17:30 14 Smiles

17:30 14 Smiles

Postby Martha Brown » 20 Oct 2011, 16:02

The venue was The Rat Pack Piano Bar, a recently refurbished bar in the basement. It was well furnished and pretty swish. The bar is located on the west end of Princes Street, fairly central in the city, but a bit out of the way from the centre of most of the Fringe activity (15min walk from The Royal Mile etc). The bar’s clientele were mixed: students, regular drinkers, older people, groups of friends of mixed ages etc, a broad range.

The venue is an unusual shape, with some extra seating areas to the side of the bar. There wasn’t a raised stage so we just used the floor space by the grand piano and placed seats facing it. The bar was behind this seating. This created a very relaxed feel about it, which was nice but it could be a little tricky at busier times. The door into the venue was right next to the stage space and the toilets were on the other side of it, so the entering and passing of people whilst I was performing could be a little distracting. The stage was quite small but I managed to adapt my show to make best use of the venue’s space by using some of the off-stage spaces too.

The bar staff were brilliant, really helpful and friendly. They helped prepare and adapt the stage facilities before and after each show and were on hand to help with any problems or queries.

I advertised my show by flyering every day. I had a couple of friends helping me some days. We mostly flyered outside the venue before the show but also flyered at the bos office off Princes Street and on the Royal Mile when we had more time and energy. We found that making ourselves stand out by wearing a bucket on our heads, handing out biscuits (features of my show) helped to attract people. Handing out the Free Fringe brochure saying “Free Shows” attracted people’s attention and then sparing a bit of time to make conversation with people seemed to be a successful approach. Word of mouth is probably the most affective way to get punters in, and going to similar shows where audiences will share the same humour/taste. Flyering didn’t bring in as many people as I’d have hoped. The location of the venue made it a bit more tricky because it wasn't so near to the flyering centres.

My average audience number was 8. My lowest was 5, (but 4 walked out half way through, so I ended up with 1) and my highest was 16. I didn’t do a show one day because no-one turned up. The weather did affect numbers; rain helped bring people in and sunny days kept people away sometimes.

Unfortunately my show was mis-billed as ‘comedy’ rather than ‘theatre’ in the programme. I think this worked against me as people came expecting stand up comedy and found a quirky, weird theatre show. A lot of audiences looked a bit confused and bewildered by my show. This clarified how important it is to bill your show correctly. I did however have a few lovely shows in which audiences were more receptive and appreciative of the unusual show I was performing. Some of my best shows were actually with small numbers. The intimacy added something to the content of my performance. Next time I would be sure to make it clear in advertising material that my show was quirky and surreal theatre rather than stand up comedy.

I was surprised to find I got some good donations in buckets and I was bought a drink a couple of times. Having someone to walk round the audience with the bucket helped, as did saying something re. the size of contributions eg: “I think this show is worth £5, but £2 or £3 would still be appreciated and if you can’t afford anything then please just spread the word.”

My show didn’t require any technical equipment other than lighting. There wasn’t any proper theatre lighting so we had to make do with a couple of lamps on either side of the stage alongside the normal bar lighting. This wasn’t ideal, but it was ok.

The venue captain was good, we communicated mostly by text and in person. I joined the fringe late – only a month before I was due to perform, so this made keeping up with admin and communication a little tricky. I had to use some detective work by looking on Facebook and forums etc. to find out who my venue captain was.

I found the experience of the Free Fringe a very hard but rewarding one. I struggled to maintain my energy and keep a positive morale each day as I wasn’t getting much positive energy or feedback from my audiences, however I learnt loads from the experience and will probably do the free fringe again if I can.
Martha Brown
 
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Joined: October 2011

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