Fringe Festival 2014
After 25 years as a Theatre Director it is great to know that I still have the privilege of driving our van up to Edinburgh from Cambridge for the festival!
This eight hour drive is not too bad as we have a relatively small set – except we (I) volunteer to take another company’s set – much bigger – dropping off other people’s stuff… 30 Bird’s Domestic Labour
In amongst the other company’s set is Chris Dobrowolski’s design of all singing all dancing all blowing all sucking hoovers and various other vacuums.
Chris is a pal and fellow ‘corporate Artist and trainer’ using his vast skills as a conceptual artist to muse on creativity, risk and meaning.
He is a great maker, great thinker and one of the most successful artists in using his skills in the business world as well of course in the art and theatre world.
Lots more of Chris as we move through the blog but our highlights in the past have included demonstrating his “Embracing Failure” concepts in Kentucky for the United Sates Army which is brilliantly documented in his new book Landscape..
And in his great show “But My Bloody Book” which we produced at Hotbed 2014
More of Chris later.
As I write this I have throb below…my hernia!
Yes indeed all this lugging about has not been good for the old hernia (operation 2 months ago following moving a sofa up to the 3rd floor of Soho Theatre for our production of Egusi Soup last year).
All this moving about isn’t too sensible but it part of the team ethos. We all work together and me driving the van, unloading and generally getting my hands dirty makes a big difference in ‘team’ and diffuses a lot of tension and nerves as we are all in it together… we share the stresses, strains (and laughs) that go with putting on a show.
Off to our venue -The Pleasance – we have been coming here for over ten years. Ten years of new writing on the Fringe..!
Unloading of our set is at a bus stop outside the venue as the loading dock is totally chocka:
BUS DRIVER: “get ooout meee way you eejit”
PB: I am at the festival pal!
BUS DRIVER: I no give a shit about the Festival I ‘m driving me bus!
You could tell if he wasn’t driving the bus he would just shout.. FUCK THE FESTIVAL!!!
Despite this short exchange, Edinburgh is amazing at absorbing the Fringe, the International Festival etc.…
I will never forget the first time I came in 1989 – straight out of college with our legendary Children’s show “One of Our Monsters is Mything” … while we were walking around on giant stilt boots advertising our Monster show, we crossed at the traffic lights.. passing a guy advertising his show “Heckle Jesus” – with the full Jesus costume on…Jesus going one way and a Mythical monster the other…
What was amazing was as these two groups of performers passed by, the people of Edinburgh didn’t bat an eyelid – just carried on like normal… just another day at the festival!
Later in that festival (1989) we did a marketing event in The Park where you could perform extracts from your show in the family tent, in the hope that you would drum up audiences.
We were in a rush (as always) and when it came to the moment that the monster came out in his giant boots to chase me (Thesus), there was a pause and a look of horror on the parents’ faces as fellow actor Charlie emerged. I couldn’t imagine what was happening behind me , but soon realised that I was getting chased by a long haired lunatic on giant 3ft high boots with a foam muscle body top on .. and no trousers – just his tights and a bulge!.
In the rush we had lost the trousers…
We did little in the way of drumming up sales on that day – but as it happened we were one of only 12 children’s shows on the whole fringe that year so we did well with audiences …
Now Children’s shows are a key component of the festival
Back to 2014…
Day one is technical rehearsals – the challenge is putting in strings of festoon lights – for our seaside town – they’re up…they’re down and two hours later they are down again and have to stay down. We are behind and don’t get through all our lighting cues.
The stresses and strains of technical rehearsals are always the same, so we leave ours unresolved but nevertheless in relatively good spirits. We have already previewed in Bury St Edmunds and at Soho so we are ready with the core of the show…
Back to our flat (crazy rental prices bumped up for the festival) to rehearse in the living room… a sofa is the beach, a coffee table the café!
The next morning begins the torture of flyering – giving potential customers a flyer with info about the show. It is painful but necessary. Many people resent being flyered others are open…
There is an art to the process and confidence and engagement is the key along with politeness. What can you do to get someone interested in your show…? Target… aim… attack
Our show Swimming..
- “hi are you looking for a show to see…?”
No …leave me alone
OK thank you…
2, “hi are you looking for a show to see…?”
Ok let me introduce you to Swimming…
I don’t like Swimming..”
Well you don’t actually have to like to swim to like Swimming…
Eventually you get into the swing of it and target the right people, get the right banter and get them interested enough to consider buying a ticket…
We have to shift 35% of our tickets everyday or else we are in financial trouble. 50% we break even. It’s a big ask and we are mainly here for exposure, for us, for the writer and for the actors…
The company returns battered and bruised from Flyering rejection…
Set up the show (we are between a Jane Austen Improv show… and two Cricket commentators talking about hilarious moments in Cricket… really this just about sums up the Fringe).
Our show is for younger audiences aimed at your 16-30 year olds and with more swearing in it than a David Mamet play, would probably offend the Jane Austen crew and have the Cricket fans reaching for their dictionaries..
Preview show one.. over: ropey!
9 people watch
The lights are so bright the audience is illuminated throughout???!!!
One audience almost appears to fall asleep..!
Ok hopefully better tomorrow..!
Hi are you interested in a show you can sleep in..?
Yes? Great ..Please, have a flyer..!