Brown Ambition at Mercat Bar, 1830

Performer reviews of their venues/shows/experience in 2009

Brown Ambition at Mercat Bar, 1830

Postby carolyncastiglia » 05 Dec 2009, 03:45

Mercat Bar is a lovely place. I would highly recommend anyone in the far West end of town go eat there, have a drink, relax. As a Fringe venue, however, I don't think it offers much. Though the space is brand new and the room and staff very warm and inviting, the location kills it. There is virtually no flyering to be done in that area and most of the people who walk by are either headed to the train station across the street leaving town or live locally and aren't interested in the Fringe. I was able on a handful of occasions to get a slew of teenagers to the show after having freestyled on one of the Royal Mile stages, but teens seemed to be the only ones willing to travel that far on foot. (Perhaps when the tram is up and running things will be different, but I wouldn't count on it.) The shows at the venue that did have some success were variable bill shows, since they had more people available to flyer. Mercat was kind enough to let us use their space to film a sketch for the Laughtershock pilot, but regarding my solo show, I probably cancelled as many performances as I gave. That worked out okay for me because I was doing lots of other stand-up spots, but were someone not in that position, they may have been gravely disappointed.
Last edited by carolyncastiglia on 05 Dec 2009, 17:22, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Brown Ambition at Mercat Bar, 1830

Postby PBH » 05 Dec 2009, 04:23

I think there are several points that need to be made here:

1. The Fringe has disappointment built into it (too many shows chasing too few audience members) and thus the experience described here was authentic. Even so, it was far better than my own first Fringe.

2. The Mercat is as you say a nice place and the staff are supportive. It has worked well for us in the past. This year the tramworks were a negative factor.

3. Another negative factor was the sheer size of the laughing horse rubbish. People often ask why I hate these people. It is because they put on rubbish which diverts the audience from the good stuff we put on. Carolyn's show was good; many Edinburghers told me so and the excerpt she did at PBHASC stormed (and got her a good quote in a four-star review, so all was not wasted). It is important that the Free Fringe puts on good quality stuff, and their rubbish makes it harder for us to convince the public that our shows are worth seeing.

4. It may be that in 2010 the Mercat will decide that they can make more money on food service etc. If that is so, we shall part on friendly terms; they have always supported us and we them. If they want shows, we will provide, because loyalty is important to us. We will provide such shows as suit the venue.

5. Carolyn, as she will tell you herself, did choose the Mercat with other options available, after an exchange of several emails with me.

6. For 2010, we will as far as possible get venues in the Old and New Towns and concentrate on what tourists perceive as the centre. This will not be easy, as space is limited, and others have been undermining us on spaces we're interested in. Nevertheless, we have four new stages in the Old Town and one in the New Town, which will be announced in due course.

7. With no criticism of Carolyn, let's all remember that you're not buying services here; you're joining a team. Whatever is less than satisfactory is not my responsibility to fix, but our collective responsibility. Carolyn did the right thing by playing at every possible opportunity, and that too is the authentic Edinburgh experience.
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Re: Brown Ambition at Mercat Bar, 1830

Postby carolyncastiglia » 05 Dec 2009, 17:27

Hey everyone,

As Peter and I just talked about over email, I came to the Fringe late - so late, in fact, I wasn't even in the Fringe program because I missed the deadline, so that may be a factor as well. There were only a few venues left at that point, and I chose Mercat as someone who had never been to Edinburgh because they have a great website and I was able to see photos of the place. It reminded me of a venue I love in New York, so I thought I'd feel at home there. And I did, I just wasn't able to make my solo show work there as well as I'd hoped. I got lots of positive feedback from the audience members who did make it, tho, some saying things like, "We paid 9 pounds to see so and so at Underbelly and your show was so much better." The quality of the Free Fringe is known to the public!

And I hope I haven't indicated otherwise, but I had an AMAZING first Fringe. I feel very happy and lucky about that. I would recommend to anyone to book lots of spots if you're a stand-up. I think sketch shows tend to get bigger audiences, so sketch groups don't have to worry as much about playing other shows, but stand-ups should try to be seen at as many venues as possible. I got the review Peter was talking about at his show, which I am also very thankful for.

Hope everyone has a great holiday! I think fondly of Scotland quite often.
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