Samantha's Backstage Cabaret

Samantha's Backstage Cabaret

Postby AndyTR » 29 Sep 2015, 21:40

Hispaniola is potentially a great venue so do consider it.
The location is good - opposite the Festival Theatre - easy for people to find and the street corners adjacent are busy with passers-by for leafleting. The Royal mile is two minutes away if that's preferred for leaflets.
Hispaniola is part of the Ciao Roma / Hispaniola restaurant and that's confusing when you're thinking of taking it as a venue.
The restaurant is in two parts - Ciao Roma is two-thirds of the whole set-up and Hispaniola is the remaining third (separated from Ciao Roma by a short flight of indoor steps and a balustrade).
During the Fringe, Hispaniola has the tables pushed to the walls so the chairs can be set out theatre-style. Chairs have to be cable-tied together to meet fire regulations and then they have to be separated after the last show. You can get 45 chairs in comfortably or 50 if you put more time into careful arrangement. There was standing room at the back so we got 70+ people in on the busiest day.
As mentioned above the space is not fully separated from Ciao Roma which will operate as a restaurant throughout the day so there will be some noise spill from diners.
When the last show is finished (4.40) it has to be cleared of show gear whilst the staff are re-placing tables/chairs for it to be a restaurant again at 5pm. That's a lot of pressure immediately after a gig and needs at least two efficient people to stand a chance of succeeding. It would be be much better if the last show finished at, say, 4:15 giving more time.
There's storage for a limited amount of gear (just a PA, really) at the venue (tucked amongst restaurant furniture) with plenty of storage at the back of the other (basement) venue which is below Ciao Roma (NB there are shows there every day and, in 2015, the times didn't coincide with Hispaniola so stuff needed had to be removed early morning or between those shows. The basement is accessible from Hispaniola by walking through Ciao Roma.
There's no blackout or show-style lighting so afternoon shows cannot have an evening feel to them.
There's no waiting space under cover so if people turn up early for a show and it's raining they have to wait on the pavement.
There's no stage but there is a reasonable space for, in our case, a singer and keyboard player. Views from all seats were excellent.

As a first time show we had no idea what to expect so here are truthful figures (there's a lot of bullshit about ... but this was our actual experience):
Backstage Cabaret was a traditional sung cabaret and we played to audiences of all ages. We aimed at adults but had some families too.
We did one show each day at 3:50-4:40. 21 shows in total.
Total cost of trip including paying pianist, accommodation, travel, professional art design, printing, advertising, etc. £6000ish
Money taken in the hat £2,200 (just under £3 per person average). The way you ask for money makes a big difference to how much you get.
Average audience about 40 - worst 11, best 70+.
Tue/Wed/Thur low attendances.
Leafleting made no difference to our attendance so we didn't bother after a while.
We spent about £2,500 on adverts in the main programme and online. Another time we wouldn't bother but would rely on the programme entries and maybe lose out a few punters but save a whole load more money than that would cost us. We spent on ads this time so that when (if) reviewers came the audience would be as large as possible and feel as good as possible. We accepted that it would not be strictly cost effective.

Everyone warns you not to fly-post posters. So we brought very few posters. However there are many places where posters are welcome (in/on shops, etc) and many places such as boarded-up shops which get used as unofficial poster spaces. A4 posters get lost amongst the others - go for mainly A3.

Almost everyone who came had found our show from the main programme or the Free Fringe Wee Blue Book. Fortunately we had put a lot of effort/money into the pictures and wording of the blurb - I think it paid off.

Our only aim in attending was to hopefully get good reviews. We had a reviewer from The Stage lined up before we came. He attended and did a fair review so we were very happy.
We went to the Meet The Media event organised by the Fringe Society and spoke to some people there. Six of them checked diaries, etc. and gave cast iron promises to send a reviewer - NONE of them came. We were told many time by the press that the way to get their attention was to frequent pubs (they wouldn't say which) and chat them up. That makes it easy for them but tricky if, like us, you are entirely introverted.

For us the event was a success because of that one review we did get. However we would not attend again. The event is too big. If you are new you will be ignored unless you are very, very lucky - the success stories seem to be the one-in-a-thousand chances but get hyped by the Fringe as if that's a real possibility for everyone.

If you want the experience then it can easily be worth it. Many people just love the buzz and that's enough for them. Where else do you get the chance to do a long run of your own show with guaranteed audiences? If you have the energy, bring more than one show then you get two hat's-worth of money for the same outlay. (If we had not paid for display advertising, used backing tracks instead of live keyboard and brought two shows instead of one we probably would have broken even.)

As far as I can tell the other three shows at the venue had a successful time.
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