Friday, 26 August 2016

Character Acts and Karaoke

Thursday is a tough day for shows. Last week Thursday was the day with the audience of two who left midway through - so far so ominous. Out on the streets it wasn't looking good. All roads around The Southsider were one step from tumbleweed and when Onions texted to say flyering was slow I prepared myself for a second show cancellation in the run.

As you have probably predicted from the above paragraph though this wasn't the case. True, our audience of eight was still the second lowest of the run but eight is easily enough for a performance and as two of the number were made up of the trans women from the previous night I was determined to put on a good show show to thank them for coming.

The gig itself was pretty bizarre. Andy abandoned the microphone and launched Celebrations from the box to create chocolate rain, only topped by throwing onions into the crowd at the end. Nick got about four minutes into his set before one lady on the front row sidetracked the whole show with a story about building explosives at school. My set stayed on track but was augmented by the fact that one of the barmen had come to see the show and knew all the parts to each song before I taught them. My tracks have clearly been pretty loud in the main room - something probably worth mentioning in the application for next year's show to avoid being somewhere with other shows in the same building if all that divides them is a curtain or partition wall. Something I'll come back to later.

After the show I went down the road to finally catch Clare Plested's character show, 'Flock Up'. Something I'd been planning to do since performing with her in her Repunzel character at the beginning of the run. As a show it was very funny but as a template for how you create an atmosphere in a room not usually used for performance it was even better. 

High energy music greeted you upon entering the restaurant basement of Ciao Roma whilst Clare ducked in and out of the audience welcoming people and filling in a wall mounted chart representing the emotional state of them - ranging from 'fresh faced' to 'I've seen 8 shows today already'. Before she changed into her first costume (behind a large partition curtain rail) she got everybody shoulder shimmying to the music and during every costume change there were short video clips based on a character trying to change the world with daft hashtag campaigns.

Her final character blended the end of the show with the bucket collection and exit from the venue, meaning the experience really didn't end until you were out on the street. Plenty to learn here - not least because if you doubted for a minute any of this was unnecessary she's been inundated with good reviews and has been playing to large audiences every day.

With some time to kill before my spot at the Bourbon Bar I finally used the Fringe app to locate shows starting soon and came across another character act - this time Fiona Sagar's "Entitled". The show itself was really good, though a little more rough and ready than Clare's. However, this was understandable considering her room. Yes, we're coming back to my point about multi-room venues.

Cabaret Voltaire's performance spaces have a lot in common with London flat shares. The "Cinema Room" in which Fiona was in had much in common with the crappy box room that housemates often have to rent out cheaper in recognition of how awful it is to live in. With 4 rows of chairs seating a total of 18 people and a strip of performance area at the front no deeper than a metre the show was a workshop in making the best of a bad situation. Noise bleed was controlled by what looked like a duvet being hung across the entry arch - which made for a hot room and a bunker mentality. Fiona's costumes couldn't be as intricate either as there was no-where for her to change. If I'm offered a room like this for my solo show next year I'll have to grit my teeth and decline because it would be shit for everyone involved.

Charactered-out I walked across town to the Bourbon Bar and performed to a total of four non-performing audience all in their sixties. With the feel of an open mic, but with consistently higher quality acts, it was an informal affair and the row of older ladies and gents really enjoyed 'Tales of the Unexpected'. Hopefully they'll be making their way to The Southsider today.

I rounded off the night at The Blind Poet for some rock karaoke with a whole army of other fringe performers (Steve McLean pictured doing 'It's the End of the World as we Know It') and delivered a respectable rendition of Limp Bizkit's 'Rollin''. With only a few days left to go everyone is now winding down and it was back to the flat at 3am for snacks and sleep.

Shows Performed: 2 (48)
Bums on seats at Mirthquake: 8 (350)
Money in the Mirthquake bucket: £28.60 (£506.70)
Steps walked according to my pedometer: 15,844 (353,955) 
CDs Remaining: 55  

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