Not the best way to end a brilliant year of stage performances by the Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre, last night we did a gig which was a total disaster, and wasn't our fault.
(Can we just remind you, at this stage, that this year we had the best selling run ever at the Edinburgh Fringe, a 36 date tour of theatres that was even better than the previous year's, the Socks have now started playing regular comedy circuit gigs, have started MC-ing gigs, and two of our last shows, compering the Sitcom Trials and especially doing the solo show at the Comedy Box in Bristol, were high points of the year).
Last night, unlike our theatre and comedy club shows, was a private party booking. A couple who'd seen us at Madcap Arts in Milton Keynes (to which we'll be returning for a third time this spring) asked us to play for the Christmas party of their branch of the Hash House Harriers, a running and drinking club, and the set up looked pretty good in advance. It was in a village hall, with a big stage with a proscenium arch, mike, CD player and PA system, opening-and-closing curtains and even a nice painted backdrop for the play they've got on. Soundcheck boded well, and we were assured everyone was up for a laugh.
But there was one element that I hadn't thought would cause trouble, and that was that the folks who'd booked us wanted to keep us as a surprise. That meant that, unlike in most of our shows, where the audience has paid to see us and are in a theatre ready to listen to us, or even if they're not expecting us they are at least prepared and expecting a comedy show, on this night the curtains parted to reveal our set, our theme tune played and... nobody was listening.
Apart from a small group who'd clustered in some seats placed near the stage, the vast bulk of people in the room were standing, chatting and drinking near the bar at the back, and had no idea that anything was happening on stage. We hadn't been introduced, the audience hadn't been, well, they hadn't been turned into an audience. They were some people at a party in a village hall having a good time, and suddenly a small group of people near the front were turning round telling them to shut up and listen. Then when they did listen, there were a couple of sock puppets talking to each other about Halloween (having already delivered a song about being Socks which had been totally drowned out by chat) and there was no way anyone could understand what they were supposed to be watching and why it was supposed to be funny.
And try as we might, with our audience participation material, chats and adlibs, the Michael Jackson routine, the Western routine, it was impossible to turn the half dozen people listening into a comedy gig. And then the booing and heckling started.
Oh yes, there was one other complication. We'd been booked by a guy called Mike who they knew as 'Speedy' and who was acting as our technical operator. And Mike's Scottish, unlike the rest of the group who are English. So when the Socks can be heard, and when they mention their technician 'Speedy', a number of the club members think that the socks are him putting on a makeshift puppet show, so they just take the piss.
So, in a gig which we wound up after less than 15 minutes, possibly 10, we had gone from being the Award winning hit Edinburgh show with a band of adoring fans to a bloke waving two socks over his head to general indifference.
The guys who'd booked us were mortified, and I took consolation in the fact that they'd seen the show and they knew it wasn't our fault (sorry, my fault, you know what I mean). I got paid, the boys went back in the boot and we set off on the 2 and a half hour drive home that bit earlier.
Not the best way to end a year's gigging, but a cautionary tale. Must remember whenever taking a gig that's not in a regular comedy club or theatre to check every eventuality, like the above. Hey ho.
I take consolation (not that I need any, I was over this before I'd left the village hall) from this morning's Youtube stats. 12 Days of Christmas, new studio recording, has had over 10,000 hits overnight after being featuring as a Comedy Spotlight choice on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/comedy?s=rf