Saturday 25 August 2012

Fringe round up, winding down

Here as promised is the clip of The Socks on Forth One's Front Room Fringe, click to play. Appropriately, the Captcha I had to type in to upload this photo was "home, james"

And so we come to the end of a long month which has flown by. This Edinburgh Fringe, the Socks' fifth, has been an enjoyable experience packed with brilliant reviews (three 5 star reviews, which is a record, and more 4 stars than can be sniffed at - why even Chortle gave us the same rating they gave to half the acts who're nominated for the Edinburgh Comedy Awards, so that can't be bad. Playing it down? Us. Shut up.)

And of course the big story will remain the box office slump, whether it was caused by the Olympics, the recession, the over-expansion of the corporate big venues and an over-abundance of comedy, the weather earlier in the summer, or a compbination of all the above. The subject will remain something that is discussed for entire days until we all forget about it and move on.

An excellent article in today's Scotsman by Claire Smith really does start to lift the lid on the situation, suggesting there will be more blood, feathers, handbags and other metaphors slung about before the dust settles (yes, another metaphor). She says "in the space of 24 hours, I'm threatened with legal action, not once, but twice - by two people I previously viewed with respect." She doesn't say who they are of course, giving the denizens of the Loft Bar tonight plenty of room for speculation, but I can certainly think of a number of agents and promoters who will be looking at some very worrying figures which they won't want bandied about. She says that, in 20 years of covering the Fringe, she has never seen so much paranoia.

"This week" she says "a famous TV comedian showed me a balance sheet from a major Fringe venue that showed £70,000 in ticket sales, of which just £7000 was paid to the performer."

All of which, added to the stories that have already been burbling out of Edinburgh all month, suggests there has to be some sort of reckoning ahead and significant changes to happen between now and next year. With so many acts going into the red, playing to smaller audiences than they've seen in years, and not reaching their breakeven, there must be a lot of agents and venues who are being told "sorry, but you're going to be owed this for a long time." The aforementioned legal action might go on to entail a lot of acts or smaller producers being sued for money that their venue, or agent, or larger promoter or PR company is owed. As we've seen from the few people who've aired their financial dirty laundry this month alone, that can be tens of thousands of pounds owed. Per act.

I know of one act who was offered, a couple of years ago, a deal by a promoter. The promoter asked for £30,000, assuring the act that they would get all the money that came in once the £30,000 was paid back. Given that the act was due to perform in a 90-seater room for 26 nights at £10 a ticket, you can see why they didn't say yes. It makes a student loan suddenly seem like a student grant.

So, given the bloodied noses and emptied pockets so many acts have suffered (not us, I hasten to add - we've done better than we did in 2009, and just short of our record-breaking 2010), who on earth will be daft enough to come up next year? Well, we will, obviously. And acts who made money this year are still plentiful. But beyond them? A quick look at the Fringe programme from the last couple of years will give you the answer to that question. Who'll come up next year? All the acts who didn't come up this year.

This Darwinian scramble may have seen more acts and shows picked off by the sniper of fate than usual, may have seen more little crippled boys from the end of the Pied Piper of Hamelin left behind than happens in an ordinary year, may have seen more souls lose their grip on the Raft of the Medusa and drown in the sea of the Olympics than... I'm not brilliant with metaphors am I? Point is, there's one born every Fringe hour (that's 55 minutes in real money), and next year there'll be comedians and thespians galore more than willing to stump up the readies to be part of the fun.

It will be interesting to see if the venues still charge the same and the agents and promoters still offer their wannabe acts the same deals. My betting is that they will.

Three shows - and two sleeps - till hometime. Come on Edinburgh, let's have fun to the last minute! (Here, enjoy the usual Turkey Trot of one-star stinkers to avoid, according to The Scotsman).

Also in the Scotsman today:

Andrew Eaton Lewis "The free Fringe looks like the way of the future, for better or worse"

Kate Copstick: "Change coming to the Fringe"

And online, Richard Herring's Modest Proposal for the Future Of The Fringe

Chortle: Fringe sales stable, down only 1%

The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre presented not one but two new shows at the Edinburgh Fringe 2012: Boo Lingerie - A Socky Horror Show every night at 10.40pm and Chunky Woollen Nits - The Family-Friendly Hour at 11am. Tickets are now on sale.

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