Gavin Robertson is the Artistic Director of the highly acclaimed Company Gavin Robertson, We’re delighted to welcome him as a columnist for FringeReview during this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe. His new show, Bond!, plays Zoo during the 2014 Fringe. Details and booking here.
Welcome back Gavin for 2014!
FringeReview’s very own Paul Levy has been foolish enough to ask me to write another after last year’s efforts, and I’ve agreed in the hope that a ‘warts and all’ version of preparation and experiences might provide guidance for some, a laugh for others, and even insight to some degree. So here goes:
August 25th 2014
“It’s the final countdown…”
Actually it isn’t. Today is officially the last day of the Fringe, but me… I finished last night! I never do the last day. Experience has taught me that the sales are always down that day and I figure anyone who hasn’t seen the show in the three weeks I’ve been here probably didn’t want to see it anyway!
So… feelings: nostalgic, wistful, relieved, thoughtful, tired, content, wondering what opportunities I didn’t make, regretting the shows I didn’t see, already missing the bubble that surely every performer loves- the bubble of knowing where you’ll be at a certain time on a daily basis. I’ve loved that. I’ve often cited my collective noun for a group of actors as ‘a whinge of actors’ (not that I ever call myself one, I’m ‘a performer’) and we do like a bit of a moan eh? But why not- if you’re performing your own show and you’re also the ‘Company’, the marketing guy, the producer et al, there are many different hats to wear and a lot to do on any given day. So- even though I know why I didn’t see everything, it doesn’t prevent me from sitting here, literally before I drive South, and wishing I’d made more time to see other performers. I have no idea how anyone chooses what show to see if you’re ‘merely’ a punter. It must be overwhelming. I have friends here I didn’t even get to watch, let alone pick a random show from the leaflet or brochure alone… IS the Fringe eating itself? I think it might be… just an instinct, a quiet still voice that wonders finally… finally… if that finite number of people who buy tickets are starting to be spread too thin.
Not that I’m complaining. I contentedly share with you that fact that my record of not going home in debt is intact (as far as I can work out right now) and if the show I brought has a life because of Edinburgh my aim will have been accomplished. Has yours? Do you remember what it was three weeks ago?
So last night I was at Zoo Venues. That’s where I’ve been the whole three weeks, and fun it was too. Surrounded by a genuine family feeling of performers and staff on the last night. Several of whom were dressed as animals (themed night) It’s disconcerting to see your tec made up like a Panda. It is!
There’s people I may never see again but who have been good company in Edinburgh and one or two who I may well see because of the opportunity to talk, maybe watch, chat, right the world with, and shared one or two alcoholic beverages. Treasure that if you’ve made a new friend. Or had a love affair. It’s sunny today. We all know it’ll be raining by 4pm… but take home the good things, leave the debris up here, and there’ll be some… emotional, physical, literal and psychological. Let it go (don’t sing it!) and give yourself a few days to find yourself again. Go home slowly!
We may not know where we’ll be tomorrow at (insert your show time here) and that may feel…odd. It’ll come right, and hey guess what? Yup – there’s always next year. Got the guts?! (Got the cash!?) Got the show?
I’ll be here. It may be the first time ever that I know in advance what I’m bringing. Many a slip between cup and lip of course, but it feels good to not be leaving for good. So… wistful, nostalgic, a bit melancholy, relieved, content…hopeful. Be that! Be hopeful if you be anything!
Deep breath. Ta ta for now. See you next year. Say hello. Safe travels…
August 15 2014
Yes- so I’ve been feeling guilty at not writing again for a while (nudged by Mr Paul Levy last night) but all I can say is that the ‘bubble’ gets ya! On any given day …OK let’s stop there because ‘day’ is already not conventional. I’ve had more than one here where the show having finished around 9pm, the need for a drink and a rest takes me til 10pm, then so-and-so turns up, followed by X and Y, and before long its less like a physics equation and more like a networking fest, with added merriment. But- hey- we’re all working. No, really. That IS how it works. So the next ‘day’ doesn’t start til midday and I’ve already missed three shows on my list. I’m going to actually MAKE a list soon or I’ll find that the opportunity has gone.
So here I am- mid-point, week 2 officially. Sales are creeping up which is all good, though as my esteemed colleague Mr TownendJones pointed out, promoters and bookers are who we want to come most. And how do we get them to do that? Obviously contacts One has already made over the years, plus… reviews. I’m happy with mine on the whole. Obviously I’d prefer “Gavin Robertson does everything right totally all the time and is totally awesome, Totally” but the reception is good; lots of quotable quotes, and audience feedback is superb. It’s reassuring to know that there is still a place here (amongst the oh-so-clever edgy cutting comedy) for pastiche/parody – even celebration. Of course we still have ‘Imastudentand Ican seeshowsforfreethisway.com’ in various guises – but claim your power, fellow artistes.
Research, review the reviewers then ban ‘em. It’s fast becoming a private sport. Young James McKenzie (who runs Zoo Venues) was a wag the other day… “if you get a bad review in The Times are you going to ban them too?” quoth he. How we laughed. I didn’t, so I haven’t. Point being Dominic Maxwell’s opinion, I’d respect. He’s earned it. Moving on …
What makes a good venue? I’m not talking spaces and lighting rigs – I’m talking atmosphere and ambience. Ok here’s my theory. Top ingredient: Venue staff (Yup, looking at you Mr Zoo Venues)… their friendliness, their willingness to engage, banter, and SMILE even. It’s week 2- we all feel like we’ve never lived anywhere else. (Some staff haven’t- they got news of their Uni places yesterday!) So positivity and camaraderie and sheer pleasantness begin to count. I’m happy to say the guys ‘n’ gals at Zoo (where I’m on) are great. They fulfil all that, plus we have quizzes and impromptu dancing and they’re all just lovely. Number 2- the beer. Now- before you think that’s pedantic, the bar at Zoo is sponsored this year by local brewery Innes and Gunn – great beer. Good discount for performers. Some venues don’t offer any discount. Outrageous. Who’s the reason for the bar being there? The performers. Nuff said. No us, no Fringe.
So- happy shiny people holding hands, and good beer. And impromptu events. And performers. And… good WEATHER! It’s been rubbish! OK- we can do this without the sun. Everybody REM with me now… “Happy shiny people holding hands….”
Off to fill in my PRS form… everybody sing.. “let it go….let it gooooo….I am one with the wind and sky…”
2nd July 2014
I’m currently in Kansas City where the temperature is touching 104 degrees, and thankful for air-conditioning. My show, ‘BOND- An Unauthorised Parody’ is doing fine (three shows done, and three to go) but naturally in my free daytime I am thinking ahead to the Edinburgh Fringe.
So far so good; advance ticket sales have doubled since I last looked and doing the six shows here acts as a warm-up (literally in fact) although I have felt faint during the performances and am rather hoping that’s slight jet-lag and heat and not age and being unfit! Jury out til sometime in August…
It did make me think though. You can’t be ill during the Edinburgh Fringe! Well, not unless you have understudies. Hands up if you do? Nope- thought not! So… eating healthily, as I am here, just two meals a day and nothing after 5pm so I’m in the right condition at showtime. At home I juice every day with fruit/veg and root ginger (can’t recommend it enough) but I won’t have the equipment in my Edinburgh digs. I’m taking the coffee machine… OK sod it, I’ll take the juicer too!
It’s worth thinking about though. As a Producer we can’t have ‘no show due to illness’ days. This is the biggest Arts trade fair in the world. You should pace yourselves, look after your body, keep the hangover days to a minimum, that’s my advice. If you’re up just for the fun of performing then enjoy it. We’ve all done it, but if it’s how you make your living, it needs consideration and thought. I remember doing “12 Angry Men” with all the stand-up comedians in 2004 (with Bill Bailey et al) and even though there was a water butt onstage, the memory of that one show where many of us had unscheduled moves to get a glass of liquid still surfaces. Never again! Not fun.
So… consider a regime? Even a casual one. Do you go to the gym at home? Can you get to one in Edinburgh? Made any enquiries yet? There are places that you can (if you’re a member at home) transfer to for the duration. Eat well. Pace yourself. Be …yeah I know it sounds old… ‘be sensible!’ I’m doing a solo show. I’m my best asset! I’ve done shows with a cold and it sucks. I’m already suspicious of the air-conditioning here in the U S of A, but it’s too hot without it. Then there’s the plane journey back… the jet lag the other side, the long drive to Edinburgh the FOLLOWING day! Sheesh…
Staying healthy is at the forefront of my thinking just now. Maybe at least consider it yourself?
Actually, you can do what you like. I *may* be talking to myself. See you for a haggis supper, then in the pub.
July 1st 2014
I’m writing this on July 1st – a mere month to the day before the 2014 Edinburgh Fringe Festival kicks off and those of us who have cash flow, or overdraft facilities, or generous mums, head north. It’s also the day when Twitter has been going mad as everyone finds out whether their application to Arts Council England for NPO status has been successful or not. The full picture will emerge over the next couple of days but early signs are that most of the successful applicants are buildings. Well, venues/theatres/spaces, if you will – and not many are artists or companies that actually make work. I’ve just had an interesting exchange with Jo Crowley from theatre company ‘1927’ – and I don’t think she’ll mind me sharing the fact that they weren’t successful in their bid. We were (jointly, and minimally given our 140 character limit) musing over the irony that though based in the UK it’s the foreign touring that puts substantial funding in place for us to create work, be it through touring fees or partner-venues or whatever. “A prophet is never appreciated…” etc etc…
Which brings me in a roundabout way to ‘the fringe’. Why are you going? Hmmm? What do you hope to achieve? If you’re going to watch then enjoy the show(s), but if you’re taking part my advice is to be clear on the ‘why’ and hang on to that as the low audience figures (at least at the start), the endless leafleting, the ticket-offers and wacky unusual marketing ploy desperation kicks in halfway through.
I won’t plug my own show (but yes I AM taking one) so I’ll happily share my own reason for going. It’s to give the show a life. That may sound obvious but I mean that as opposed to making any money. For me, The Fringe is an investment of my time, energy, and creativity in order to get dates and… I’m not proud… wherever they happen to be. The show isn’t new. It’s not that old either but I’ve been lucky enough to perform it so far in Australia, USA and bits of Europe as well as the UK and Eire, BUT – there are lots of venues left. Lots of countries to visit. If you’re lucky you’ll come back from Edinburgh having broken even, but many don’t. Or you’ll make a pile and wonder what I was talking about. So- right now, a month before, when we’re all still sane, consider this: “There’s nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so” In other words (and thank you Shakespeare) a situation will exist. Let’s say you lose five grand, but get 20 bookings – you didn’t lose money at the Fringe, you just made it back plus extra. See? You’ll laugh and say ‘that’s obvious’ but you might thank me for clarity of vision around August 22nd? Decide your aim in going and remind yourself every week you’re there.
I’ve got the Kansas City Fringe before then. I’m back for a day then driving to Edinburgh the next afternoon for my get-in, so I’ll have an unusual opportunity to compare the two this year. Bookings for Edinburgh so far are at about £400 advance sales (just being honest) and I hope to see them rise further in the next four weeks. It’d be nice to know I’d covered the rent in advance – and this year’s the first time I’ve had to pay the venue the whole amount up-front! No- I’m not an NPO, and my show isn’t ACE funded, but then again, I never asked! Plunder the cash flow, get a new credit card, and I’ll see you there. If I ask you at the bar why you came in the first place, hopefully you’ll have an answer.
More to come.
1st March 2012 -= Onto Adelaide
In Adelaide at CIT with Nick Collett in SPITFIRE SOLO. Well we whingeing poms like to..ummm..whinge a bit – but you’d have to be pretty ungracious to not be amazed at the people here who MAY be the friendliest on the entire planet. Sun, sea and never a bad ‘flat white’ in any cafe! May need to move here! Off to the museum next week for a PR Opportunity with a real Spitfire, but right now about to soar above the clouds metaphorically. Oh and you know you can C IT at CIT if you want a good show!
August 29th 2011
Here it is – the final blog on the final day of the 2011 Fringe.
So, what to say? How was your Festival? Did you get what you wanted?
I did. For which I’m happy as a person, and satisfied as a producer. We in “2011: A Space Oddity”are officially a ‘sell-out show’ which means we get a nice logo for any future print, and we know already we’ll take the show to Adelaide, Australia in 2012 in the UK Winter (double bonus!). We made a small profit too, I‘ve met some new contacts and we’ve been seen by potentially useful people. That will all take shape in the follow-up talks and meetings this Autumn, no doubt. I also have the potential for a new solo show (‘face the fear’) with interested co-producers. So… for an eleven day visit it couldn’t be much better.
As ever I expect the slight ‘drop’ in the next few days as life returns to normal. But, having stayed in a camper van I shall also relish running water, showers at easy locations (the bathroom) and room to swing the proverbial cat. Oh and cooking. And not having to find the exact fare on any bus. Lothian take note I have overpaid on most occasions and your alleged £300,000 annual profit on overpayments has also been noted.
Edinburgh looks sad today. Or is that actually just ‘tidy’? Less litter already, no huge comedy posters up at pedestrian crossings, fewer people, many of whom are Companies already at home, or leaving today. We don’t, we have one final show this evening but we’re on the road twenty minutes after curtain down. But we do have one more international promoter at the show…right at the eleventh hour so that last ounce of concentration still needed. After the show we need new costumes! We wear silver spacesuits (well, you would eh!?) and over nine very hot, sweaty performances they’re less silver and more…um…translucent! Not a treat for anyone I’m sure. So, that’s on the ‘to do’ list, but they’ve done us proud. Maybe I’ll bury them in the garden with a few words of gratitude. Or maybe in the words of the show, “settle them down somewhere where there’s a lot of ‘space’”. OK, we’ll bin them. Job done.
Given the success of future bookings from this visit, I’ve also realised we’ll need a new print run. Why? Because next year I’ll be performing in “2012: A Space Oddity”. Producers take note – don’t choose a show title with the current year in it. You need new print each year. Doh! Still, it’ll look nice as a triptych on my wall. Oh… I live in a camper …
See you next year. Maybe.
August 27th 2011
So here we are again- 10am on the final Saturday in what could aptly be called ‘Deadinburgh’ just now. Rain, few people about, a sense of overall tiredness pervading the showered paving stones…
I’ve been sitting sipping coffee at the Edinburgh Media Centre and casually surfing reviews for shows I’m tempted by, or others I’ve heard about, and I’m struck – again – by the increasing range in peoples’ thoughts. I’m reading reviews by Edinburgh Fringe box office ticket buyers who apparently also then buy the right to post their review on what is after all a globally available medium. Why’s that then? Are these folk also qualified culturally aware theatre-makers with a good understanding of theatre-craft? Stage nominated ‘best solo performer’ Sabrina Mahfouz has had reviews from 1-star to 5-star, and some of the expressions on other shows in ‘public’ reviews range from obviously good to really quite offensive for a whole range of artists and performers. And, the range of 4 and 5-star reviews are now making everything a homogenised mass of nothingness. Online media is expanding- Fest, chortle, the skinny, broadwaybaby, yes – even fringereview… so does this diminish The Scotsman for example? Or does it all just serve to give possible ticket buyers a bewildering array of opinions. And lets face it, even critics (sorry, that’s with an assumed ‘professional’ in front) can like or dislike a show because the venue is uncomfortable, they had a bad day or they’re just plain tired.
Let’s reduce it! At least take away this so-called ‘right to express an opinion’ from the public. What IS this so-called ‘voice’ they ‘must’ have? Talk about it to your friends and your family but don’t share it with the world. We don’t care what you thought really, we just sold you a ticket! OK we DO care, but not in the sense that you get to tell a global community about it. Or maybe you can invite us round to your house and we Artists can post a review of your taste in music, your house décor, or the way you eat!
Anyway! Three days to go… reserves of energy from all and sundry until the biggest Arts Festival winds down until 2012. If you visited, saw, and even conquered, then well done. Take that home with you and relax! Or go somewhere sunny? Or send us some up here! Please!
August 25th 2011
OK, I’ve been here a while and of course it feels like forever but is in fact a mere seven days. So far I can report my show selling well…in fact as good as a sell out each night so far including three ‘actual’ full houses, which is fab, better than we allowed for financially, and wonderful to perform to. I have also committed the cardinal Fringe sin of performing with a hangover. Not that I intended to, I just got carried away with good malt whisky and good company. Shame therefore that a reviewer plus some close friends were at the show to witness my less-than-perfect performance. Always worth kicking yourself afterwards and in fact I have now foresworn alcohol not only for Edinburgh but for good. Yes I know. Send good vibes!? Irritating to re-learn some lessons!
But… in terms of ‘why be here at all’, it’s going pretty well. Promoters from Netherlands, Germany, India, USA and China so far as well as UK venue bookers have popped in or dropped in ..or ‘drooped’ in if you judge it by the sauna we happen to be performing in!
Here’s a tip too. If your venue doesn’t take credit or debit cards, increase your allocation at the Fringe Office. We have and it’s working. Yes there’s a % charge for the pleasure, but at least tickets are more easily available.
I had a great conversation too with Mr Paul Levy about ‘continuity and repetition’ which overlaps somewhat with my observations on ‘know why you’re here’. He just said it more succinctly! It’s worth using as a measure though. Are you here year after year? Why? Can’t not come? Feel a highlight is missing if you stay away? That may not be a good sign. ‘Continuity’ has something positive about it. You’re building profile, audiences, looking to your professional future, expanding the life of your product. That’s all good. If ‘repetition’ is being here, feeling stressed but not daring to give it a miss, maybe take a break and re-evaluate?
As I’ve always tried to maintain too, make a show when you have an idea rather than fall into the ‘must make a new show because it’s ‘that’ time’ trap. Let your ideas lead you. We can all get het up by imagining a fallow time is ‘invisible’ time. It isn’t. Recharge, let ideas ferment and make a show when you have a GOOD idea. If that means no visit in 2012, so be it.
And that’s all we’ve got time for this week, Basil! ‘Boom Boom’…
August 20th 2011
Hello folks! Well this is a first – I’ve never arrived at the Festival part-way through before and it sure is odd! I mean some people are leaving tomorrow and we haven’t even done our get-in! Awards and reviews are up and out there, the hype is on, the whispers of ‘who’s hot and who’s not’ seem established. Talk about coming to the party late and finding only cheap cider in the kitchen! Not that I see myself as cheap cider you understand- I’m going more for the good red no-one’s noticed in the corner but ‘Boy when they open the bottle…’ type thing.
Still… it is weird to be joining in so late.
Having said that we were here with the same show last year and it’s interesting to look at the comparison in case You are maybe wondering about repeating a show next year?
So… on the back of the reviews and profile we got at the 2010 Fringe, we have taken in advance sales this year only £150 less than our entire 2010 advance. Worth noting as we only do nine performances in 2011. That in turn also means we have covered ALL our costs and are already in profit. That’s a lovely position to be in- if we don’t get a single review it doesn’t matter, and I stand by always being focussed on ‘why come to the Fringe’. Know that and it removes all the competitive edges, the worry and the ‘what ifs’.
It’s so easy to be seduced by comparisons of audience figures, review stars, and the ever-present analysis of the situation. If you know why you brought a show here, decide if the Fringe is giving you what you wanted, and let all the rest slide off. See some shows, meet some people and sleep well at night.
Now we have a get in from 11.35pm tonight until 1.35 am tomorrow morning, followed by the first preview- which is sold out! See? I’m quietly happy with my bottle of cider.
August 1st 2011
I guess the good thing about a blog is that it can just be random thoughts. So… I was on Twitter and someone had pasted a link about a particular award scheme. I suppose I should keep it anonymous for the sake of discretion. The article had several quotes from someone well-placed who was talking about how they run the scheme and the selection process, and as I read it I couldn’t help smiling at the PR exercise. I know at least two people in the past who were asked to be on the selection committee and they told me it was badly run, disorganised and shambolic – certainly not the picture the article painted… which got me thinking! Why the emphasis on award schemes anyway!?
And before you wonder (too late?) yes I have been nominated for stuff and even been in ‘award-winning’ shows – though admittedly any winners weren’t ones I produced, but I figure that gives me at least some credibility in discussing the topic.
I mean- how do you distinguish a winner, for example, between a solo show, a circus-based act, and a comedy? I’ll happily state right now that I don’t approve of them. There are some awards in Edinburgh that you basically declare yourself eligible for, and/or enter to at least be in the running to win. I don’t enter them. I don’t take a show to Edinburgh to win an award, I go to further its touring life and open up possibilities in general.
The other thing in theatre at least, is that a show that has decent funding will look better, have better support, and possibly even more actors than a show that has little or no funding. So are ‘we’ then truly being judged irrespective of that? Is the award a reward for genuine creativity? Or does the overall ‘feel’ of the show contribute towards winning something? Are the production values that are afforded by the company/producer irrelevant to any award panels? Frankly I’m suspicious.
Obviously I appreciate it’s nice to have something to crow about. ‘Fringe First Winner’ or ‘Best Actor’ or ‘Total Theatre Award’, or whatever, crops up post Fringe on posters of the lucky winners, so I assume someone somewhere sees them as useful? Some winners of awards get taken to foreign places as a prize…that I can certainly see as a great experience if you win: as a person you have the experience of a new country and of course your work gets international exposure. Fantastic!
I think – in the end – it comes down to what I admit is a subjective emotion – I just don’t like the feeling that there’s a panel of folk in a room deciding that ‘this one’s better than that one’. Who needs a COMPARISON at ALL!? Much like the reviewing ‘star’ system: let’s just have reviews you have to actually read, rather than this quick fast-food mentality of ‘a three star review means ‘ok-ish’ and a five star review means ‘brilliant!
One last comment – to those award schemes that send people along to shows on a free ticket to see a show that hasn’t actually entered your award scheme, please don’t! I speak from experience.
Anyway – if you win an award, enjoy it. I won’t be there. Well not now, clearly!
July 21st 2011
You find me at an interesting point! I’ve just let my house and am living in my Camper Van…an old VW LT28 (yes had the Type 2 ‘surfbus’ and this is less cool but bigger!). Space is a premium! I’m also preparing to begin making a new show, ‘Vampirates’ based on the first novel in Justin Somper’s series, which takes me right up to August 16th, at which point I’ll drive up overnight and have three days or so before we open “2011 A SPACE ODDITY” at Zoo Roxy on August 21st. So here’s where we stand Edinburgh-wise … the sharp eyes among you will recognise the title of the show – that’s because we performed it at LAST year’s Fringe with the slight change of year prefix. So next year it’ll be “2012 A Space Oddity” – you get the idea. So why are we back? We’re back because it’s a British Council showcase year.
No, we’re not IN the showcase but producers are flitting about as are Festival programmers etcs and we can at least give ourselves the chance of extra international performances. Not all visiting professionals limit themselves to the BC showcase, and there’s even a certain ‘being shepherded about’ aspect to it that some would quite like to escape from, so it’s worth finding out who’s there and making yourself known! Get to the Visiting Arts breakfast etc. Do some homework.
So we’re performing the show nine times only and we’ll see what comes out of that. So far signs are good, in general terms. Advance sales show us we’ve already covered venue hire, print costs and travel, so that’s encouraging. The show did well last year so there’s always value in returning for a second time. Even a limited run in a world of a risk-averse public means if they’ve heard something is good there’s a chance you’ll sell tickets. That’s what we’re hoping.
Incidentally, if you haven’t got print yet we got ours using Mobius Green Print – and we’re very happy with the results, so…my tip. Fast turn-around and good quality. Plus they deliver as part of the price. Contact sent by the Edinburgh Fringe newsletter!
The downside is that we don’t start until week three one of the Festival, and nine shows doesn’t give us much time to build an audience fast. Neither of course do we benefit from early reviews and in fact have such a small window of opportunity we may not be reviewed at all, given the backlog by then! Yes we have last year’s 5-star ones which are on the A5 leaflet, and the Zoo website, but they may be doing a lot of work for us this time around, rather than fresh ‘as it happens’ reviews appearing. Again- we’ll have to see!
Twitter is good. It’s apparent that if I DO tweet an unashamed publicity pointer, we sell tickets, so don’t underestimate social networking as either a profile ‘wave’ or a potential box-office benefit. I’m sure facebook is the same, but I loathe it. Just my personal taste!
Right, that’s probably enough. I have our get-in in the diary. Because we arrive while the Festival’s on we get in at 11.35pm- until 1.35AM the following day. Venue tecs please don’t hate us! Last year I blundered by blithely doing a voice-over in an Edinburgh studio having written the get-in time down wrong. T’was somewhat embarrassing! Just shows you that preparation counts! Annoying to have to re-learn the lesson, so get it right first time!
More to come.
And you can still read Gavin’s musings from last year…
31st August 2010
Gavin’s final Blog of Fringe 2010…
I performed the last show yesterday at 12.30pm …finished and completed get-out by 2pm…on the road home by 2.15pm! Brutal, almost rude, but somehow fitting. A month performing two shows to the public, promoters, peers and potential allies is over. I’m now writing this from the office in Sussex on a watery sunny day, birds tweeting (that’s chirruping – not using technology!) and coffee on the go. Bliss!
And what am I feeling? Well… tired from a ten-hour drive, but also satisfied with ‘my’ Festival having complete the the objectives I set out with… and THAT, future Festival do-ers is the prime fact. It’s so easy to get distracted by others’ achievements and focus, or lack of… by worries and the continual analysis of the box office sales and patterns, by marketing and publicity. So my objectives 1) to remind people I exist and make work, 2) to not suffer any financial losses and 3) to give each show a future touring life, have ALL been satisfied. 2011 will see further touring, and the likelihood of at least a couple of International Festival appearances, but even more than that, there are discussions about future productions and co-productions. That, for me, is the extra reward – the chance to work with my peers on a new show, or to produce new work that before August wasn’t even in the ether.
So my advice? Know your objectives before you go. Hang onto those during the madness, don’t over-analyse anything too early, and foster relationships with other creative people while you can. The Edinburgh experience is not an end in itself but a springboard to other possibilities. Go produce!
26th August 2010
Yes, it’s waaaaay too long since I blogged, but in a way that says something in itself. The Festival sucks time like a black hole! The cyclical nature of selling the show(s), meeting and discussing future options, seeing the work of others and solution-finding on a daily basis means that almost all performers are feeling ‘tired’ as we near the end. Singers are looking after their voices, actors drinking less (or more if they’re depressed!), Promoters are steeling themselves for show number 457 and STILL not filling the all-important programming quota, etc, etc, etc…I’ve had pleasure finding one or two ‘gems’, and the simple act of being surrounded by creative folk fuels the determination to keep creating, to not give in to economic pressures or the mundanity of day to day life in the months that are NOT the Festival. So..it’s a time for counting one’s blessings, realising what One has to offer, and not least drawing around Oneself the comforting blanket of One’s own ideas and creativity. Seperating the three ‘P’s is a great first…or even second step… which I’m secure in having done, and the benefit (today) of this environmemnt is the validation of One’s creative existence. Tomorrow it might just be selling out (yay!) but today it’s deeper than that. Whatever the day brings, you know you’ll be on stage doing it again and THAT’S what we like, right? September is different – we’re not onstage every day, darn it. We LOVE routine! So…the end is nigh…ooer! Go count the blessings!
19th August 2010
Two events have coincided this week, one good and one bad and seemingly un-connected… ah, but there’s the rub… Firstly, we finally hit ‘sell-out’ on “2010: A Space Oddity” which has been threatening to happen before but not quite. Partly (we think) because we have now released over 50% of our ticket allocation to the fringe office rather than the 25% before the Festival started, and of course people can pay there using plastic, whereas our venue box- office only takes cash. Managers take note! It’s the 21st Century – TAKE plastic!
The second event is that a new, young company are now on in the venue before us. And their show is too long. And their get-out is woefully inefficient. And so yesterday (August 18th) we went up fifteen minutes late. Our audience were then left queuing in the rain. And who do they blame? The previous Company? No, of course not… they think it’s US! Grrr! As a consequence, the audience were NOT happy…no individual mutterings but as a performer One can sense it. It’s palpable… and I know there were at least two Festival promoters, two journalists and six UK venue programmers at that particular performance (because I’m also the Producer!).
So… arguably, that fifteen minutes has cost us not only in reputation, but in finance. The venue have threatened to fine said Company – which actually doesn’t help us at all. There’s only one answer, and that’s to stick to your contracted time slot, and play the game! Rant over, but I think it’s good Edinburgh fodder! Watch this space … (“A Space Oddity”…space…geddit?)
16th August 2010
End of week one, and although I DID blog earlier it was lost in the ether, so… what have I been up to? Well of course networking is a big part of the Festival and I’ve caught up with the original cast of Comedians from Guy Masterson
‘s ’12 Angry Men’ back in 2003, all spread around the city this year from ‘The Stand’’ comedy club to the Assembly Rooms; chatted to Jack Klaff (fab solo performer at Assembly whose show ‘Stand Up’ nearly 20 years ago I still remember <cringe>); made arrangements to catch ‘Soap’ at Assembly courtesy of Wolfgang Hoffman with whom I worked way back; laughed with Stephen K. Amos; commiserated with comic Dave Johns about his Indian typhoid trip; been touched by David ‘Horse Country’/’Imperial Fizz’ Calvitto’s support at ‘Six-Sided Man’; intrigued by Maria Tecce (Assembly); scouted by Cirque Du Soleil outside Zoo Venues and hugged by Lizzie Roper and Lucy Porter! Two weeks to go …
10th August 2010
So… two reviews so far..a four-star for ‘The Six-Sided Man’ and a five star on this very site(bless ’em!) for ‘A Space Oddity’. Ironically the review mentions ‘two actors in total control of their bodies’ which doesn’t hold up as about an hour ago my back went into spasm! So..here am I, texting a masseur recommended by the venue to try and repair myself before tomorrow’s show! Every cliche in the book appears if you stay in this business long enough! I’m also combining ibuprofen with red wine, so frankly – if this reads badly, blame the grape! And, I’ve been thinking about the threee ‘p’s … Performer, Publicist and Producer … which, at the FRINGE applies to me … three different hats, threee diferent pressures. So, OK, maybe my back is allowed to carry some stress? If you come to the shows and see me looking like an Eighty-five year old, clap anyway – out of sympathy!?
7th August 2010
So, we’ve now opened both shows (or previewed anyway) and let’s face it that’s as much about getting through a show without mishap as anything else.
It allows the cast to ‘feel’ the space as well, and get used to any anomalies or quirks the venue has. What it doesn’t generally allow for is other Companies coming in after you’ve done your tec (a mere 2 hours I might add) and unplugging equipment you’ve set up, and tampering with levels set on sound desks and other places… radio mics for example! Yes, you know who you are!
So … in our 15- minute get-in time before said preview we had three venue tecs trying to repair the damage and actually did the first show with lighting states that didn’t appear. We were great, naturally, ho ho, but it’s an unnecessary pressure to have to contend with technical problems when already playing both performers, publicists and producers. And – of course – a reviewer snuck in, so we’ll wait to see what appears in print. Plus we now have extra duties on Monday to re-plot the lighting! Consideration, people! Thatcher is dead (as good as) so let’s leave the ‘me’ generation out of the Arts huh? Other than that, the sun is out, so let’s boogie!
4th August 2010
I mentioned earlier about ‘covering One’s arse’ … so here’s a salutory lesson: Muggins has, for some weeks, having received the first rate Zoo Venues tec spec, marked down the get-in time for ‘2010 A Space Oddity’ as 1.10pm today. So, Deep Joy ensued on hearing of a TV commercial voice-over coming his way at 11.15am, same day. ISDN line arranged in local Leith-based sound studio, find said studio and am sitting reading the script for a not-very- interesting pain relief pill when I get a call from the venue’s Assistant Production Manager, “where are you?” she says, “your tec time starts in ten minutes”. “No” I confidently reply, “it’s at 1.10pm”. “nope, 11.10AM”, says she. I swear, and send texts to fellow performers, “get taxi, sod the cost”. They do. I finish early after ‘take 17’ in the studio, and race up to the venue.
Everyone is nice to me BUT – I have royally made an error. However, said Asst Venue Manager is on our payroll having toured both shows previously and knows what she’s doing. So, we belt through the cues, and generally survive albeit me feeling sheepish. So here’s the moral: ALWAYS double check the emails and don’t assume you’ll remember the info if you DIDN’T write it down (yes I’m a fool!) OR… and this is the good bit …spend money wisely on excellent folk who can get you out of trouble when you get it wrong! Rachel at Zoo you are fab! And my peers, Jon Bex and Nick Collett, drinks are on me! Grrrr!
1st August 2010
OK, so- you couldn’t make it up! My mobile just died. On the eve of going north too. Thank you Sony Ericsson!! Second fault with your C905,grrr! Can you IMAGINE how NOT useful that is when I’m about to enter the biggest networking lark of the year? Luckily I have transferred the SIM and so AM contactable but the address book is about 12 months old. Jeez! And it was going so well… we’d solved the non appearnace of an echo unit needed for ‘The Six-Sided Man
‘ over the weekend AND are taking extra lights and cables courtesy of Eastbourne College who are a lifesaver! PT/Tim Marriott you will go to Heaven.
The place not the nightclub… and our mole at ZOO venues
has been sending sneaky pix of the build there so we can secretly design the space to our own needs. Being around a long time has its advantages…moo ha ha ha!! But I’m pissed (American meaning!) about my phone. The camera is a fab 8.1 megapixel but guess what Sony Ericsson – I won’t be using it. Bring me vodka! Now!
31st July 2010
After a week of sunshine and promise, T took delivery of the print for Edinburgh today. Nothing like the last minute to inspire hopes and fears! We’re taking two shows, so we have a flyer that has in effect two ‘fronts’..no info on the reverse so we’re relying on websites and word of mouth to give the fine detail.
Ticket sales at present healthily over £1000 in advance of us leaving on Monday but the faint tang of September worry has me wondering if our promising start will turn to a lack of shirt later on! It’s good to be a pessimist at this stage; it stops me not bothering to cover my arse!
Jon Salway (“2010 – A Space Oddity
“) has volunteered to go by train to pick up the key to the accomodation, which means that myself and Nick Collett (“The Six-Sided Man”) will share the driving of my old VW camper which is doubling as the cliched ‘Transit’ taking us, two theatre sets, a portable office, and a months worth of clothing, as well as groceries and bedding, north. All fine, but it didin’t start yesterday. Flat battery. And it’s raining today. Hmmm…less of the fears and more of the hopes!
More to come.
Gavin Robertson is the Artistic Director of the highly acclaimedCompany Gavin Robertson, We’re delighted to welcome him as a columnist for FringeReview during this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe.