jem rolls

jem rolls

Postby jem rolls » 16 Oct 2013, 11:31

My run was good. Tough but good.
I was in the Banshee Labyrinth at 8.40.
I liked the pub, i liked the staff, i liked the poets, i liked the camaraderie, i liked the room, i liked the set up of the room, i liked the sound from the mike and i liked the closeness of the audience.
Daily take got steadily better through the month and I made a little money, after all living and expenses. However, as i knowingly surrendered 10-15K of my usual poetic income to be in Edinburgh, this point is moot.
The Free Fringe programs are definitely a good thing. I was sceptical at first because i have a very slick spiel i have done over 25,000 times, and didn’t really want to change it for anything. Yet, as days passed i realised that people do want them, that i could always be given away more, and that anyone carrying a brochure was much easier for me to flyer. I would judge that getting them out there is a good thing for everyone.

I did 22 shows and at least 12 were killer, while two were grim and three were horror stories, including the first and the third. Fortunately, the Scotsman came to the second, and they gave me Four Stars.
My reviews were good to great, yet none of them really got me any audience. I half-filled the small room from two hours of flyering the Royal Mile, particularly from the Free Fringe bar space on Hunter Square, and from directly outside the Fringe Office. And the other half came from word of mouth or the programme. I was usually full[iish].
The venue has an incredibly short ten-minute turnover between shows. While this seemed to work i would recommend it be expanded to fifteen. Only once did another group muck me up, giving me a three minute turnover and, incredibly, starting a poem after the half-eight mark. So i ended up going on stage frazzled in the wrong shirt with no chair, no prop and, more problematically, no water.
The stage and the room became an increasing mess as the festival went on. There was no time to tidy it, yet the mess had zero impact on the show.

The venue has no door and all my problems stemmed from this. Any noise from outside seems to be amplified and this could make performing difficult. Moreover, the lack of door created a constant bustle at the door and i was vulnerable to anyone who chose to shout into the room. And at weekends this happened. Abusively.
There were nights when it was Assault On Precinct Thirteen – the Poetry Edition. When there was a palpable sense of aggressive siege of the room.
And i could never know in advance if the show was going to be easy or massively disrupted.
I note it would be a completely different story if one of the two other rooms in the venue were the spoken word venue.
By the end of the run i was telling the audience that there was an original very nasty scene from The Myth Of Sisyphus which history has, with uncharacteristic niceness, deleted. Because originally Sisyphus has to push the big rock up the long hill at horrible length but then, when he gets there, he has to do my opening night show from the Edinburgh Fringe... and only when he’s done that does the rock roll back down the hill.
On the third Saturday i hired an RAF officer to patrol the outside. This worked extremely well and it was a killer show
The upshot of all this noise was that i was forced to use the microphone. Which i did not intend to do.
Having written and toured at length nine different hour long shows, with five star reviews all over them, i have acquired a huge amount of fairly original [for a poet] physicality. However as the noise forced me onto the mike, i could not really do this. Most poets seem to simply stand there and do it: this is not what i do, i go all over the place and i use the body a lot.
The problem is not the very small stage size of the stage, i still managed to clown around at some length. The issue is being mike-bound. That i could not display what i can do, what i have learnt.
So the upshot here is that, because of the space, the noise, the doorlessness, i could not do the show i went to Edinburgh to do.
I had wanted a good evening slot, but in retrospect would have been much better off earlier in the day. I saw Rob Auton and Matt Panesh’s fine afternoon shows and the room worked very well for them. I also note how the evening shows run by a group of people seemed to go far more easily. I would therefore strongly recommend that you do not put a single act such as myself in the mid-evening slots.
I was only ever going to do the Edinburgh Fringe once, so i won’t be back in the short term. I would certainly consider the Free Fringe again, which is my spiritual home, but would make sure i had a door.
jem rolls
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