FringeReview is delighted to welcome Dyad Productions‘ Elton Townend Jones – producer, writer, actor and director, as a guest columnist for us for Edinburgh Fringe 2014.
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Blog 4 – 14th August 2014
So, we finally broke the cherry and got our first review for our play at Assembly Roxy: ‘Dalloway’.
Reviews seemed to come in late for lots of people this year. Our first was a nice 5 Star, which was quickly followed by two 4 Stars and another 5. We’ve also had a lovely write up in an American publication that doesn’t do stars.
When you break it all down, for us, Edinburgh is a trade fair. We come here to launch a show, try it out a few times, get lots of promoters in (i.e. for those who don’t know: theatre managers and programmers, basically) and hopefully get a bit of nice publicity that can be used on future promotional material and also as a record of recognition that might advise anyone wishing to book us long after the trade fair is over (we have six shows continually on the road now, and the oldest was launched in 2009).
Some people don’t like star-ratings here at the Fringe. I’m not sure why, really. Maybe it’s an over-used currency, but it does serve as useful shorthand for promoters and fits better on a poster or handbill than several loquacious sentences. It’s really the meat of the review that matters, of course. On that score, I’m happy to say that our first 5 Star review was written by a Literature graduate and writer, scholar and researcher into Virginia Woolf’s work, so that was a seal of approval well worth getting, especially as she could identify exactly what the work was aiming at. Our next 5 Star review was from a respected organ of theatre and was also written by a highly experienced graduate with a wealth of experience and theatre. Of the 4’s, one was so beautifully written it didn’t matter so much what he was saying about us it was how he said it that mattered – it was intelligent and again, fully understood the intentions of the piece. The other 4 was workmanlike, and a little begrudging, though given its overall positivity it was hard to work out why…
But these are happy days, as we were also featured and interviewed on STV news. Watching ourselves contribute, authoritatively, on the subject of World War I was rather surreal, I’ll admit.
The best part of this whole process – our most financially successful Fringe of a consecutive six – has been the overwhelmingly positive response from audiences, who still continue to send emails and messages that reveal the true catharsis of this crazy business. Those are the reviews that really count.
Elsewhere in the Fringe, I’ve seen great work from comedians Luke McGregor and Frank Skinner, astonishing dance from Black Grace, and the surprising and funny Post Show. If you want good coffee, go to Fringe Central or, even better, the bar outside Assembly Roxy. If you want to avoid the rain, don’t be here. The clouds are darker more often now than they were 17 or so days ago…
But the Fringe goes on, and though we’ve all broken the backs of our runs here, there’s still some way to go. Speak soon.
Blog 3 – August 5th 2014
Elton Townend Jones / Dyad Productions
Since I last wrote, the Fringe has got well underway. Just a reminder, we’re doing Dalloway at Assembly Roxy (written and directed by me, performed by Rebecca Vaughan – Dyad’s better half) and this is our sixth Fringe. You’d think all that experience would mean things run smoothly, but Edinburgh’s a slippery beast…
Behind the scenes, we had a few technical problems (the audience were lit throughout the second preview!), ripped the dance-floor, lost a member of our street team (only to find an even better one almost straight away) and mislaid a bloomin’ brilliant golfing umbrella – the kind you really need in Edinburgh’s August weather. Yes, when we arrived, we banished the sun and brought with us the glorious rain. Heigh-ho.
That said, the play is looking good and the audience attendance and response is (so far) uniformly strong, positive and sometimes overwhelming in its effusiveness. We’ve had reviewers in, but have yet to see any published – always frustrating at this stage – but the main thing is that the people we’re making this for – the (non-prefixed) viewers – are on our side. We’ve had standing ovations, people stopping us in the street and loads of emails, messages and tweets. If this business is remotely about catharsis, then our work here is done.
Actually, that’s complete nonsense. We’re working very hard, as we always do for at least the first 10 or so days. It never stops – Dyad is run by just myself and Rebecca (and, as I’ve said before, mostly Rebecca) so the day job of running the business continues as well as making sure the Fringe runs according to plan and budget and making sure we get maximum publicity for the few peanuts at our disposal and plenty of bums on seats. So far, so good, I’m happy to say.
Whilst here we’ve seen lots of people we know, out and about, so here’s a shameless plug for some of them and their shows: Bob Paisley in ‘Bill Clinton Hercules’, Richard Fry in ‘Pop Life’ and Gavin Robertson in ‘Bond’. Go and see them, they’re good people and brilliant at what they do.
We’ve also seen a few shows by people we don’t know. Comedian Sam Simmons’ ‘Death of a Sails-Man’ is typically absurdist brilliance by a master of his art; I see him every Fringe and he never fails to brighten my year. Dave Callan’s dance-comedy thing is also brilliant fun. Mentioning no names, but I went to see something by a once extremely notorious ‘rock’ musician, looking back on his misadventures in a filthy, furious band of the 1970s. Having enjoyed the show, I tried to have a chat and grab a picture afterwards, but he was only going to let that happen if I had £15 for his new book. Even if the conversation hadn’t been so graspingly joyless, I didn’t have any cash, so he lost interest in me, and I lost interest in him. From hero to zero in under a minute. A great pity. But hey, this is the Fringe, where, I’ve often heard it said, art comes to die…
So our first week here is pretty much over now. The highlights – apart from feeling pleased with the show and all the kind words from our audiences – must surely be our appearance on Mervyn Stutter’s Pick of the Fringe. What a lovely bunch of folks they are; they took such good care of us. On top of that, we just bumped into Michael Cabot from London Classic who had nothing but praise for our show. That was so kind of him. Soon we’ll find out what the reviewers think, but in the meantime there’s much to do in the office, after which, we might just be able to let our down a bit. Fingers crossed.
Blog 2 – 30th July 2014
So you get to the point where all that rehearsing and script-tweaking and blocking and sound designing and lighting design and every other bit of the mad, bitty, messy, muddled up nonsense turns itself into a … my god, can it be? Is that a … a show?
We got there in the end. We settled on the right colour green, managed to cadge floor-lights, got through those difficult conversations where the music just didn’t fit, chucked out that bit round at Lady MILLICENT (don’t forget the ‘Millicent’, solo performer – you keep missing it!) Bruton’s place, and finally got some press coverage. This meant we were (just) ready for previews of our show (‘Dalloway’, Assembly Roxy) in Bedford and St Albans.
Getting to that point was fun. And traumatic. And painful. And boy, oh boy, it was HOT. Once in Edinburgh I might stop going on about the heat, but it was a scorching few weeks in the run up to previews. Happy days, at first: a care-free feast of croissant and coffee, languid, chatty breaks in which we waxed lyrically about visions and semiotics. By the end of it all we suddenly found ourselves subsisting on bottled water, crisps and impatience. Still. We now have a show.
Previews went very well. In Bedford, we got the response we wanted, the audience came with us, thank crikey, and ‘got it’ and lots of lovely people – most of them peers – were very kind about it. Stage one complete. Then we did a couple in St Albans (where we’re based). Our first was sublime, a step-up from Bedford, but with a less responsive audience, but adorers all (lots of Woolf fans, and again peers who seemed genuinely impressed); the second wilted a little (as third shows can and often will), but even though we (me and Rebecca – Dyad Productions; hello!) were kicking ourselves at a ball dropped, the audience were, again, all over it like a rash.
Since then, we’ve packed up and driven up here to Edinburgh. And now we’re here? Well, it’s nice to know that almost everyone I’ve ever met on the national and international touring circuit is here too – so scores of friends to play with. I’ve never felt so… local. But then there’s that moment of realisation that we’ve had every year for the past six, that all our hard work is now diminished by the presence of over 3000 other competing shows and a multitude of sudden new challenges: the tight tech, the creative compromises, the missing street team member, the emails that don’t send, the press that aren’t coming yet, the chocolates for the Assembly Girls that melted in the car, and hey, where are our posters?
And so it begins, dear reader. So it begins.
Blog 1 – Thursday July 10th 2014
Let’s hit the ground running! That’s the story of my life and that of most other independent theatre producers, so let’s carry that spirit over into this, my first Edinburgh Fringe blog entry for Fringe Review. Of course, the festival hasn’t begun yet, but as most of you will be aware, preparation for being there (in just a very few short weeks – gulp!) has, for most companies and performers, been underway for many, many months.
To be brief, I’m one half of Dyad Productions which is taking a one-person show called ‘Dalloway’ to Assembly Roxy. We’ve been ruminating on this idea since our inception in 2009, and six highly successful Edinburgh’s later (and non-stop touring since day one), here it is! Well, almost.
If you work in this business at the indie level (unfunded in our case), you already know ‘doing Edinburgh’ is a lot of work and a lot of risk. But mostly a lot of work. We’re currently in rehearsal. I wrote it and I’m directing it and Rebecca Vaughan (the other, more prominent half of Dyad) is performing it. But we’re also running the day-to-day business and, Rebecca especially, is juggling more balls than you can balance on a plate that is, itself, balancing on a long stick perched on the end of your nose. Whilst tightrope walking. In stilts.
We’re used to it, but crikey, it doesn’t get any easier, does it? Current chaos includes – mostly – inept couriers (the show flooring went awol for a bit; that was fun), getting the print finalised, chasing press coverage, finding reviewers, choosing the right shoes, picking the correct colour green, getting those tech specs finalised before you’ve even started rehearsing… The usual sort of thing. And this is at, pretty much, the end of a long process that began about a year ago.
It’s do-able, it’s manageable, but I think it always takes people by surprise that we’re sooooo busy at this time of year. This is the crazy bit, May – September. And as the kind of bloke that gets hot and bothered as soon as the weather gets past Christmas, I’m also amused that the most stressful time of our year comes in the hot bit. Nothing like being a few degrees above freezing to get tempers fraying. Well, mine. The only consolation right now is that in about three weeks I’ll be in Edinburgh and perpetually bewildered and confused as to what season I’m actually in. I am hoping for snow.
But enough of that. I have to dash. More rehearsing (we have a very promising ghost of a first half) on a tight and rather cramped schedule. Note to self: start earlier next year and spread them out more – at least one day away from the rehearsal room in the working week. Right now, you’re probably doing something similar, so you know what I’m talking about. Me? I don’t know if I’m coming or going. Going, I reckon. Speak soon.
Elton Townend Jones / Dyad Productions
More to come.