Caspar Thomas: Magic and Mentalism (4pm)

Caspar Thomas: Magic and Mentalism (4pm)

Postby Caspar_Thomas » 11 Sep 2016, 19:33

The Venue

La Belle Angèle is a nightclub tucked away between Cowgate, Chambers Street and South Bridge. It had been a nightclub until December 2002 when it was destroyed in the Cowgate Fire. Then, 12 years later, the venue was reopened for business. This is the second year that it has participated in the PBH Free Fringe.

La Belle Angèle’s location is very central, which is a big advantage, I believe, with regard to attracting an audience. Sometimes people struggle to find the venue given that its entrance is not on one of the main roads. Rather, it is up an alleyway (Hasties Close) which runs off Cowgate, or down some steps from Guthries Street (which itself runs off Chambers Street).

Performance area

The performing area consists of a raised stage at the far end and a flat area in front of the stage which is large enough to seat 200 people and allow for a good 100 people standing at the side and the back. The entrance to the venue is at the back which means that audience members who arrive mid-performance do not distract. This is also where the bar is. We (i.e. the other performers and I) were also given access to a green room, which was incredibly convenient for storing props and flyers etc. It also meant we had somewhere to get changed and set up. There is also a corridor which connects the entrance of the venue to the green room. This means that performers don’t need to walk through the previous performance in order to prepare for their show. Last year it was hit and miss as to whether the door to that corridor could be opened, but this year it could always be used which was very helpful.

Technical set-up

Lighting was provided for the stage (a general stage wash in my case). Mid-way through the run Paul Dabek (venue captain) arranged for some extra lights (corner lights on the stage and a spot light). This helped to keep performers lit even when they came to the front of the stage and leaned over the big speakers. All shows who used those lights contributed towards the cost of their hire.

On the day before the run started, there was a technician (George Macdonald) on hand to help each of the shows with regard to light and sound. That was extremely helpful for me as he was able to set the right levels on the sound desk for my (admittedly poor quality) lapel microphone and run through what was required to work my mic, the stand-up mics and any sound or music played through a headphone socket.

This was my third Edinburgh Fringe, but the first time to use voice amplification for the whole run. For this room it is a necessity.

In addition to the staff, I was very grateful for the help I received from the technician (Damian) from the show prior to mine (Die Magik Kunst) in the 25 minutes while they were packing up and I was setting up. This really reduced my stress levels a lot.


As per last year, the staff – and in particular Flik & Nic - were welcoming, friendly and helpful. On many occasions they were on hand to help with the setting up of sound for my show. I really appreciate that. On the few occasions where there were any problems or queries, there was always someone available, either at the bar or in the office, who I could ask. Again, I felt genuinely welcomed at this venue.


I printed 5,000 flyers (A6) and 25 posters (A3). I ended up using virtually all of the flyers and about 10 of the posters. In my first week my brother did all the flyering and this was a massive boost to my show. In the following weeks, I flyered much less than he did, and focussed predominantly on exit-flyering shows similar to mine (i.e. magic shows) and other shows at La Belle AngèIe. I think this is much more effective than flyering in a “neutral” location. When I did flyer in a place away from the venue and magic shows, it was on the Cowgate only. I put up a few posters inside and just outside the venue.

I didn’t get a professional review. I did, however, receive about four “audience reviews” on the website. At the end of each performance I specifically asked people to do so. Whether this resulted in more people coming to see the show, I am not sure – but it was at least useful content for those looking for information on it.

After two years of not paying to go in the main fringe guide, I decided to do so this year. I needed an extra £15 per show to pay for it and I think I achieved it. When I had the chance to ask people how they found out about the show, here were the most common answers (with the most common answer first):

- I found it through the Edinburgh Fringe app (searching for time & location)
- I found it in the Wee Blue Book
- I was handed a flyer

Also, for the first time this year, I did six or seven spots on the Virgin Money Upper Stage on the Royal Mile. To be honest, due to competition from the professional street performers and my lack of voice amplification, I struggled to hold a crowd and I doubt it resulted in many more people coming to the show. On the up side, I was able to try out some new material in a relaxed environment.

I did one spot in a cabaret show. It was towards the end of the run, so it will barely have had an impact on audience numbers, but again it was an opportunity to try some new material.


I did 21 shows over the course of the run. In my first fringe, my average audience size was 12. Last year it was 30. This year it was 105. So I was extremely surprised by the big increase in audience numbers. I would put this down mainly to:

- La Belle Angèle now having established itself as a fringe venue (last year, 2015, being its first year)
- My being in the main fringe guide and hence appearing in the app
- Massive flyering burst at the start of the run.

My maximum audience size was 200 and my minimum was 40. My audience size decreased, on average, over the course of the run. I would put this down to my lack of flyering.

As per previous years, weekends were consistently better than weekdays and Saturday always resulted in the biggest bucket of the week.

The show itself

My show is a close-up magic show designed for the stage which combines sleight of hand and mentalism. It was scheduled for 4pm (1 hour). This is my third year doing this particular show, so I am pretty comfortable with it now. I had to make some subtle changes due to the larger than expected audiences which meant that it was no longer as intimate a close-up show as it had been.

Over the course of the run I took two days off (both on a Monday). On those days I slept and did errands. If anything, I came back to the shows more tired and having lost momentum, and that was also reflected in my audience sizes. I think next year I won’t bother taking days off and try to keep up momentum (and save recuperation to when the fringe is over).
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