Happy Hour Comedy Club - Opium downstairs 5.30pm

Happy Hour Comedy Club - Opium downstairs 5.30pm

Postby Harun Mushod » 02 Oct 2015, 13:26

The Venue
Opium is a rock bar and club on Cowgate itself, with two rooms as well as the main bar. We were in the downstairs backroom, the smaller of the two. Next to the backroom behind the performance area there is another alcove. For the run, the room and alcove were separated by a “PBH Free Fringe” backdrop, to form a backstage and mixing desk area in the alcove.

Seating is around 40 max with another 5-6 standing, but 20 of the seats are in booths, and half those seats face away from the performance area and it is not possible to see the performance area from most of those seats.

There were two entrances into the room – through the alcove and performance area (both were curtained to discourage audience members attempting to enter that way), and the entrance next to the other end of the bar, intended as the public entrance.

The public entrance to the room was open on the first but a backdrop was put up by the bar staff on day 2 to separate the room from the main bar – that helped enormously with sound from the bar, but also made the room much hotter (but that was preferable to the noise).

Another source of noise was the front entrance to the bar which closed by itself with a loud annoying bang, until an enterprising bar person fashioned a buffer out of some PBH Free Fringe brochures (is there no end of use to those wonderful things?!)

The Show
A showcase of four comedians rotating through headliner, middle, opener and compere. We had no guest spots. All of us had previous experience of working at the festival, three of us as performers. We were on between 5.30-6.30pm. The time slot was ok, particularly at weekends.

Performance area
There was no stage, just a small space at the end of the room next to the alcove. This could be enlarged slightly by moving the 20 stall seats back a couple of feet. There was one speaker on top of a table next to the performance area. Next to that was one of the booths.

The PBH Free Fringe backdrop separated the performance area from the mixing desk, but left a gap of around two foot from the floor, so the audience could see the performers backstage.

Technical set-up
The PA system was basic and fine for the room. It allowed us to play background and intro music on a separate channel to the mike. There was only one mike. We did have a problem with feedback on one day (the speaker being right next to the small performance area). The mike stand was one of those annoying things where the feet collapsed as you lifted it out of the way.

Lighting was just the room’s normal lights. There was neither natural light or stage lighting, and no means to darken the room.

Bar staff and supervisors were really helpful and friendly.

Advertisement / Marketing
We think our audiences came from a mixture of: performer’s friends, PBH Free Fringe Booklet, flyering and spontaneous walk-ins. The location, next to Cowgatehead and a number of other venues is fantastic. We were only able to use one poster, on the window of the venue itself. Posters really are a waste of time in Edinburgh for a showcase-type of show like ours.

Flyering technique is important and something we improved at as the run went one. Fewer flyers and more talking with the public works much better. It also helps to market to your ideal audience profile. That point struck home when we had one show where we started with a dozen people most of whom walked out as the show went on (the remaining two were great fun!). From then on we were choosier with out flyering.

Audience / Bucket
Our audiences varied from packed (50 or so) to around 8, and we probably averaged around 20 per show. The bucket varied from £2 to around £80 and averaged out at around £20 per show. Out busiest times were the first weekend and the following Friday which were all full to capacity. We didn’t have to pull any of our shows due to lack of numbers.
The main problem audiencewise was the booths. Some people sat with their backs to us either by choice or because there were no other spaces. Any heckling or distracting noise tended to come from those spots.

Venue captain
Aaron Levene was an excellent venue captain and liaised between us as performers and the bar staff to fix and improve things quickly if there was a problem.

Pros: Great location; nice size for not-well-known performers; friendly and helpful staff (and venue captain if he returns to this spot), decent PA for stand-up; nice atmosphere (with a caveat see below) when full.

Cons: The booths especially the seats with their backs to us; trade-off required to dampen distracting noise (separating room from bar with backdrop) or keep room cool.

Things to improve: Longer backdrop between performance area and backstage; backdrop between bar and room (despite the slight overheating problem that causes); fix main door so it doesn’t slam nosily on closing.

Despite the caveats, and because it has a lot of advantages, I’d be very happy to perform at this venue again. Thanks for having us Opium!

Harun Musho'd
(on behalf of The Happy Hour Comedy Club)
Harun Mushod
Posts: 1
Joined: March 2015

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