Sunday, 31 July 2016

Minging Detectives - verdict on last year's show

It was a real relief to clear the air, talking to a group of Socks fans at our penultimate Edinburgh Preview for Socks Do Shakespeare in Bristol last week, to address the Minging Detectives question. They brought it up, not me, two folks saying, quite independently, "we saw Minging Detectives last year", with a tone to the voice that said it all.

It's been the elephant in the room since we performed it last year, and I've put it behind me now. But finally, having got a new show together which (if the previews are anything to go by) is actually funny, and works structurally, I can look back at 2015's show and say what needed saying. Let's be honest, Minging Detectives wasn't very good.

Re-reading my blogs from Edinburgh 2015, you can see I was troubled by it at the time. I was quite miserable in fact, and the misery never completely lifted. I was performing a show which didn't quite work and which was letting our regular fans down, without doing much to attract new ones. Our ticket sales kept up with previous years (though week 3 saw an unusual decline) but we had next to no reviews, and I can't help feeling our lack of positive word-of-mouth must have been a tangible factor.

So why wasn't Minging Detectives as good as our other shows? To look at the promotional materials you'd think it was our best. It certainly had more Twitter ads, my favourite flyer design, and I was particularly proud of the cartoon ads full of puns that I made for the show. Trouble is, I probably spent more time doing those than I did writing the show.

A big difference between spring 2015 and this year is that I spent an awful lot of time working in schools last year, without so much time at my desk writing. This meant that I had more money saved up by the time of Edinburgh, but it also meant less attention had been given to the writing and re-writing that a show requires.

This year we've had a very good Edinburgh Preview schedule, which has given me a good number of shows, with time enough in between them to write and rewrite things. We previewed our very first Shakespeare material in Leicester in February - half of which made it to the final show. We continued scattering Shakespeare items throughout the touring shows, then by May in Brighton & Birmingham we had Previews which very closely resemble the show we ended up with. All that was missing were some running jokes, smoother costume changes, and crucially their "breaking up" song towards the end. Then we spend June with next to no shows, meaning I could write all the missing stuff, edit it together, then the nine Preview shows in July were perfect for practising, polishing, and getting it right. If the Edinburgh run is as good as the last two Preview shows in Bristol and Blaenavon, then we will be very happy.

2015 looked like this. In June I had two previews where the Minging Detectives hour was still peppered with, and relying on, material from the previous year's show. This only left 5 previews in July to try and complete the structure and material, a task that was never quite achieved.

Also too much of Minging Detectives material was 'marmite'. Love it or hate it stuff which left audiences either divided or cold. Beginning with the songs, The Black & White Minstrels Old Man River Police had far too many old references, and left some people unsure whether we were being ironic or just racist, while Hello Muddah Intifada was what the phrase "too soon" was invented for. Even my favourite song in the show, Tie A Yellow Ribbon, had toilet humour that wasn't to everyone's taste.

Then the sketches lacked any greats. Gangsta Drug Dealer was good, and a lot of people were fond of the running gags in it, but it didn't lead anywhere much. The TV parodies like The Sweary and The Killing weren't quite funny enough. And the ending of the show, where we wound up doing a bank robbery, was just rubbish. I shudder when I think of the Coppers Cabana song, which was awful. Brrrrrrrrr. (Don't look for these on Youtube, they never made it up there). Added to this, I had recurring problems with losing my voice - a result of doing art classes during the day throughout our Edinburgh run, something which I have chosen not to do this year.

So, can I just say sorry to everyone, Socks fans and newcomers alike, who came to last year's Minging Detectives, for the show not being up to our usual standard. It had to happen sometime, and 2015 was that time. All I can do is reassure you that 2016's Socks Do Shakespeare sets out to make up for last year's disappointments. We hope you'll enjoy it.

The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre do Shakespeare every night at 10.30pm at the Gilded Balloon at the Edinburgh Fringe August 2016. BOOK NOW to avoid disappointment

★★★★★ "Accessible, contemporary and ridiculous" - Brighton Argus May 2016
★★★★ "Eat your heart out, Olivier" - What's On May 2016 
★★★★ "Comedy genius at work" - Theatre Bath April 2016 

Aug 3 - 29 - 10.30pm The Gilded Balloon, Edinburgh Fringe 

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