You can follow me on Twitter – where I’ll be posting throughout –https://twitter.com/comgavrob
Or (this year) in my Poet persona of ‘Greg Byron‘ on https://twitter.com/gregbyronwords
Just a brief ‘hello’ to say FringeReview have foolishly asked me to blog again this year – and I’ve said ‘yes’. Obviously some opinions might stay the same, but THIS year I’m flexing a whole new artistic muscle and coming up as poet, GREG BYRON… yup, no theatre as such, though ‘I’ll be back’… just words and opinions this year at Assembly 12.20pm…the one plug surely!? Still…who knows what this angle will make the Fringe look like! I look forward to sharing with you. As always, honesty, advice and a degree of sharing. None of us are alone!
19th August 2017: It’s Not All About You!
So I just have time to write this before another performance today… which day is it now? How’s it going? Full houses? Can’t give your tickets away? It’s all going on across the city of course, and some people are now wishing they’d never heard the word ‘Fringe’ – like a living Groundhog Day of show, eat, sleep … the same faces in the same places…
You can always do yourself a favour and go to the Botanical Gardens for an hour, or walk by the Water of Leith, stroll around Stockbridge – or lose yourself in a bookshop (always a good option in my …er…book). Remember to look after your ‘Self’.
But you know what – you can also do your bit to look after others. I don’t mean you have to organise a soup kitchen at your own expense in the student flat you’ve rented. It’s the small things that help. Take that flyer the guy/gal tries to hand you, for example. Say ‘Thank You’. It takes more effort to refuse, and you just made them feel less like a leech and more like they’ve successfully done the job they’re probably doing for little reward.
Re-tweet that review the OTHER show that isn’t yours got! No, they’re not the competition. Do you really think a prospective ticket-buyer is going to look at your tweet and buy a ticket to see that show INSTEAD of yours? There’s room for everyone – if your work’s decent.
A chum of mine yesterday had a conversation with an actor he sees regularly at his venue. “Have you seen any other shows here?” he asked, chummily. “No,” was the short reply. Imagine that – imagine being able to see a plethora of other work at the venue you’re in and being so self-obsessed, you just don’t. (Is this hitting home at all?) ‘DoAsYouWouldBeDoneBy’ – hashtag for the final Fringe week?
Recommend the work of others – they might do the same for you. Yes, it’s one big competitive mess, but you don’t have to play that game. We’re not in lots of little boats, racing each other to the shore – we’re in the same very big boat.
As I say in one of my poems (12.20pm at Assembly [sorry]) “Practice peace of mind, be kind.”
And for God’s sake go to a different coffee place today. Get out the rut you hadn’t realised you were in!
Gotta run …
9th August 2017: Are You Having a Black (Wednes) Day?
Having settled at least somewhat into the rhythm of the Fringe, here I am to share some thoughts. How’s it going? Show selling well? Yes? Great… let’s move on. Any press come to see you yet? Yes? Great… let’s move on. Any reviews out? Yes? Great… let’s move on.
Me? Well, today I cancelled my show (after the agreed and allotted wait in case of stragglers) because no-one came. Not one. Zero. Out of the estimated 4.5 million visitors bringing £280 million to the city, not one parted with a tenner. And that’s fine. Apart from a slightly bruised ego, obviously.
What did I expect! I’m here under a new name doing bloody poetry, for Chrissakes! And no, I haven’t had any reviews, nor are any reviewers booked to come. At all. Not to my knowledge anyway. Yet. But that’s fine too because I’m doing something I believe in and the reward is in the experience of doing the show (when I get the chance) not in the numbers or the finance. Don’t get me wrong – I WANT an audience. But it’s so… ‘niche’. Isn’t it? ‘Spoken Word’ – all those rhymes about daffodils and misty mountain peaks…? All those pseudo new-age-influenced semi-self-help platitudes delivered in meter?
Wrong! It’s a direct form of expression and I’m loving the direct interaction with an audience that being in a theatre show doesn’t facilitate. It’s personal, risky, vulnerable, warm, engaging, cathartic even.
Hey- I went to see ‘Loud Poets’ this week, partly to educate myself in terms of the genre and also out of curiosity because, well, I don’t have much experience of Spoken Word/Poetry/Live Literature myself.
It was brilliant. (No they haven’t paid me). Sold-out… there’s a revelation… inspiring, delightful, relevant, political, social plus a great band, all smoothly delivered and raw at the same time. And I MAY be wrong- but so far I can’t find reviews for them either. And they’re a regular Edinburgh event to boot.
Ah- Matt Abbott (Two Little Ducks): he has a review, a good one. Just the one though. Go, Matt.
Look, today I cancelled my show. I had a Black Wednesday. I may have to cancel more and my ego REALLY doesn’t like that, but NONE of us are alone. The one or two-star review; the no review at all; the audience of three or less; no industry professionals coming to see you, etc etc but yesterday, I had an email after the show from an audience member wanting to know where he could buy my books (‘books’ -plural- are you kidding? This is brand new to me!) and before that a Teacher asking for a copy of a poem to read to his next Assembly. That’s as in ‘school assembly’ not the Fringe venue. See how everything gets skewed in August?
Some days are bleak. ‘Some days are better than others’. Bounce back. As Paul Levy says, “Believe in the work. Believe in yourself” The Fringe is predictable in its unpredictability. There’s always the next day “and the next day, and the next, and another day” (How I miss Mr Bowie) and we’ll all be dust one day anyway.
Hey, maybe tomorrow you’ll double your audience.
21st July 2017 – So You Want To Eat Out?
Hello again. OK – this is, quite frankly, my personal guide to eating in Edinburgh during the festival(s). No-one’s paid me, there are no conflicts of interests, but as someone who has been up quite a bit the following are places I’d recommend:
The Mosque Kitchen: In Nicolson Square. http://www.mosquekitchen.com/
Good for vegetarians and/or carnivores and open most days. A buffet style Indian affair with set prices depending on how many dishes you choose. If you’re skint, the daal will see you through! Between George Square and Assembly Roxy – cheap, good food and handy for most venues from Pleasance/Assembly to Gilded Balloon/Underbelly…
Edinburgh City Restaurant: Right next to the Festival Theatre, 35 Nicolson Street: A great favourite of mine is their Haggis, neeps and tatties with a whisky sauce (Sunday Lunch?) for £8.50. They also do a gluten-free brekkie …
The Piemaker: http://www.thepiemaker.co.uk/our-menu/
One of my faves! Their haggis and neeps pie is under £2 and is all you need for lunch! Trust me! Though they offer others. Handy for ‘on-the-go’ eats or you can perch on a stool in their window. Near C-venues…
When I lived in Edinburgh this was a one-off veggie place. Now they’ve expanded to more than one location. Good food, and I recommend the home-made oatcakes! Not the cheapest, but no doubting the quality. Usually plenty of room but they are popular.
Black Medicine: http://www.blackmed.co.uk/
If you need that coffee and maybe a Danish – then here’s the place. Two minutes from Assembly Roxy or C-Venues, almost opposite the Festival Theatre. Great wooden tables and damn fine coffee. Not the ‘budget’ end, but handy and worth your sterling.
I’m embarrassed to say I’ve visited this restaurant since 1984! Vegetarian Indian, and they also do a lunchtime buffet. Check this year’s price but great food and as many visits as you can fill your plate. I’ll be there for sure this year too.
Bar Napoli: http://barnapoli.co.uk/
Practically an Edinburgh institution – a great authentic Italian place, serving fab food at reasonable prices with heaps of room and just off George Street. Handy for Assembly (George Street) and on the way to Stockbridge.
Red Box Noodle Bar: http://www.redboxedinburgh.co.uk/menu
An interesting noodle bar where you tell them what you want in your meal and they make it, fresh. A main is £9-ish but the ‘in a box’ version much cheaper. Freshly made, handy, between the George Square hub and Nicolson St.
The Green Mantle (Pub): http://greenmantlepub.co.uk/portfolio/
Out of Zoo Southside, turn right and walk up Nicolson St 20 feet! A pub with rustic decor, serving a good pint of varying ales, and good food too – burgers recommended. I’ve no idea this year but if you’re at Zoo Venues you used to get a discount too. Ask!
Petit Paris: http://www.petitparis-restaurant.co.uk/
Not budget at all to be honest, but I’ve eaten there and the French cuisine is fabulous. In the Grassmarket, so maybe if you want to splash out and watch the world go by from an outside table? Near Cowgate or Sweet Venues…
The Royal Dick: https://www.summerhall.co.uk/the-royal-dick/
I’ve eaten here a few times. It’s not cheap but it’s very good. Maybe a Sunday Lunch treat? It’s the bar/restaurant in Summerhall, right by The Meadows. As well as being an all-year-round venue Summerhall is a ‘place to go’ for eclectic work. The courtyard is good for meets and lounging, and they have several food and drink stations there too. The brewery on-site is excellent (try the Porter).
Lastly – and I can’t personally recommend these… gluten-free restaurants:
The Pakora Bar: 96 Hanover Street, Edinburgh EH2 1DR – handy for the George Street Assembly Rooms, very near Hendersons, or the Queen Street end of town.
Brasil Crepes: https://www.facebook.com/tupiniquim/?hc_location=ufi
As a resource: http://glutenfreeedinburgh.com/
If I think of any I’ve missed (or find a new one in August) I’ll update this – but happy eating!
19th Jul7 2017 – Who’s Making the Money?
Let me start by saying “probably not you.” If you’re expecting to go home well-paid at the end of August for your efforts, or paid at all, start keeping a diary of your increasing worry and disappointments and turn that into your 2018 show. I’m prompted to write today having read this excellent article in The Guardian by Lyn Gardner (probably the most stalwart supporter of all things theatrical) – and you can read her column here.
It’s common to start hearing the moans and waspish remarks in week 3 about profits going anywhere but to the Artists, and there’s no doubt that without us, there IS no Festival – obviously. I understand the frustration. It’s not only money but sweat, effort and a venue-load of creativity that’s got you to Scotland, right? I’m always more exhausted by devising a show than I am by performing or touring it. It doesn’t have to be a particularly difficult birth to make a show, but it’s endless days of problem-solving and re-invention – from narrative to set to costumes – I know. Unless you’re lucky enough to have a Producer footing the bill, you’re also going to keep paying throughout August.
So where does the money go? You have an agreement with your venue – probably on a 60/40 percentage split, with a guarantee to them of minimum rent (not all venues do this, but most). It’s a good idea too to remember at the end that they’ll also add VAT at 20%, so if you think of it as a 50/50 split you’ll be more on target. If you’re VAT registered yourself, you’ll claim it back. So – it’s easy to point at the venue and wonder which island in the Caribbean they’ll be spending your hard-earned rent money throughout September, but as Lyn’s article points out, they have their own high costs and may not turn the profit you think they’re banking.
Then there’s the registration fee. I wrote about this last year and personally I think there’s an argument for reducing it for Artists and losing the printed Fringe Brochure as a result – but that’s another blog. There’s no doubt the Fringe Society are brilliant at fielding and answering questions. I’ve been there myself this year given my ‘experiment’ with poems that’s about to rip the shirt from my back!
Small costs eat away at your finances too. PRS payments for use of music as well as a PPL licence (check whether you need one if you haven’t?)
Accommodation – is that your highest cost? It may well be, but you can’t argue with supply and demand. If you could get five or six mortgage payments in one month, wouldn’t you do it? At least there are enough rooms (I’m looking at Adelaide here…)
So if you’re not getting a fat wallet, and the venues aren’t getting as fat a one as you thought, who is?
Well, those that let their homes probably are. The restaurants are (my recommendation is to go vegetarian all month or live in The Mosque Kitchen in Nicolson Square). Anywhere with a bar probably is. In general Edinburgh itself is (£260 million in fact).
As an aside – it’s not impossible you’ll make something. One show I brought in 2016 did 84% business and four of us went home with a small wad each. I doubt that this year however. If it makes you feel better I’ve sold 10% in advance compared to this time last year. Poetry – Pah!
So again – my advice is to accept you’re part of the overall economics, and focus on the experience not the finance. After all, you may get that gig/overseas tour that makes it all worth it. That’s our currency- ‘Hope’.
See you in The Mosque Kitchen.
9th July 2017 – The Dreaded Review
A mere three weeks before we all head to Scotland to launch what we hope will be a rollicking well-attended month with great audiences, queuing Arts professionals and fantastic reviews all round.
So about that last one… there is ALWAYS a debate about reviews and reviewers. So I’m here to tell you all in advance “Don’t sweat about it.” I used to pride myself on getting good reviews, but I can tell you in recent years, and since the bulk of the UK national press pretty-much stopped coming, there’s a variety of responses and, in my opinion, increasingly meaningless reviews. The same event can (and probably will) get everything from an awful to a brilliant review – from someone. But these days that can be a blogger, a student, a member of your audience, an internet site, or anyone else. Last year one of my theatre shows got a two-star review (OK the ‘star’ system with reviews is a whole other debate…) from The Scotsman. The show was selling out. And they sent their TV Critic. The previous year, they sent their Dance Critic – so sometimes the review says more about their ability to analyse what they’re seeing than the quality of what you’re presenting. This year maybe they’ll send their Restaurant Critic – who knows. The point is, the review made no difference to the attendance. Don’t get me wrong- I was livid at the time, but the old adage “Today’s bad review is tomorrow’s fish and chip paper” also no longer applies! Who sees reviews in print these days! Everything is online, and although it is infuriating that where once a local review in a local paper would eventually disappear, now they’re on the web for ever, it also doesn’t matter. The fact is that reviews have become more meaningless by sheer weight of volume.
My advice is to enjoy and have your preening moment when you get the good ones, and ignore the bad ones. Or – frankly – don’t bother looking. Your venue will probably be on the lookout for anything useful, and no-one wants a dud, so why not have a continual sunny outlook and spare yourself the crushing moment(s) of insecurity and/or rage?
In about a month, I’ll be re-reading this and trying to heed my own advice no doubt.
Oh and as an aside, as there’s still time: Don’t pay any publication to include you in any ‘Pick Of The Fringe’. That should be an independent article for the public – not some buy-in marketing decision that then looks like a recommendation. Yes I know who you are ‘online Edinburgh-based website!’
Lastly, thanks to Phil Mann, everyone has a five-star review this year already. As an absurdist statement, this pretty much sums it all up. Go get your review here: