Sunday, 14 August 2016

Kids, the BBC, sitcom workshop & a dinner party - busy Saturday in Edinburgh

What has undoubtedly been the busiest day at Edinburgh Fringe 2016 so far began before today, with Hev preparing food and making plans, and with me remembering to take home props, a CD and a mic stand from my set the night before (a thing I have to plan ahead if I'm doing extra gigs with the spare set). But if we start with the day itself, first thing in the morning I was at the Gilded Balloon's new Museum venue (its lecture theatre, which makes an excellent performance space) doing Kids Do Forth At The Fringe.

I gave the kids five minutes or so of Richard The Third, which has turned out to be a very solid bit of material we can take anywhere. Did the whole slot with no music (having thought I'd open with I'm A Sock and close with Well Did You Evah, to fill our 8 minute slot, it seems Richard III is nearly that long on its own).  As you can see from the photo above, I also met up with Bec Hill for the first time in a year, and came away with something very special - invitation to hers and Gav's Wedding on Monday! (I came away thinking this was totally top secret and I was not to mention it, then as soon as I got home I heard her talking about it with Al Murray on Radio 2, so I don't think I'm letting any cats out of bags here.)

Next came the centrepiece of the day. Long before I'd realised I had any extra-curricular activities on today (or had forgotten about the timing of them), Hev had planned today as our one opportunity to entertain in the daytime. So it was that, with the help of our customised doorbell (above), we had a little daytime dinner party, bringing together Stephen and Nick, who are up for a few days and will be coming to the show tomorrow, and Tim and Hazell, who live here of course, and who came to the show with friends last week. A splendid and easy-going, and sober, time was being had by all, starting around 2pm, when I had to shoot off at 3.45 to go and do a Sitcom Writing Workshop with Funny Women at Fringe Central.

Here you see me with Lynne Parker of Funny Women and Jenny Bolt, writer and performer, and just out of shot behind us the 8 participants in this fun little free class. There had been intended to be more people, but some sort of ticketing error meant most were turned away. Regardless, it was a good opportunity for me to flash my knowledge of sitcom trivia, talk Sitcom Trials, and hopefully help some people with their writing. I also secured myself a judge for the Sitcom Trials final in the form of producer Kate Lennon, and made a couple of contacts who could lead the way to Sitcom Trials in Dublin and Edinburgh, so that was time well spent.

Getting back to the flat at 6pm I found Stephen and Nick were still there, and that Hazell hadn't long left, so that had been a marvellous afternoon, which Hev and all concerned had enjoyed greatly. This is splendid news, as Hev's not a late night bar-hopping night owl (well, I'm not much these days either, but with a show that finishes at 11.30 every night, I'm keeping later hours than her) so it was good to be able to see people in the congenial surroundings of our lovely Worlds End flat, and socialise in comfort. Prosecco had been consumed.

Next up I was off to the BBC's space, which this year is in the grounds of George Heriot's school on Lauriston Place, to do the Socks' only bit of BBC this year. And whereas previous years have seen us do full sets on the BBC stage, appear on Newsnight, BBC Scotland, Edinburgh Nights, Edinburgh Extra, Sky News, BBC Three, The Culture Show, BBC America last year, and even once on The One Show, this year we had to settle for a piece on BBC Shakespeare's online coverage, as part of their #Macbethathon. No way of knowing how many people have seen it, or have yet to, but it was fun and we filled our 5 minutes on screen with the Equivacator routine. I'd come prepared to do this and the Oh My Porter song, but there were no facilities for music, so we did what we could and had fun doing it.

Then a little bit of flyering - flyering my single most effective stretch of every day, the Burnistoun queue (they go in for a 9pm start, and are queueing from 8.30, and are the most receptive punters to a tartan Scottish-branded flyer that I've ever seen). Indeed it may be as result of these Hibernopunters that I've been getting the last minute ticket-buyers that meant that, for the second night in a row we had....

A SELLOUT! Yes, all 90 tickets totally sold out. We've had near sellouts of 87, 86, and two 84s up until now, but I'd forgotten that I have to get the box office to release my company comps early, and urge them to release the venue and press comps as soon as possible, if I'm to be sure of selling all my tickets in time. (Looking at my graph from previous years, you can see the uptick in sales at the point when I remember I'm supposed to do this, If I don't, you get punters at between 8pm and 9.30 - a key window for evening punters - who are being told we've sold out, when in fact there's as many as 12 tickets still being kept on hold. Must make a note somewhere, that I'll read during week one, that reminds me to do this in future).

Added to all of the above, it was a great show. Possibly, I would say, the best of the run so far. Though this has been an exceptional show this year. For the first time ever, I've not had to change the show since we started the run. Lines have been cut and gags have been added, but I've not had to change the order, remove any sketches or songs (things that I have to do every year as I'm either finding out what works best or, in panic, desperately trying to patch up holes in the script). Because we had a good script from early on, then got it right with the 10 July preview shows, this year's been probably the best show ever, and last night was right up there amongst the best performances. No props went wrong, there were no embarrassing fluffs, the audience threw us no improv curveballs we couldn't handle, and by golly they laughed in all the right places. I suppose having had a performance of Richard III in the morning and Equivicator in the evening can't have hurt either. A second day with next to no flyering (none at all Friday, only 20 minutes tonight) and two sellouts in a row. And, by the way, our total sales right now stand at second only to the legendary 2010 figures, making this in so many ways a Best Fringe Ever. However, it's not even half way through yet. So let's enjoy this feeling while it lasts shall we?

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

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

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