DARKCHAT were up for the first week this year and the audiences seemed smaller than later in the month. Is there a pattern to when the biggest audiences arrive?
We were lucky to have a good audience pretty consistently for both of our shows (‘Adam & Eve: The Musical’ and ‘Everyman’), although I think we benefitted from being a little earlier than many theatre shows. It was noticeably quieter in the final week, just in terms of the numbers of people around all the venues. And Fridays were weirdly quiet for us. I think a lot of people had to check out at 12.15…
How important do you think reviews are to getting an audience?
It definitely helps, but I think it may mean more to the company than the audience – it is very good for morale to feel you’re being noticed, and you get the pleasure of sticking extra stars on your posters. ‘Adam & Eve’ got a range of reviews from the total rave to the ‘don’t bother with this, it’s stupid’. I don’t know what happens if all your press is negative, but in our case it definitely seemed like word of mouth was more influential.
We loved the show. Did it change as the run progressed?
Thanks! It was very new when you saw it, as the Fringe was its world premiere. It did change a bit, we made tweaks to lines, cut a few jokes and put in a few more. The biggest thing was reacting to the audience. Splendid’s style of theatre is generally very audience-interactive, but obviously this isn’t something you can rehearse in advance. What we really enjoyed about the show was how warm it was, it seemed to make people happy, so we started to enhance this from the start of the show, welcoming the audience in and getting them singing with us. We let them know how glad we were they were there!
Do you get nervous before a show?
Yes. The first couple of previews were particularly terrifying, just because there is so little time between getting into your venue and starting the show. There’s a lot to remember, and while we were getting used to it was very easy to misplace a prop or, on one occasion, completely fail to get the accordion out of the cupboard. After the first twenty-five shows it was fine, though.
Does it take you long to relax after a show & do you analyse each performance?
Again, getting off stage is incredibly hectic, especially if everyone is adrenalized after the show, so it takes a little while to calm down. There were plenty of notes to begin with, but once we got into the swing of it we’d just have a quick chat afterwards – everyone usually had tickets for other shows, or meetings, or flyering to do, or meeting friends. There are a lot of distractions at the Fringe, so it actually became quite difficult to find time to meet if there were specific things to rehearse.
How did you spend the rest of the day?
Finishing work at 1.15pm was pretty great, and meant you could usually get all the work and (endless) washing done in the afternoon and be free to go out in the evenings. Or even stay in in the evenings, which was sometimes a better idea.
Is it tough being in Edinburgh for a month?
I think you can get into trouble feeling that you don’t want to miss anything at an event like the Fringe, which could be very bad for you. But if you can navigate that, and make sure you’re in good shape to perform each day then it’s a lot of fun. And Edinburgh is one of the lovelier places to spend a month.
As this was your first Edinburgh as a performer, what did you expect?
Getting the show together in the first place was such a lot of work I don’t think I really considered how it would feel to actually be in the show myself. Wondering if it would work at all was much more worrying!
How did reality change from your expectations?
I must admit there were some mornings when I woke up and went ‘what? Again??’ There is a real skill in keeping a performance alive and interesting to you as a performer – it’s not a skill I necessarily have, but I now have a lot more respect for it in other performers. It’s probably useful experience for a writer to have, but I do enjoy being able to walk away and let the real actors get on with it.
Money is always a talking point in Edinburgh . Without being rude, do you make any/much money from a critically and publicly acclaimed show? What are your biggest expenses?
I think it is very difficult to make money at the Fringe, purely because the standard deal with the venue is pretty steep. If you make enough on ticket sales to cover the guarantee (the basic cost of hiring the venue), it switches to a 60/40 profit share arrangement with the venue. You have to sell a lot of tickets to break even on just over half of the income you generate. At the Fringe, the house always wins – but that is an accepted part of the deal, because it is an opportunity for untried material to reach a large audience. The next biggest cost is accommodation and wages, two big reasons why the Fringe is overwhelmed by stand-ups and one-person shows.
DARKCHAT saw 53 shows in a week and without a variety of 2 for 1 offers and the Free Fringe we couldn’t have afforded to see so many. What are your thoughts about the current pricing structure?
I think the emergence of the Free Fringe is the natural consequence of the dominance of the big four venues. We were delighted to have shows at Gilded Balloon and Underbelly, but we would have had to fight very hard to price our tickets lower than the ‘standard’ price, so it’s not surprising that everything ends up costing the same. Productions have the option of running 2 for 1 offers etc other than the festival-wide offers, and this clearly attracts audiences, but this does affect your own margins. I suppose it will end up that audiences can afford to pay to see fewer shows, and this will naturally lead them to seek out the other options. But I also suspect that the Free Fringe would never be a big enough draw on its own.
We thought the standard of shows this year were higher than ever. What were your favourites?
I thought Slapdash Galaxy was magical (although it did send me to sleep once or twice), I loved Squidboy and Slightly Fat Features. And that was just the ‘S’s…
And finally how have you relaxed since the festival?
We went straight into rehearsals for Splendid’s next tour, so the relaxing has only just started… just a few more weeks and we can think about applying for the Fringe 2014…