TV

Talking flower power with best buds Vic Reeves and Natasia Demetriou

The presenters of The Big Flower Fight on Netflix talk about the blooming marvellous new show, which is a tonic for our times

Like The Great British Bake Off with one key ingredient switched for its homophone, The Big Flower Fight sees contestants battling each other to build the best floral sculptures. Instead of a tent there’s a dome, and while even the most show-stopping bread is rarely breathtaking, the creations the contestants come up with here are blooming spectacular.

Joining resident expert Kristen Griffith-VanderYacht are presenters Vic Reeves, for the remainder of this interview referred to by his real name Jim, and Natasia Demetriou, most recently on our screens as Nadja in vampire comedy series What We Do In The Shadows.

The Big Issue caught up with the pair to talk about their blossoming friendship.

The Big Issue: Welcome to this conference call.

Natasia: I love a conference call because I’ve got absolutely nothing on apart from very smart shoes and socks. That’s amazing to me.

Jim: You saucy devil.

The main role for presenters on The Big Flower Fight seems to be coming up with as many flowery puns as possible. What were your favourites?

Jim: We had to do a lot of them. Most were really awful. Can you remember any?

Natasia: ‘You had me at aloe.’ ‘Thanks a bunch.’ ‘I’m really rooting for you.’

Jim: I don’t think there’s many we’d be that proud of.

Natasia: ‘Get clover it.’

And it looks like you had to stock up on floral-print clothing. Did that require special shopping trips?

Jim: My brief was that they wanted me in belt and braces, looking a bit like a hipster gardener. I quickly changed that to wearing expensive floral summer shirts.

Natasia: Actually one of Jim’s shirts, there was a week he wore it then Sir Elton John came out wearing the exact same one.

Jim: Yeah. Your dresses were quite magnificent. They’re a show in themselves. You had some chiffon, didn’t you? The most romantic of all fabrics.

Natasia: They did get out of hand. I’ve never done a show like this before where I’m myself, I’ve always been playing a character with a costume so it was very exciting.

Jim: They built up over the weeks so you looked like some kind of psychedelic Miss Havisham.

Instead of a tent there’s a dome.

Natasia: The thing about the dome was the acoustics were crazy. If you stood in the middle, it sounded like you were on a microphone, then if you stood in certain places and me and Jim whispered, ‘I think they’re the best’, they could hear it on the other side of the dome as if we were whispering in their ear.

Jim: A bit like the whispering gallery. We were told to keep our comments to ourselves quite a lot. It was really hot as well. There was an incredible thunderstorm once and that was very impressive, standing inside the dome with torrential rain and lightning striking overhead.

Do you think this is the show that we need now, a bit of escapism, bright colours and pretty flowers?

Natasia: I hope people watch it and find it escapist and pleasant to watch. The whole thing is filmed so beautifully and the things they make are so incredible.

Did you both have green fingers before this job?

Jim: It’s not really a gardening show, it’s a sculpture show. What they created in the amount of time was gobsmacking. You would do go in and say, ‘Wow, that is incredible!’ Then we’d have to film it like we’d just seen it for the first time ever. They got more and more impressive as the weeks went by. But I’m afraid I’ve not got green fingers at all. I don’t really know any plants, I’m terrible with the names.

Natasia: We both had a lot of enthusiasm. I knew the basics, like if you want to put a plant outside that isn’t going to die: geranium or begonia. I learned a lot. I had no idea that there was about 13,000 types of grass in the world. I was constantly blown away. The scale of them. And the contestants were like, ‘Yeah, just knocked this up.’ The little details were unbelievable. You wanted to get your camera out like a tourist and take photos.

Jim: Yeah, it’s going to encourage people to do things. It’s a doing show. It is a tonic for these times.

Has it encouraged you to do anything in your gardens?

Jim: I’ve got a reasonable-sized garden and my daughter said the other day, ‘Do you remember when you topiarised that hedge and made it look like two elephants?’ I think I might do that again.

Natasia: Oh, wow. I’ve got a little balcony that I love and I’ve got some house plants that are like my children. I found myself the other day wiping the leaves with a damp cloth. I felt like they were ill.

Jim: Do you talk to them?

Natasia: Yeah, it’s very soothing and satisfying for my brain to just be like, ‘Not only are you alive, but you’re thriving – you’re bigger than ever!’ You know? I feed my cheese plants constantly.

Jim: Why is it called a cheese plant? [the Swiss cheese plant’s proper name is Monstera deliciosa]

Natasia: I don’ t know, the leaves are split and they get holes in them.

Jim: So they look like cheese.

Natasia: No, but if you grow it for long enough a block of cheddar forms underneath. ‘Once and floral’. ‘Petal to the mettle.’

Was playing a vampire useful preparation for not going outside during the day?

Natasia: It was good preparation in that we filmed the last series at the end of last year, and I was away from home for three months. So it’s actually been really nice to spend some time at home because of being away for so long. But playing a vampire prepares you for very, very little in life.

And Jim, what have you been doing in the shadows all this time?

Jim: Exactly what I was doing before, I go into my studio to paint and try to do one painting per day.

Natasia: Jim is the most prolific artist. It’s unbelievable. When we were doing the show, he’d paint something new every day. It’s so impressive.

Jim: In between saying, ‘Ready, steady, go’ and five hours later when you’d come back and say ‘You’ve been doing it for five hours’ I spent all my time painting in this big house where our dressing rooms were.

You both just said you don’t know much about flowers but if you had to describe each other as a flower, which one would it be?

Jim: Tash is like a lupin.

Natasia: I’m a weed because I get everywhere, you don’t want me – but the garden wouldn’t be the same without me. Jim would be…

Jim: A privet hedge, because I’m dense.

Natasia: I was going to say that you’d be some lavender because you smell nice and are medicinal. ‘I’ll give you a peony for your thoughts.’

The Big Flower Fight is on Netflix

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