Last night's gig in Milton Keynes was a mixed bag. The gig itself was great, the audience asked for and got an encore, I signed autographs afterwards, and the laughs came solidly throughout with some top improv and adlibs including an off-the-top-of-the-head musical (and for the life of me I can't remember what TV show we were improvising, it goes a bit fast like that sometimes).
Bad the bad news was the money. This 90 minute show with interval was at Madcap Arts in Wolverton, Milton Keynes, a favourite venue which the Socks were playing for the fourth time (don't think we've played any regional theatre that often). And because we've been so popular there in the past and have been guaranteed a sizeable audience, I agreed to do this on a 70/30 doorsplit.
We ended up playing to our smallest audience on any of our tour dates so far. A little over 20 people in the theatre, of whom only 15 were paying customers. When I'd arrived I learned that there were only 5 advance sales. How on earth had this happened?
It had happened because the management had changed in between our booking the show and the show taking place. And whereas the previous manager, Caroline, had been a major Socks fan who took it upon herself to spread the world and ensure every Socks fan in the area knew we were coming, the new staff had no idea who we were, hadn't put our tickets on sale online, and didn't know our requirements.
We ended up with our sound cues being played in by Billy, the 14 year old work experience boy (who got his own round of applause & bow at the end and was a delight, and running gag, throughout).
And to top it off, knowing that my share of 15 tickets wasn't going to be much, they tried to rip me off by saying they'd been told it was to be a "60/40 split in favour of the venue". A 60/40 split in favour of the venue? Who agrees to a 60/40 split in favour of the venue?? It was to be a 70/30 split in favour of the act, that's how it always works! In the end, after my protests, they split it to 50/50 which they said was the best they could do because the ultimate decision maker wasn't there and will have to be complained to on Monday.
So I end up driving 5 hours there and back and performing a 90 minute show, and an encore, for 10 per cent of the money I've been getting for the other shows on the tour. Tonight's takings didn't quite cover the petrol for tonight's journey, and if I subtract the cost of flyers and posters, postage, and the work I could have done in the time I lost, we can call last night's show a loss. The punters went away happy, which is a good thing, but I am thinking very carefully about whether I should be gambling on any other doorsplits for the next tour. (That said, all the doorsplits on this tour and the last, to date, have paid better than any theatre guarantees, so this was the one gamble that failed, for reasons that in retorospect are quite clear and that I couldn't have anticipated).
Oh yes, and one last thing - food. I hadn't eaten since lunchtime, but my show started quite early at 7.30, so I was away by just after 9.30 and I'd spotted a chip shop on the way in. I love a big bit of fish, the perfect thing after a show.
Guess what I found in Wolverton? Only the first chip shop in the country to close BEFORE 9.30? ON A SATURDAY??? So I ended up driving home dining on an egg mayo bap, a veg samosa and a bag of crisps from a petrol station. Yum bloody yum.
Touring, eh? Who'd do it? To cheer us all up, and as a reminder of a more enjoyable all-round gig, here's a photo of the Socks on stage at Stafford Gatehouse. Great backdrop, great gig (great doorsplit on top of guarantee, btw).