13:30 Gentlemen Bears

13:30 Gentlemen Bears

Postby KeironNicholson » 03 Sep 2012, 09:03

The venue is the basement nightclub space of the Hudson Hotel, which I believe has a 200-250 capacity as a nightclub but I would say no more than a 50 capacity as a venue. The upstairs area is quite a classy bar/restaurant during the day and the clientèle reflected this. There were also some seats outside which people were taking advantage of during the warm weather. The entrance to the venue area is separate to the main bar and requires walking past a bunch of big bins, which is perhaps not the classiest start to a show but is quite fun to reference on stage!

There's no stage, but seats are laid out in five rows facing one wall at the far end of the basement, with a backstage area off to the performer's right. Mix of some comfy seats and some less comfy wooden or metal benches - for days with lower audience numbers we found putting the comfier chairs towards the front was good for enticing people forward! Although there's no stage and the show area isn't separated off in any way, we found that it worked very well - the ceiling is nice and low which is good for comedy, the backstage area was useful and there was easy access to the bar for those punters who wanted a drink. The sound desk was easily accessible. As a performer you are directly facing a giant mirror on the back wall behind the audience which is a rather odd experience, but one we were able to have fun with.

The staff were uniformly friendly and helpful, and we always felt welcome in the venue - we'd like to thank them for all their help and hard work. There was always someone on the bar downstairs - generally this was a good 15 minutes before showtime for people to get drinks, although on a couple of occasions it wasn't until the show was about to start which may have lost them out on a couple of drinks. They always took the time to give the performers a jug of water and glasses which was much appreciated. On the days when the venue needed to be reassembled after the nightclub (I think this was Saturdays and Sundays) we would expect to put out the chairs etc. ourselves, but if we arrived later we found that the venue staff had done it for us. We were provided with 20% off food vouchers to distribute to audience members, but these were dated and we were only given them on a couple of dates, so I think there wasn't a huge take-up of this offer.

We were in the main Fringe programme which I believe got us quite a lot of our business - we rather begrudgingly parted with the several hundred pound fee before the Fringe but were left feeling that it was definitely worthwhile (for us at least). We flyered every day with our flyers and the PBH programme, mostly at the nearby(ish) half-price hut and outside the venue - we didn't really venture further out because we were dubious that people would make the trip from the Royal Mile for a free show, as the Hudson is almost the farthest out venue. We got a few nice reviews which may have helped audience numbers, and we stapled some quotes from them to the flyers. We also advertised via other shows, with 3 guest appearances on the Chortle Fast Fringe, two on the Comedy Manifesto (PBH) and one on David Mulholland and Kate Smurthwaite's midnight gig at Canon's Gait (also PBH). We also flyered within the venue after checking with the staff that this was OK - they were happy for us to do this if people seemed like they wouldn't mind being briefly spoken to and weren't in the middle of eating, and we got a few punters in this way.

We pulled one show due to nobody turning up, but other than this our lowest was 8 and we were generally in the region of 10-20. A couple of times on Saturdays we got a (nearly) full house of 35-50. We usually managed to pull in a few people each day through flyering nearby, so a lot of the variance seemed to be whether people who had already decided to see it made the effort to come on that day.

We felt that the show generally went well. On several occasions we felt that we maybe had the wrong audience in, as the nature of the show was a bit more alternative than some last-minute attendees really seemed up for - next year we intend to spend more time flyering people who may make the effort to go out of their way to see a show they're interested in, rather than focusing on getting people who are nearby in before the start. On a couple of occasions we ran 5-8 minutes over for which we apologised to the show following ours (Thirty Dancing) - this was generally due to starting late, so we'll keep a tighter watch on this in future. I think we could have been quicker collecting up our props etc. and getting out of the venue, which we'll also aim to keep a tighter watch on in future.

Except for the occasional generous audience member throwing in a tenner (for which we were very grateful!) we averaged about a pound a head.

We had a light for the first half of the run which was kindly provided by our venue captain - unfortunately the bulb blew halfway through the run. A member of our show set up an IKEA light as a quick-fix replacement which was then attached to the pillars with duct tape by a later show to shine more light on the stage. I think we all felt the lack of a proper light and in retrospect should have taken action to fix this at the time, although it was fun to reference the IKEA light onstage as being part of our 'DIY aesthetic'. There were two mikes and a mike stand which I believe were provided by the venue, which worked great, and a sound desk which was great as well. There's a good sound system. Rather oddly, the entrance to the venue features a security monitor of the stage downstairs and the sound is piped through, so latecomers would presumably be able to see a sample of the show they were heading down for!

I think this was all fine - for a while we were out of programmes and unsure of where to get more from, but an additional batch was then delivered. The venue captain was very helpful and on one occasion set up the venue for us in the morning (we hadn't realised this would need done as it was the first day after the nightclub!) for which we're very grateful. We felt that we got on well with the hotel manager who seemed happy with how things were going with our show.

Overall we were very happy with how the show went, delighted to have been at the Hudson and delighted to have been part of PBH's Free Fringe! I personally think that in spite of the Hudson's distance from the Royal Mile it proved an excellent venue with helpful and pleasant staff. Getting a good light (maybe with a backup) would go a long way to setting up the right atmosphere, and it might also be an idea to rig up a curtain over the back-stage area as it's quite bright - on occasion it was necessary for a performer to move through it in view of the audience, and this was always distracting. For the last couple of days the PBH backdrop fell down and it wasn't possible to put it back again as the hooks had come out of the ceiling - we might need more of these next year.
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