18.45 - Applied Optimism

18.45 - Applied Optimism

Postby Alex Marion » 19 Nov 2011, 13:07

First of all many apologies for the lateness of this post: the good folks of the Sin Club deserve better because they were brilliant from start to finish, welcoming, friendly and accommodating as could be. Point number 1. On with the rest.

- The venue - its the back bar of a night club bang in the middle of the Cowgate, intimate, big enough to get a decent size crowd in (certainly 60+ on a good night) but compact enough that even an audience of 20 or so can really get a good rocking feel to it; because it is a night club there are some weekends when the venue is used after the shows have finished which sometimes means that the whole venue has to be stripped down on Saturday night and set up again Sunday morning, but that is a small price to pay for such a well placed venue

- The performance area - slightly raised stage, just about big enough to get a good pace going, right on top of the bulk of the audience; a second part of the room is separated by a partition and needs to be directly engaged or that part of the audience can be lost; the only real negative aspect of the room is that the audience enters by walking in next to the stage and then walking right in front of it which means that latecomers cannot be ignored. That's fine once or twice early in a show, but if you have a steady stream of people arriving throughout the first 10 to 15 minutes it can really throw you off your stride. Not disastrous, but certainly an irritation. Obviously this is a bigger problem if you are working solo - if possible, have someone stationed outside to discourage latecomers. As to why there should be so many late arrivals, more of that later.

- The team of staff at the venue - A*, see above

- How you advertised your show - Fringe brochure, flyering, posters, word of mouth etc; Yes all of those, especially valuable was flyering with the Free Fringe Brochure. Mostly flyering for a couple of hours directly outside the venue before the show, making sure I hit the audiences for the shows immediately before mine as they went in. Apart from that I made sure I had a few well placed posters and lots of flyers stuck up around the city to aid recognition of the show title and the one strong advertising image I was using. Also, its important that the shows in each venue plug the shows coming up after them. Certainly for the Sin Club it worked for both rooms if we could keep people moving between shows within the venue for an afternoon or an evening.

- How your shows went in terms of audience numbers - Variable, generally good numbers, Friday and Saturday tended to be rammed, Sunday and Thursday normally pulled in 25 to 40, Monday and Tuesday wavered between a low of 12 and 20. Wednesday was my night off. I cannot recommend enough the wisdom of booking yourself one proper day off and keeping it sacrosanct; don't do your show, or any other show on that day. I really felt the benefit of it this year.

- Your show itself -Overall I was pretty pleased with my show - it was my first solo hour and on at least 17 nights out of 19 I more than held it together however the big things I'd change if I was doing it again are: remember earlier in the run that I can compere the start of the show (I was so focused on doing "my show" that I forgot this is one of my skills - once I remembered things went a whole lot better); get less tied to one or two big set pieces, they were great and memorable and audiences generally loved them but they can tend to warp the rest of the show and make it difficult to adjust the material; to that end the aim next year is to trust myself more as a comedian and deliver more of a straight stand up show; and above all I think to be less dominated by one over riding theme - again, the optimism theme was great for comedy, it was a real hook for audiences and drove the show along but ultimately it was also a limiting factor in the sense that I'd set myself the challenge of being optimistic about everything. I mean, I can do that, but do I always want to?

- Buckets - Don't listen to the bucket liars, they're only trying to mess with your head. Over the last 2 years at the fringe this has remained remarkably consistent - an average of between £1 and £2 per person per night. Very rarely it'll go higher, it never went lower. For anyone wondering, the times when it went higher were when I had a lovely show to a small crowd. In fact, the highest average donation came from the smallest audiences, so that should be an incentive to everyone to keep on keeping on even if you're looking at 7 people in the room and wondering why you bothered. £40 from 12 people will keep you in booze, fags and bananas for a day, after all.

- Technical set-up at the venue - as your basic man with mic (and i-pod) stand up the PA set up was fine for me; lighting wasn't perfect - I would suggest that next year all shows get together to agree and if necessary fund wall mounting a single spot above and to the left of the stage, but that might not work for everyone. Its a matter for the venue shows to decide really

- Admin & Communication process (between Free Fringe, Captains, Venues and you) - all seemed grand to me. Top work by Mr Panesh by the way.

- Any other learning points for anyone involved - As is clear from the above, by and large this is a very good venue - there are 2 outstanding issues.
(1) The minor one is that during the course of the run there were 2 big one-off shows which fairly well blew out the audiences for the rest of the club not just in that slot (both opposite me) but for the rest of the night. That is not the fault of the shows in question or anyone in particular, it just means that where these big one offs happen thought needs to be given to (a) how their audiences queue (it didn't help that it was one of the wettest days of the Fringe, but the massive queue for "Festival of the Spoken Nerd" almost certainly scared off punters for the back room - something as simple as "Nerd" to the right of the door "Optimism" to the left might have solved the problem and (b) how they exit, as the scrum at the front door held up the next shows and again probably scared off punters, leaving the venue empty after both that show and "Gorillas" a week later - again, a simple solution would be having the audience exit through the fire exit at the back, leaving the front door free for fresh punters to enter.
Let me reiterate, I'm not blaming anyone here, we just need to work out how to handle this sort of show, because they do change the audience profile at the venue. I don't think its a coincidence that my 2 smallest crowds came on those 2 nights.

(2) Sometimes the audience for the back room got lost to the front room - tricky to know what to do about this as everyone I met is working pretty hard on it already; There is clear sign posting, posters and flyers for both rooms and most shows are in evidence throughout the venue; I know that We Love Comedy before hand were letting the audience know that my show was starting upstairs at 6.45, The Artisan, my downstairs counterparts, were doing likewise, and I was doing my own shout out and yet still I heard of audience members who came to my show and got stuck downstairs; some of them came another night and told me what had happened, many others (see above) came in 15 minutes late having realised they were at the wrong show. You may feel this indicates that I attract a dim sort of audience - perhaps so, but still it means the problem of "audience drift" at the Sin Club requires increased and constant vigilance.

Overall, a really good venue, and I echo what has already been said - this could definitely be used as a flagship central venue.
Alex Marion
Posts: 9
Joined: July 2010

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