Tuesday 27 August 2013

Socks In Space, the show - Edinburgh audit part 2

Thanks to Becky Betts on Twitter for this shot of the Socks playing the BBC stage. 

Socks In Space - Edinburgh audit part 2

And so we've come back down to earth (more specifically Leicestershire, staying over with Mum) after a month in outer space with the Socks. Time to make a few notes on the show and thoughts for the future.

Socks In Space had more previewing and advance-testing than any previous shows, with us trying out work-in-progress as early as February's Leicester Comedy Festival, and I have concluded that that was too early. Most of the stuff we tried there never made the show, and it was in the weeks before Edinburgh that the show really found its best components, with others being added once the run had begun.

Routines that were tried between Feb & July that never made it to Edinburgh included:
Melies Brothers (debuted in Glasgow, never as good as I thought)
Bionics (debuted Leicester, didn't last long)
Taylor Swift We Will Never (Leics, never funny)
Expendable song (Leics, survived Glasgow)
Life On Dr Who song (debuted in June, never funny enough)

Then there were two key routines which were still in the show on our first Edinburgh night but were gone by the first weekend:
Vinny Jones CPR routine (debuted Leics, finally squeezed out by better material)
Rocket Man / I Will Survive song (debuted June, squeezed out for time)

So the final running order for Socks In Space has been:
I'm A Sock song (established 2007, not been bettered yet)
SF genre gags leading to Bottle routine
Comics to movie gags
The Comics Song (debuted Neath, July)
The Avengers routine (debuted June, grew through the run)
Improv routine(s) debuted during Edinburgh run
War Of Worlds gags (began Feb, grew thru run)
Doctor Who / Capaldi routine (debuted 5 days into Edinburgh run)
Green Screen Song (debuted July, 2 gigs before Edinburgh)
Alien routine (debuted in final preview in Manchester July)
Andy Warhol song (from 2009, still works)
Fireball XL5 song (a rare survivor from Feb, but re-recorded)
Countdown routine (debuted London July)
Star Trek routine (began in Feb, kept developing thru run inc..
Chekov routine (highpoint, debuted during Edinburgh run)
David Bowie song (tried in Feb, dropped, rewritten, now highpoint)
Ding Dong routine (started Feb, given punchline July, sometimes dropped for time)
Star Wars finale (from 2009, glad to revive it, perfect ending).

There is nothing like a month of playing a new show every night to keep you feeling creative and adding ideas all the time. I think next year (if we do Edinburgh next year, still to be decided) The Socks will tour the best of Socks In Space and other material, and wait to try out the new show until the June/July preview season.

Technical notes. This month's run went smoothly, untroubled by too many extra gigs (in fact I did just two, both daytime appearances on the BBC stages, with easy get-ins and get-outs). Sadly I failed to get a video recording of a good night of the show, for the first time since 2007. I recorded a quiet night, and was planning to record a busy one in week 3, but those plans were scuppered by this month's one tiny niggle, that soured the mood in the last week, and that was The Over-running Issue.

As anyone who's done an Edinburgh run will tell you, the changeover time between shows is short, in my case 15 minutes, and protected fiercely by both the acts and the production staff. Socks In Space was due to start every night at 22.15, meaning that my get-in time was 10pm. And when my run started I was overjoyed to find that the show that was meant to be on before me, Tommy Little, had cancelled his run due to work commitments. Luxury. Of course this couldn't last, and soon I found another show had been moved into that slot - The Best Of So You Think You're Funny.

TBOSYTYF (which doesn't seem much shorter, even as an abbreviation) featured three different stand-ups and an MC every night, which meant it was a little wieldy and overran most nights. Usualy by 5 minutes, but sometimes by 10 minutes, which made my get-in time very tight and meant that I ended up not "going up" until 10.20 or later, which is a very bad thing to do to your ticket-buyers (who, of course, have other shows to go to after you're supposed to end) and an even worse thing to do to the act after you (in my case Hedluv & Passman, whose get-in time was supposed to be 11.15, start time 11.30).

So I speeded up my get-in process as much as I could, and tried to minimise the gap between shows, and it seemed to be working well. Me and TBOSYTYF got on fine, plus I got the bonus of getting to see the headline act for free (the best of whom were Tom Wrigglesworth and Aisling Bea, both unbelievably funny).

Then TBOSetc finished its short run and another show came into the slot before me. A show which I won't name, which had been such a sellout success that they were adding extra dates to the run, and which was in the 9pm slot before me. And it overran. On its first night I stood at the back of the room watching as it overran past my 10pm get-in time, past the 5 minute barrier, then the 10 minute barrier, finally crossing the line in the sand that was the 10.15pm mark. This show was performing while my audience was outside waiting and The Socks were supposed to have started.

So I snuck backstage unseen, started setting up as best as I could, so that once this guest show had finished, we could finally set up and get started. I managed to get my crowd in at about 10.25, of which I was justifiably proud.

The following night I assumed this guest show would have learnt its lesson and kept things tighter, especially because it had a much smaller audience on its second night. But as I stood at the back of the room at 10pm, I realised I was watching material I'd not seen before. This meant the show was behind the time even of the previous day. True enough we passed the 10.05 mark, and the 10.10 mark, and then over the Rubicon of the 10.15 mark, and still the show was going. Knowing how things had gone the previous night, I realised there was a loud bit of group-singing coming up, during which I'd managed to creep backstage unseen last night, so when that point came along, backstage I went.

Unfortunately the house was only half full this night, which meant my technician and the performer could see me going backstage. We were now a few minutes past 10.15, when my show was due to start.

So we did a quick changeover, helped by my setting up backstage while the overunning show wound up, and my audience managed to get in before 10.30pm. I had some people in from the BBC so I was especially keen not to keep them waiting. I even trimmed my show down to 55 minutes, so as to minimise the knock-on effect on Hedluv & Passman's show.

The show went fine and that was that, hopefully the overrunning show would be given a strict telling-off and wouldn't dare invade another show's space and time in such a rude way a third time. Of course that's not what happened.

What in fact happened was that I awoke the next morning to find an email from the Production Manager telling me off for going backstage during the overunning show's overunning show. I was being reprimanded, like a guilty schoolboy, for trying to help things run smoothly while the guilty party was getting away with it! She, and I believe my technician, had run and complained to teacher and I was getting punished for someone else's crime. The injustice of it all was so enfuriating that I went off to work that morning (at Portobello library to do an art class) literally shaking with rage. My hands were trembling with anger and my stomach knotted in, I guess, fear. I do not remember being made to feel so bad by anything involving my show in Edinburgh in all the years I've been coming here (I've been bring shows to The Gilded Balloon since 2001).

The production manager was even threatening that I should not be allowed into the room where my show took place until this offending overunning show had finished its offensive overunning. There I'd been, desperately trying to get my show started and my audience in at something close to the advertised time, and someone was suggesting that it would be preferable to delay things even further, rather than to annoy a woman whose show was overunning by 15 bloody minutes. God, I'm still fuming as I conjure up the memory.

I poured oil over troubled waters later in the day, I got into my room at 10pm and glared patiently from the back of the room, and I waited till she'd finished overunning and left the stage, then did a silent changeover, and we carried on like that for another two nights. I even apologised to her on Twitter for going backstage during her show (she has not, to date, replied to me). I will be happy never to cross paths with that woman, her show and her attitude ever again. And I tell you what, I bet Beyonce wouldn't overrun like that. Just saying.

That was the only lowpoint of Edfringe 2013, thanks for letting me get it off my chest. Onwards and upwards.


"Space age comedy to knock your socks off" ★★★★ 4 stars The Daily Record
 "Astronomical fun" ★★★★ 4 stars Broadway Baby
"A must see show yet again" ★★★★★ 5 stars York Mix
"Some of the finest-written and performed (comedy) on the Fringe" ★★★★ 4 stars Edinburgh Spotlight
"The unparalleled pinnacle of comedy puppetry" ★★★★★ 5 stars Venue (Bath preview)
"Brilliant night of entertainment" ★★★★ 4 stars The Fiction Stroker (Manchester preview)
"Will have you literally laughing your socks off' ★★★★ 4 stars The Public Reviews (Warwick Arts preview)
"Gloriously anarchic act" ★★★★ 4 stars Latest 7 (Brighton preview)
"My face hurt from smiling" ★★★★ 4 stars Broadway Baby (Brighton preview)

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