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Last Updated: Tuesday, 3 October 2006, 08:39 GMT 09:39 UK
TV enters stage show's weird world
By Ian Youngs
Entertainment reporter, BBC News

A hit Edinburgh comedy has made the leap from stage to screen, with BBC Three giving the oddball residents of a fictional seaside town their own sitcom, Dogtown.

Dogtown on BBC Three
Emma Kilcoyne and Sam Battersea play bickering Bill and Sheila
There is a midget reading tarot cards at a bus stop and a film noir love story unfolding in the library.

In the school, a teacher harbours dreams of becoming deputy head, while a couple of unhinged friends act out fantasies of Olympic glory and Oscars triumph in their front room.

They live in Horton-le-Hole, somewhere north-east of Royston Vasey, which is described as "just the other side of normal" by Dogtown's creators.

Written by twin sisters Beth and Emma Kilcoyne, most of the residents are brought to life by Emma and fellow comedy actress Sam Battersea.

Five years ago, the trio's stage show Live! Girls! - featuring many of the same characters - became a hit at the Edinburgh Fringe.

And like The League of Gentlemen and Catherine Tate, it soon caught the attention of TV producers.

Dogtown on BBC Three
Kevin Whately makes a cameo appearance in the first episode
"If you write character comedy, you tend to be able to write something for telly," according to Beth.

TV can be funnier than the stage, she says, because it provides the chance to build an elaborate, alternative world for their offbeat creations to fill.

They have ditched some of their Edinburgh characters - like the pig ballet - but have invented some new ones, such as the bosses of a smoky, sepia-tinged library trying to solve the mystery of the rude drawings on works of romantic fiction.

But rather than being a quick-fire sketch show, Dogtown allows its inhabitants to develop their personas and storylines in a way that gives it a subtle and dramatic edge.

"It is different, and it isn't going after a sketch show format with catchphrases and a laughter track," Beth says.

"It's a real attempt to do something different and have a narrative.

"There's a reason why stories have lasted, because they're interesting. Everyone likes a story. It's very fresh, I think, and it looks different."

Dogtown on BBC Three
Carol and Denise dream of Olympics and Oscars glory
Having scenarios that are grounded in reality is "a far more interesting road to go down than just a farcical slap, bang, wallop", she says.

Most of the characters share the fact that their visions of themselves are wildly different from how they are seen by the rest of the world.

"It's untrue to say it's completely surreal because it acknowledges where people live in their heads, and a lot of people do live in their heads," Emma says.

The sisters moved into comedy after entertaining each other while growing up.

Emma and Sam then met at the National Youth Theatre while Beth was writing for Footlights at Cambridge.

"When you're writing comedy you've got to be able to say things that are unfunny and bad and not have the person lose faith in you," Beth says.

Dogtown on BBC Three
Imelda Staunton crops up in the library drama
"If anyone out there wants to be a comedy writer, try it with a brother or sister if you get on with them because they'll tell you the truth about whether something's funny or not."

But that complete honesty can be a problem when the pair do not agree.

"The downside is that it's very intense, obviously," according to Emma. "So if it's all going wrong, you're quite free to have massive rows."

Although Beth lives in London and Emma is in York, they still meet at their parents' house to write material because it is "neutral territory".

"We go in the spare room," says Beth. "We always go there to write because if you have a big disagreement and you're in one or the other person's house, someone then has to leave.

"You can't just slam your bedroom door. So it works out well."

Dogtown begins on BBC Three at 2255 BST on Tuesday 3 October.

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