Sunday, 24 May 2015

Socks in Brighton - a tale of two previews (with added Dean Friedman)

How different two performances of the same show can be was exemplified by this weekend's two Minging Detectives previews at Komedia in Brighton. The good news being: it's going well and the new hour's certainly had a good testing. (And with added Dean Friedman).

We've been playing the Brighton Fringe every year since 2008, previewing the shows we were taking to Edinburgh, and the audiences have been very supportive and have grown and grown. But the worst thing you can do is get complacent, and you must never take your eye of the ball as far as promotion is concerned. Which is exactly what I did, not getting flyers and posters delivered to the venue. An unforgiveable oversight which can't have helped the poor turnout for our first night. So there were only 20-odd punters for our 6.30 Friday show, and when the Socks asked who'd seen us before, we got an "aye"... from one punter.

So there we were trying to do almost-all-new material in front of an audience who'd never seen the Socks before. Which is a big challenge. When we do regular gigs (eg recent shows where we've performed in the windows of cafes, which has happened twice in the last month for some reason) we whip out all the best stuff, like Halloween or Michael Jackson, Sweary Poppins or Star Wars. This time I was opting to open with brand new sketches and songs, with only a smattering of last year's show ...And So Am I to serve as tried-and-tested zingers.

It had worked last weekend in Keighley, but there, as well as having a supportive return crowd (50% new) we had 45 mins of ...And So Am I and an interval before we launched into the Minging stuff, so we'd broken them in. This first night in Brighton we had a hard job getting laughs from them, unless it was a reeeeeeeaallly good gag, and we had our work cut out to establish the characters of the two Socks before dressing them up in costume and mixing it all up.

To be fair, we didn't do badly. Great laughs for the great lines, and an audience trying to sound like there were enough of them to sound like an audience. But it made me sharply aware of how strong materials is needed throughout, and to be aware that we should expect any and every audience to be full of people seeing the Socks for the first time, so you have to win them over from the start, never forget.

So, a bit depressed after a less-than-brilliant show (though it had some highs, including a solid end with Sweary Poppins) I spent the last bit of Friday night and all of Saturday morning rewriting the script, adding new gags which I'd dictated into the iPhone and not got round to transcribing , then getting a newly re-ordered script printed out at the Most Brighton-est of printshops:

Saturday's show was on at 4.30 in the early evening, which you might not think would bode well for numbers, but the opposite was true, with us pulling a good 60-strong crowd who sounded for all the world like a full house. Helped by being 50% newcomers to 50% fans, we now had a script that was well-structured and resilient and it was deservedly well-received. Including, among many others, by good friends Stephen and Nick, who I was really sorry I didn't have time to go for a drink with afterwards, and, sat in the front row, Dean Friedman with his wife Alison and a couple of friends. And it's his birthday. Honoured and flattered.

We opened with a barrage of new cop jokes mixed with the opening of And So Am I, then gave them the UKIP song so we knew we were on safe ground. And then of course the sketches sailed:

Gangsta (now with extra x/ y/ mdnight z gags throughout the script) = excellent
Tie A Yellow Ribbon = excellent
Sponsorship running gag - excellent, but still needs replacing
Merchant Of Venice = now draped in extra gags and excellent
Z Cars = now has "Liverpudlian Initials" in and is excellenter than before
(then we threw in Stereotypes, which may not have been needed but was great)
Black & White Mistrels = still needs trimming but excellent in parts
Magnum / NYPD / Morse tied in with audience impov = very good
Killing Breaking Bad = very good but falls flat at the end still
The Sweary = getting better every time, borderline excellent
Hello Muddah = first time out since Leicester in February, still a bit of a room divider, but by god I'm going to stick with it. It's this year's UKIP song I think. I think it's excellent.
Coppers Cabana = the music is out of tune, I've made a cockup in modulating it on Garageband. And I want the punchline prop to get a better laugh, which dammit I will. Getting there.
Falling out / Time Of My Life. Excellent, but needs replacing still.
Hatton Garden heist / Duel = excellent.

And whereas we'd had to end with Sweary Poppins on the Friday, this time the show ended on its own merits and to rapturous applause. Hoorah. A testing couple of shows, and the show's better as a result. Now to write another 15 minutes worth to replace the bits that need replacing and, by golly, when we don't get a sniff of a Comedy Award in Edinburgh, we can say "we wuz robbed" with some justification.

May 22 & 23 Brighton Komedia
June 25 Cheltenham
June 27 Old Joint Stock Birmingham
July 17 Carriageworks Leeds
July 19 Sheffield New Barrack Tavern
July 23 Spread Eagle Croydon
July 24 Porters, Cardiff
July 25 Bedford Fringe
Aug 5 - 31  10.30pm Gilded Balloon, Edinburgh Fringe

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