Emma Rose Brennan as CB and Dan Ilic as Mac in Sidekicks

Emma Rose Brennan as CB and Dan Ilic as Mac in Sidekicks

Sidekicks. In Hollywood, it seems everyone’s got one (or more). Comic book superheroes, evil geniuses, gruff cowboys and smouldering hunks (who call them wingmen) can’t last go three scenes without them. Even the actors themselves have an entourage of sidekicks (which is presumably the collective noun).

But, somewhat ironically, no one ever loves the romantic comedy sidekick. The characters with small screen time, and lower billing who carry a lot of the weight with vital contributions to plot and comedy. By the third act they're often relegated to bridesmaids, babysitters or I've-got-to-get-to-the-airport drivers. Their function performed they're cast aside. Until now that is.

Sidekicks in romantic comedies are mainly there to handle exposition, do a few jokes and make the star seem more appealing. In the more formulaic romantic comedies they seem to do a lot of playing basketball and handing coffee to the star. 

Stephen Vagg and Louise Alston (who are appropriately, also a couple) have brought the sidekicks to the centre in their new play Sidekicks, starring Dan Ilic (Can of Worms) and Emily Rose Brennan (Underbelly: Razor).

Who are the best best friends and best men in the best rom-coms? Click for more photos

The best rom-com sidekicks

Who are the best best friends and best men in the best rom-coms?

Sidekicks is a romantic comedy told from the point of view of a couple’s best friends Mac and CB. They  bicker and insult each other, which in this genre can only mean one thing, but vitally are also the only two characters we see. “It’s a Rosencrantz and Guildenstern-esque take on every Katherine Heigl RomCom you ever saw,” says Vagg.

Alston, who directs Sidekicks, is an Australian Film Television and Radio School graduate, romantic comedy feature film producer and rom-com aficionado, and thus arguably our greatest expert on the rom-com sidekick.

What are the key aspects of a rom-com sidekick and what makes a good one?

Sidekicks in romantic comedies are mainly there to handle exposition, do a few jokes and make the star seem more appealing. In the more formulaic romantic comedies they seem to do a lot of playing basketball and handing coffee to the star.

The best romantic comedies though always have good sidekicks - three-dimensional characters in their own right who add to the richness and theme of the story and the central characters. A good example is all the sidekicks to Hugh Grant in Four Weddings and a Funeral - they are all wonderful characters who make the world within which the film is set such an engaging one.

As an aside it's remarkable how many actors first became widely known to the general public because of their performances as sidekicks - Rhys Ifans, Rachel Griffiths, Rupert Everett, Emily Blunt, Janeane Garofolo.

How important is the sidekick to a rom-com being any good?

Romantic comedies are usually based on some sort of deception or misunderstanding, and you're going to struggle to set that up without sidekicks. They are also important for accessing the true feelings of the star. You can make a good romantic comedy without a sidekick - e.g. Breakfast at Tiffanys (1960) - unless you count the cat - and It Happened One Night (1935) - but it is harder.

Having said that, lazy romantic comedies have lazy sidekicks - when you watch a film where the sidekicks have been given thought, well cast and handled with care, it normally means the film will be a good one.

How did the idea of Sidekicks come about?

Stephen Vagg, the writer, thought it might be fun to do a Rosencrantz and Guildenstern type take on romantic comedies by telling one from the point of view of the sidekicks. We've had some sidekicks in our features, All My Friends Are Leaving Brisbane (2007) and Jucy (2010) and I've always had a soft spot for romantic comedy sidekicks, particular ones who never became stars themselves, like Heather Burns, so I encouraged him to do a draft.

If the sidekicks in Sidekicks get together, are they still sidekicks?

Great question - that's one of the things the play explores, actually: at what point are you someone's sidekick, versus being someone's partner? Being a sidekick can be a state of mind as much as anything else. One of our sidekicks, CB (Brennan), refuses to believe she is a sidekick, but Mac (Ilic) insists that she is. That argument drives a lot of the play.

Is Dan Ilic going to be dressed in a gimp suit again (as he did recently in Can of Worms) because I’m not sure I can take any more of that?

Unfortunately we couldn't find a spot for Dan to gimp up however he does get to put on a blonde wig in one scene. He's very attractive in it.

Sidekicks by Stephen Vagg  
Old 505 Theatre , 342 Elizabeth St, Surry Hills (Buzz 505)
3 - 18 Nov 2012, (Preview 2 Nov)
Bookings  www.trybooking.com