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Barnsley students are dead excited to show their new comedy at famous Edinburgh Fringe

William Batty and Mark Olszewski co-star in their new comedy, Stiffs
William Batty and Mark Olszewski co-star in their new comedy, Stiffs
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Two Barnsley students are taking their original comedy show to the Edinburgh Fringe after support from their local theatre.

Written by William Batty, aged 19, and Mark Olszewski, 20, Stiffs is a new absurdist comedy inspired by the works of Beckett and Stoppard that aims to provoke thought as well as laughter. The show starts when two lads wake in a morgue, to find they are both dead.

It is the first piece of theatre from their new company, Marcus & Wilhelm, formed in 2017, while William is on a gap year and Mark is studying for a BA in acting for touring theatre at Barnsley College.

They got support to develop the show throughThe Civic in Barnsley, which runs The Civic’s Artist Residency Programme , known as CARP.

William said The Civic’s support was vital for a company starting out with no experience: “We’re a fledgling company, with no resources at our disposal, so CARP offered us space to rehearse, develop and preview our performance before we take it to the Fringe.”

The Civic opens its CARP residency every year to northern artists from performing or visual arts at varying stages of their careers.

Now in its fifth year, CARP has supported more than 70 artists, predominantly from the Yorkshire region. It offers performing space and supports small bursaries to artists.

Ian Morley, head of programming and artist development, said: “We support a wide range of artists, from commissioning new pieces from established artists to supporting emerging talent.

“For the Marcus & Wilhelm Company it is very much their first experience in a very competitive scene, so we provided a crucial stepping stone from education into professional theatre.”

STIFFS is not only their debut at the Festival Fringe, but their debut play, in association with The Civic, Barnsley. It was previewed at the theatre in July, attracting a huge local audience.

William said he grew up attending exhibitions at The Civic, which inspired him to work in the arts.

He added: “Starting from scratch, and developing it all the way through has massively influenced my career ambitions; I want to do something more in that field – creating, directing, writing, doing something a bit different.”

The Civic is currently running an ambitious £5m fundraising appeal to complete renovations and become a world-class destination for the arts by 2023. The vision is to open up the whole of the venue to create a dramatic and inspiring series of spaces including a new theatre, café and extended gallery.

Ian said: “We hope people will get behind our fundraising campaign. Our work supporting local artists shows The Civic shapes the artistic landscape in the north. Of the £30k we’ve invested into artists over the past three years, £700k further investment has been leveraged into those artists through grants and funding. It’s a huge benefit to the artists and the local economy.”

To find out how to support The Civic #Connect Appeal go to www.barnsleycivic.co.uk/

STIFFS runs in Edinburgh at the Space on North Bridge, Perth Theatre. Box office: tickets.edfringe.com