more absurd twist.
I spoke with Matt and Lesley about the risk in creating your own work, sharing your most private self and why the Fringe is such a great place to learn.
Our interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Meg Robinson: So you’re both primarily actors. Have you always been interested in creating your own work?
Lesley Robertson: No.
Matt Shaw: Really?
LR: Yeah. I think in a buried deep part of my heart I was interested but I didn’t know if I would have the courage.
MS: I’ve always been interested in doing it but this is the first time that I’ve produced and written something. I wrote a play but I only had a reading of it. So this is the first time I’ve done a full production from the bottom to the top. So it’s pretty fucking nerve-wracking.
MR: Is it?
MS: It is. It’s like, you don’t have a Shakespeare script that you know someone will love to watch and already know the story. You’re creating something totally new and weird…
LR: Weird! And we often question… it’s very crass and shocking… we’re exposing this weird sense of humour that, well, I definitely keep private in my actual life. I show my friends but in this show I’m exposing to the public that…. I like poo jokes!
MS: Jokes about vaginas! And dildos! Everything!
MR: Do you struggle with the idea of “being good” or do you find you have a sense for when something is good?
MS: That’s the whole thing about what we do, you know, you take a risk. You find it funny, the director might find it funny, your friends find it funny. But at the end of the day you are taking a risk performing something that’s brand new to people.
LR: We aren’t precious with the material. We get rid of stuff.
MS: It has to get a vote of at least 2 out of 3. At least 66%. A C+
LR: Unless one person is really attached.
MS: Or really against it.
MR: Any great “aha moments” or learning moments during this process that you would like to share?
MS: We met with a few people, one of them being Dana [Puddicombe], our director, to just show them our songs without having any…
LR: Arc, story…
MS: Or idea of what our show was going to be and Dana pitched us in the meeting maybe like 4 or 5 concepts that we could do.
LR: And we were like oh! Oh yeah!
MS: And then..
LR: And then, I think the idea of the mockumentary style was largely hers.
LR: She brought a lot of the “aha moments”. She’s been integral.
MR: What are some of your inspirations for The Bibbles?
MS: Big one is Bo Burnham. I think he’s got the comedic songwriting thing to a fucking science. Christopher Guest, Flight of the Conchords.
LR: A lot of women on SNL who do these kinda cute, kinda gross characters that I find particularly satisfying.
MR: Why the Fringe?
LR: I think the Fringe is such a great opportunity. Just the cost of it. And it’s so well advertised and well-known. It’s an incredible platform.
MS: It’s a platform for the underdogs.
LR: I went to all these seminars where they teach you about the technical stuff.
MS: Yeah! At the Fringe you learn so much. It’s like a course in producing.
LR: I’m so #blessed.
MR: What sort of future do you see for the Bibbles?
LR: I don’t know. We want to continue. Of course we will still do open mic and sets to try out material but I want to keep with long form shows. I could see it touring. I could see a sequel. The end of the play suggests a follow-up…
MS: I’m down for all of those things.
MR: Why should people see your show?
MS: (laughing) If you like songs about dildos and the smell of vaginas and how much the TTC sucks… If you like songs about existential dread…
LR: It’s a hybrid genre that’s very playful. It’s meta-theatrical about the Toronto Fringe Festival.
MS: Yes, people who really enjoy the culture of the Fringe and have done it before will enjoy our jokes.
LR: And it’s about a small-town American couple coming to Toronto, so it’s a celebration of the city too.
Rapid Fire with The Diddlin’ Bibbles:
Favourite movie, maybe a date night movie you would watch?
Rosemary: The Lion King.
Jessop: That’s yours. That’s your favourite movie Rosemary…
Rosemary: It’s ours. Do you have a separate Jessop-favourite one?
Jessop: Mission Impossible 3. Third one. With Philip Seymour Hoffman. He’s a national treasure.
Which side of the bed do you each sleep on?
Rosemary: I sleep in the centre. And you sleep at the foot.
Jessop: Okay. Mhm, curled up like a little ball.
Rosemary: But he’s allowed up when we’re having the hanky panky.
Jessop: Hanky panky Rosemary? Keep talking like that and you’re gonna get in trouble.
Do you have any pets?
Rosemary: We have a collection of snakes!
Jessop: Squeaky Nietzsche is our pet goat who lost is his faith in God. We had our horse who died on our way to Toronto.
Did you ride a horse to Toronto?
Jessop: Yep, yeah we did. It died on the way.
The Diddlin’ Bibbles Live in Concert
Company: The Diddlin’ Bibbles
Created by: The Company
Director: Dana Puddicombe
Stage Manager: Laura Moniz
Producer: Michelle Langille (Theatre Inamorata)
Cast: Lesley Robertson, Matt Shaw
Meet The Bibbles. A spiritual and sex-positive singer-songwriter duo, they have traveled all the way from Widdlywack, Wisconsin to perform at the prestigious Toronto Fringe Festival – their life-long dream. Jessop and Rose-Marie are ready to spread their gospel of light, love and lust through their toe-tappin’, knee-slappin’ tunes. But are they ready for all the riches, fame, and debauchery the Toronto Fringe may bring? Can their marriage survive the pressures of celebrity culture? Fame is a cruel mistress and The Bibbles are playing with fire. And musical instruments. Because they’re a band.
ST. VLADIMIR THEATRE
620 Spading Ave, Toronto
6th July – 6:30pm
8th July – 1:45pm
9th July – 11:00pm
11th July – 8:30pm
13th July – 12:00pm
14th July – 5:15pm
16th July – 4:30pm