Hoopla at The Rat Pack and Fingers Piano Bar

Performer reviews of their venues/shows/experience in 2009

Hoopla at The Rat Pack and Fingers Piano Bar

Postby Hoopla » 10 Nov 2009, 12:51

Hi everyone,

Sorry about the massive delay on this but better late than never. First of all MASSIVE THANKS to Peter Buckley Hill for doing an amazing job yet again. It was our second time with the Free Fringe and it gets better each time. Overall we found a big difference in audience's point of view of the Free Fringe in just the space of a year - they now see it as a firm part of the Festival and most people seemed to be seeing as many or more free shows as they were paid shows.

[b]Hoopla at The Rat Pack[/b]

I was venue captain for The Rat Pack. It took a fair bit of work to get this venue working as a comedy venue. It's a basement nightclub and felt a bit empty at first so we had a few discussions about what worked best. In the end we purchased a large amount of black sheets from Primark and used these to create a black box room effect within the main nightclub - which worked quite well and got better focus onto the stage. The black sheets hung from the ceiling lights using cable ties that could be cut at the end of the day.

This set up required putting up each morning and taking down each evening - many thanks to Banterland and Matt Whistler for taking a lead role each day on this. All the other acts also stuck into taking it turns to help on this, and I found them all very helpful and easy to work with. There were a few nights were we had gaps in help, so in the future this could be sorted out by putting together a timetable before Edinburgh rather than trying to do it in a rush there. I recommend that whoever is venue captain there next year gets in contact with me because we learnt quite a lot about how to make it look good and set things up quickly.

The venue doesn't have any chairs so we had to borrow some from local churches and other bars. I recommend checking this way before you get to Edinburgh and sorting this out as a priority, as there seemed to be a Edinburgh wide chair shortage.

Technically the lights and sound are great at the venue, they have all their own gear.

The manager Marc was great and very impressed by the Free Fringe and amount of people it was bringing into his bar, he couldn't have been more helpful, and the rest of the staff were great. Marc said on the first day that it had "already exceeded his expectations" so I think you'll probably get the venue again next year.

The audience tended to be surprisingly rowdy for 5:30pm, so we adjusted our show accordingly and had a lot of fun with them. It basically ended up being a flat out fast impro show and that seemed to work.

The Rat Pack doesn't attract a walk by crowd and is a bit out of the way for people to come to unless they really really want to see your show, so effective flyering is essential. Please see other section for that.

[b]Hoopla at Fingers Piano Bar[/b]

I have to admit we cocked this up a bit. We were originally planning an improvised history of poetry show, which sounds great, but then close to the festival our key people for this were unable to make it due to no fault of their own. Which meant were faced with either doing the show we planned, but badly, or doing a different show - we had to opt for the latter. Most of the time this actually worked fine, as hardly anyone was coming from the program and most people were coming from flyering (see below). A few times though we did have people turning up expecting something else and had to explain to them what had happened - they seemed fine and stayed and enjoyed.

This was removing from the spoken word theme of venue, but actually we ended up getting large audiences so at least the venue was happy.

The venue manager May was lovely, although she seemed a bit concerned about gaps in the schedule as it effected her staffing timetable. I don't think she really minded what was on, as long as she was getting a decent crowd in.

Richard Tyrone Jones did a great job as venue captain, well done him, very effecient and friendly and got on well with the venue. The other acts there were also friendly and helpful so all good.

That bonus comedy night with Kristen Schaal and Phil Kay by the way was awesome, unbelievably good and the free fringe at its best.


Considering we didn't actually send out any press releases or do any press we got a surprising amount of reviews. These ranged everywhere from 1 star and awful to 5 star and absolutely amazing, and nothing really inbetween. Three Weeks even reviewed us twice, one reviewer giving us 1 star and hating us, and the other giving us 4 star and loving us.

This is probably because we have a different cast and show each time, and are genuinely very improvised, so do indeed tend to be very up and down. When it works it works really well for us, and when it doesn't it doesn't.

So I'll be using the good reviews for years to come, and ignoring the bad ones!


Good flyering is ESSENTIAL for these two venues as neither get any pass by traffic and people are also unwilling to walk to them from The Royal Mile.

We found the key places to flyer for these venues are The Half Price Hut area, George Street, The Assembly, and Princess Street Gardens (if sunny).

With only three of you you can cover all entrances to The Half Price Hut and make sure everyone in and out gets a flyer. People here aren't too far from the venues and are looking for a bargain. I don't understand why more people weren't flyering the half price hut, as it worked really well.

We didn't bother flyering the Royal Mile much as it's a bit far from the venues. I did see Mysery Eats Company doing really well flyering the Royal Mile in costume. Anything that makes you look like a performer rather than a rained on bloke in a soggy mac is a good idea.

It's really useful to put a map on the back of the flyer, and also any quotes you have so people realise it's not crap. Basically make sure it's really clear what the show is, where it is, how you get there, what time, it's free, but good. I know that sounds obivous.

T-shirts helped loads too, anything to make you look friendly and professional.

Flyering at the Half Price Hut was actually more helpful than flyering at the venues themselves.

We tended to flyer for about two hours before each show, and then have people outside the venues right before the show, and this seemed to get full houses on the main days. It's always a bit dead on Mondays and Tuesdays but can't help that really.

Thanks again Peter and everyone else who did so much hard work.

Steve, Edgar and the rest of Hoopla.
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