15.30 Men With Coconuts

15.30 Men With Coconuts

Postby Harry Gooch » 18 Sep 2013, 15:10

City Nightclub is a cavernous venue, something like a modern undergroud cathedral. The raised stage is designed for the DJ and balcony level with bannisters rise above the dance floor, which is where the aluminium garden type chairs are set for the Fringe. 100 seats fill the main 'stalls' area, though you could fit another 30 or so on the surrounding balconies, at a push.
The stage area adapts well for performance - it has a crossover with exits left right and centre. The impressive in house lighting rig is geared towards nightclub use, and was out of action from day one when a smouldering bit of confetti set off metaphorical alarm bells, but not the actual ones. With the help of Penguin Love, another show in the venue, a simple rig of 4 par cans was brought in and provided light for the run.
Volume is an issue - we are an 'unplugged' improv troupe who happen to be quite loud so we managed to belt our voices to the back row, but a couple of softly spoken guests may as well have just been moving their lips for all they were heard in the audience. This space is enormous. We would aim to have radio mics next year, as a degree of subtlety is lost by having to shout your lines the whole time.
A couple of times the show had to be moved because water came through the ceiling from the hotel above. There was also a smell of sewage which emerged sporadically. These problems, the new management have said, are being addressed. The smell was not a problem if the air con was on, but then that is quite loud so you have to toss up what you prefer. To be fair most days there wasn't a problem with the sewage smell.
The Sportsters Bar is not a likely looking Fringe venue, with screens and sport all around the place, but the staff got into the spirit of it and posters around the place helped to raise awareness that stuff was going on. More Free Fringe branding, posters and banners would be a big improvement. In terms of the venue, unfortunately the managers office is situated behind the stage, and the inevitable comings and goings of a busy staff were occasionally disruptive to performances, despite the evident care with which passers through made their way.
We were particularly glad of the help of Matt the technician. He was provided by the venue and diligently operated the lights throughout our show. This support was excellent and made a real difference to the quality of our show.
Other shows in the venue were supportive and we collaborated on sourcing new lights mid run. More mutual support, in a more structured way would no doubt be possible next year now we know 'how it works'. For instance, remembering to cross promote each others shows seems a small thing but if you manage to do it when your own show is still in development, then you are quite the multi tasker.
Men With Coconuts is 4 strong, and we all hit the Royal Mile to flier for 2 or 3 hours before each show. The initial run of 5000 fliers proved too few and we ordered a further 3000 for week 3, only having a few hundred leftover at the end of the fringe. When fliering we used a step ladder covered in our posters to provide a base camp. One of us wore the Coconut costume. We took the approach of saying "hello" and smiling at passers by, combined with the robust barrow boy call of "Free Five Star improv in half an hour" etc. I whole-heartedly agree with the remarks about combining 'free' with other attributes, cause on its own it may seem unattractive.
From the closure of the venue on day one by the then venue captain, through some flooding of the venue and the subsequent departure of the venue captain, we carried on. A committed venue captain would have been an asset. We managed to find Free Fringe programmes at the Tron church with the help of a lady who reprimanded us for not having them. Ignorance of the law is no defence! I heartily recommend learning the Free Fringe conditions. Detective work and initiative, as well as a thick skin when asking questions all proved advantageous. We were able to keep our morale up by reminding ourselves that the benefits of the Free Fringe are great - a venue free of charge and the familiar brand helping to promote your show - and the audience were always appreciative.
We drew in 60+ each day on average, with several full (100) houses and the smallest audience being 35. In our defense the smallest crowd was on the day we were flooded out of the city nightclub. We trawled round half a dozen Free Fringe venues looking for somewhere to perform and eventually got an 8pm slot at the Voodoo Rooms thanks to a cancellation. We flash marked our fliers with the change of time and venue and went up 5 hours late, but as I say still managed 35 people.
Donations in the bucket averaged about £1.30 per person across the month, with a lot of people giving nothing and a decent minority giving a note, including a few 20's.
We had a great time over all. It was hard, but that makes it all the more rewarding when you survive. We'd love to be in the same venue next year, and will approach them about staying with the Free Fringe. Thanks for having us. MWC
Harry Gooch
 
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