Monday, 18 June 2018

Sunday at the seaside at Hastings Fringe

Hastings Fringe is now in its third year. With a small but passionate crew of volunteers at its core the fringe runs for five days across a bunch of venues in the town ranging from pub rooms to makeshift stages constructed especially for the event. At a fraction of the price of Brighton Fringe (£35, including posters printed on behalf of the acts) the organisers have created something with the spirit of Merthyr Tydfil but the audience of more established events.

A two hour drive from our East London home and we were walking along a grey seafront. Soon enough, however, we'd entered the old town with its vintage shops and cosy cafes. Stopping by the purpose built Comedy Cabin in a courtyard off the high street to give Aaron Simmonds a nod, we then continued to our more conventional venue - the upstairs room of an unassuming pub called Jenny Lind. The room was packed but then it should have been, the act was a Radio 4 regular and had a sizeable following. We dished out some flyers and took a walk around the local area giving out more bits of shiny paper and taking in a pizza from a cute little diner.

7:15pm rolled around and we were back at our room. Now empty, save MC Bill and another volunteer, we crossed our fingers and set up the disco light. 7.30 hit and we had eight people. Not ideal. We kicked off regardless and found our small number keen and with the energy of many more. Sunday evening was never going to be the white heat of the fringe so it wasn't that surprising. What was surprising was when a good deal more people turned up midway through the first song - plus the now obligatory dog we always seem to get.

From here things got really good and the set shot by. The singing was loud, the laughter was unreserved and the dog even got repeatedly lifted in the air during Clicking Like's middle 8 - "A photo of a dog, a photo of a cat..." With one mic between us, Anna and I really hammed up the battle between rapper and backup dancer with regular bouts of wrestling over who got to hold it. When the last strains of West End had sounded out, the back of the room started shouting for an encore and we obliged with a somewhat rough and ready Selfie Stick. Money-wise the hat took the equivalent of £4 a person, which is pretty good going and ensured that we actually turned a tiny profit.

Of all the fringes we've done so far this one is going top of our return-to list, hopefully with a 2-3 night run and a children's version of FWP in tandem earlier on the Saturday and Sunday. 

What's next? Well here's the list in the run-up to Edinburgh and our escape to life up north...

19.07.18 - FWP @ The Leyton Star (Festival Preview, final Bear Jokes & Farewell to London Party!)
24.07.18 - FWP @ The Star Inn (Guildford Festival), 7.30pm
02 - 26.08.18 - FWP @ Espionage Kasbar (Edinburgh Festival), 2.45pm

Monday, 4 June 2018

Thoughts on the Brighton Fringe

Last weekend we performed the final of our four shows at The Temple Bar in Brighton as part of the fringe. A sunny day awaited us, as did two guest spots sandwiching the main event.

1pm saw Anna and I literally out on the street on a pavement stage in the Fringe City area of town. A magician ripped up and reassembled a newspaper to thirty polite onlookers and then dispersed as we set up for our turn. Drawing on my limited knowledge of street performance I turned on a backing track and called out at people wandering by until we had a young family, an older man with a camera and a smattering of students willing to stand and watch us. A clean-edit version of Selfie Stick later and we'd amassed something of a crowd and One Shot got some brave souls (and wonderfully non-self conscious under eights) shouting along. Would anyone come because of this foray into a world usually occupied by fire jugglers and human statues? Probably not but it was one more to chalk up on the experience wall. 

It was a hot day. Too hot. The Temple was empty. For a few minutes it looked like we'd have to give the couple who had turned up the option of sending us home early but at the last second we'd swelled to six. Which, as anyone who's ever heard anything about Edinburgh tell you, is the average turn out at a free fringe show. So we did it and it went surprisingly well. When numbers are this low the audience do have to fully commit and, to give them their due, they did just that. One member even performed her trademark house party dance move for all of us. Somewhere between 1992 and 2018 the swan dive has been rebranded the worm. Not a profitable show but enjoyable and slightly educational.

A few hours later we were back in the venue for a busy-ish final Laughing Horse best-of show and found a reasonable response to what had gone down a storm the previous time we did it at the same time in the same place. Proof, if needed, no two shows are ever the same.

With total outgoings for Brighton Fringe sitting close to £400 including train fares and total income at approximately £140 you don't have to be an accountant to see this wasn't a money spinner. However, we hadn't expected to make any money as we'd have needed to make £100+ per show. Optimistic by anyone's standards. 

So what did we gain? Well, the new set is tighter than ever and we've even added a few new touches - including a very emotional narrated musical interlude from Anna J. There's also the bonus of spending sunny weekends by the sea rather than grim old way-out east London.