6.10pm 5 Characters in Search of a Guitar

6.10pm 5 Characters in Search of a Guitar

Postby JackyWood » 11 Sep 2013, 18:23

The venue :
This is a downstairs room of a Mexican restaurant chain. I don't think I gained anyone from clientelle - it was mainly families and young tourists grabbing food from what I could see, and you don't hassle people while they are eating! However, quite probably because it is a big chain, people had often heard of it and knew where it was. The room is downstairs next to the toilets. There is a door that leads to downstairs, which had the venue sign on it, but this is around a corner and so not viewable from the entrance. This did cause some confusion for audience knowing where to go, as other signage once inside is non-existent. However, staff are always around so I guess there is always someone for them to ask should they be feeling lost.

The performance area:
This is a self-contained room. It seats around 50-60 I'd say. It is pretty much a blank slate, and the set up team had done a good job of setting it up. Warning to any tall acts out there - its got quite a low ceiling!

The staff team were friendly but did not get very involved in the process - it is a popular restaurant so they were too busy serving pretty decent Mexican food! That said, I needed a high stool for my show, which they kindly let me borrow, and I was always greeted with a cheery 'hello'. There is a bar upon entering, which could get very busy before shows. I delayed the start of my show a couple of times to wait for people getting served at the bar, so I think it boosted business for them! Due to my time slot (7pm finish), a few folks would stay on for dinner after aswell.

It is act's responsibility to keep the room clean and clear - ie, no staff involvement - so glass-collecting, etc, after each show should be done, a) to keep the place clear for Chiquito; and b) make sure it is sorted for the next person. This is a food venue, so it needs to be clean and clear downstairs at all times.

My publicity:
As I was only playing the final week, I did not think it was worth paying to be listed in the Fringe Guide, so my only advertising was the PBH's Free Fringe Guide, friends and flyering. I had absolute proof that the cross-publicity of shows through the Free Fringe Guide works, as I had very limited time to flyer before my first performance and still had an audience, 60% of which I can guarantee came from that blue booklet. So big thanks to everyone for helping me publicise my show! The location on Frederick Street is good for flyering - just up the road from the Half Price ticket booth and round the corner from the Assembly Rooms and George Street spiegel tent. I also found Rose Street nice, as this is cobbled and has cafes/bars so you tend to find people ambling down there.

I would tend to head out 2 hours before my show, hitting the Half Price ticket booth 1 hour before the show. I did have some help during the run from friends, so tried to cover there and nearer the venue if possible on the lead up.

Audience numbers:
I had reasonable audiences each day - generally between 10 and 20, with essentially very little publicity. It rained on the Thursday, which dented audience numbers significantly, but other than that, was pretty steady through the week, creeping up towards the end. My last show was packed, standing room only. I had very much an older audience than I was expecting (lots of 60+), which I put down to the location near George Street - there are a few attractions for a more mature audience, not least the music venues and Guardian Book Festival nearby. It could of course just be that they were more attracted to my show, although I would not have predicted it! One thing - it is quite difficult to exit flyer the previous show, as the way out is up stairs, so you have a choice of blocking them, or blocking the entrance to the gents toilets...

My show:
My show was musical comedy solo show, and worked really well here, This venue had an 'offstage' space for me to change my costumes in, and it was a great time slot - finished in time for folk to still catch the tattoo - so thanks a million!

I had really generous buckets, perhaps due to the older age of my average audience - ie, they have the money to spend whereas younger audience members/students etc, may not have. There were also comments that I did a "show" (as in, I had costume and voice overs, etc), which encouraged more generosity. I always had tenners in there, and one (prized) twenty! I think in the end I averaged around £3 per bum on seat, which I was more than happy with.

Technical set-up at the venue:
The usable part of the room is standard oblong, but it is actually a kind of C shape. The recess at the back just held tables and spare chairs, and is not usable as audience space due to sightlines. The bit a the front next to the performance area was curtained off (thanks, everyone who set that up!), and provided a quite roomy offstage area with its own separate entrance, accessed via a corridor which runs all the way round the back. This makes it a great place to do sketch shows, etc, or any show that has costume changes. (Note: I only did the last week, but I know there was some difficulties during the earlier part of the run with this set up as it obscures a fire exit)

The PA was back here too, on a table. I had a technician, so he could happily sit out of view. Someone had provided a mic and stand (not sure if this is standard kit for the room or another act's donation). You don't need a mic for the room - ie, it is small enough to be heard in - but it helped for stand up. There are 3 light switches that control the room lights as well, that controlled audience lights, performance space light, and black out. The performance area lighting is harsh, but functional - it is basically a fluorescent, which had been shaded at the front with some cardboard (again, thanks, set up guys!). As I mentioned, the ceiling is quite low, so no stilt walkers....or even excessive jumping!

Admin & Communication process:
I wasn't involved at the set up, so cannot comment on how that went, but I received emails from the venue captain, including phone number; we spoke, we met, all good! I was a little lacking in knowledge of technical matters on arrival (ie, how to work the PA and lighting, which might have been nice to get in advance) but then again, I didn't ask so I can't really complain, and worked it out for Day 2. There was also some confusion at breakdown, with only some of us being there at the arranged time on the Sunday (some clear up had happened the night before without me there), but we just cracked on anyway.

Any comments:
I very much enjoyed the festival, would be happy to recommend the venue, and the other acts were really helpful and friendly. I have two points to make, really, for improvement:
1) I think there could have been better distribution of the Free Fringe Guides. Our venue was always out, and I ended up often times scouring other PBH venues and snaffling handfuls from there.
2) Better recycling options. Where were we supposed to recycle all the left-over flyers? Locally, all the recycling bins were commercial. Perhaps there could be some liaison with Edinburgh Council to provide some bins at Fringe end?
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