Friday, 31 August 2018

Granny's School of Unbelievable Slushies - comics by kids


It's a testament to how all-consuming Edinburgh is, when you're doing the Fringe, that it's taken me until the 2nd of September to get these four comics coloured. But coloured they are, and they're the result of the few Comic Art Masterclasses I did in August while based in Edinburgh. These two are from South Queensferry and Kirkliston libraries. I wisely limited myself to one class in a day, so I wouldn't jeapordise my voice for that night's show, and only lined up 4 days of classes. A far cry from past years, when for example in August 2015 I did at least 8 classes and zoomed off to do classes in Nairn the day after my last show, in August 2014 I produced these and these, and in August 2013 I produced all this lot. What was I thinking? (One thing I wasn't thinking was that I had to colour them all in full colour! When did that madness start?)


These two comics were from libraries in Denny and Meadowbank, both near Falkirk, so an excuse to drive past The Kelpies every time. Not, it has to be said, the most inspiring titles of the year.


This month's libraries got some nice flipcharts, by dint of me turning up in time to do a bit of doodling. Here are two of them.


The celebrities these four groups chose to appear in my demonstration strip were Robert Downey Junior, Johnny Depp, Donald Trump and Beyonce.



Kev F Sutherland, as well as writing and drawing for The Beano, Marvel, Doctor Who et al, runs Comic Art Masterclasses in schools, libraries and art centres - email for details, and follow him on Facebook and Twitter. View the promo video here

Monday, 27 August 2018

Edinburgh audit 2018


Hev bought me a mug with a Dalek as a Tunnocks teacake. And here we see my Edinburgh haircut, and the new Socks t shirts which, along with the Superheroes comic, sold quite well at the Gilded Balloon shop for the first time.

Another enjoyable Edinburgh comes to an end, with a month having flown by. My show was good, the audiences liked it and so did I, though they didn’t come in the numbers I would have liked (see below). Obviously the month was coloured by illness. That of Mum, which saw me leaving town and cancelling shows for the first time; of myself, which saw me getting a cold on day two so having to do shows with next to no voice and drastically reducing my flyering in the first week; and that of Hev, which she doesn’t want me to tell you all about, but has caused her a lot of trouble with her diet and, whisper it, included a visit to the Infirmary. We’re on top of things now, Mum’s in a care home and Hev’s slowly figuring out what she can eat, but these things certainly made the month memorable in lots of the wrong ways.

We saw lots of art, which was disappointing (as detailed here) and only two shows (as has become the norm, a dreadful state of affairs for which I feel stupidly guilty). I didn’t pull a single late night in the Loft Bar and did very little socialising or networking. I flyered, I performed, I sewed sock eyeballs back on and, in fact, made a whole new pair of Socks halfway through the run, I made no videos, and I felt good about my show, while actively planning next year’s. The subject will, I think, be the circus and music hall.

More than anything, this month leaves me head-scratching and over-analysing more than I have for many years. Why? Because my sales tanked and I can’t work out why.

As recorded in July, my advance sales before the Edinburgh run started were at record-breaking levels and everything was looking good. Then we had the major problem of Mum being not well and me having to leave Edinburgh for two days, coupled with me getting a cold on day two, both of which seriously affected my ability to flyer, and obviously removed two nights from our run. But then, as recorded in the second week of August, once I returned and got up to speed with flyering, I was finding it wasn’t working. And, though the city went from unusually quiet to its normal levels of busy, my flyering continued to be ineffectual.

In 18 years of promoting Edinburgh shows, I have never found flyering to be so unsuccessful. The old “Rule Of Flyering”, that one hour’s flyering equated to ten bums on seats, is out of the window. I have done five hours of good flyering in one day, and only see half a dozen sales added by the end. As you can see from the graph, whereas every year from 2013 to 2016 ended up with almost exactly the same total sales, this year has ended much lower, just about equalling the Olympic year of 2012. It would have been higher with the two missing days back in there, but not much. What has gone wrong?



To investigate this problem, I’ve looked at my blogs for the last eight Socks Edinburgh shows, seeing how many days were spent doing Comic Art Masterclasses (and thus unable to flyer), how many reviews I got, and other significant media coverage:

2009 - some reviews inc 4 star Scotsman, lots of classes, on GMTV & BBC Edinburgh - 2nd biggest sales ever
2010 - 6 reviews, Scotsman interview, included in 2 Top Tens, on Culture Show, on One Show, no classes - biggest sales ever 
2012 - 11 reviews, 2 shows a day, Olympic year - after a year off sales plummet from last time 
2013 - 9 reviews, 12 days classes & caricatures, Sitcom Trials - sales reach good level 
2014 - 3 reviews, 12 days classes, Newsnight & Edinburgh Extra - sales equal last year 
2015 - 6 reviews, 8 days classes, noted successful flyering, 3rd week slump - sales equal last year 
2016 - 7 reviews, 0 days classes, sales hold up 
2018 - 1 review, 4 days classes, flyering ineffectual, after a year off sales holed below the waterline 

I have no answer to this question. I take small consolation in hearing the horror stories of other acts, one of whom I spoke to said that, if she got 7 people in on her final night, she’d have been seen by a total of 100 people all month. That puts my moaning in context (I’ve been seen by over 1300, and am only moaning cos last time I was here that figure was 1600).

Things that used to be a novelty at Edinburgh and have now reached saturation:

Silent Discos
10 foot high posters of comedians
Drag queens with beards
Musicals about Brexit or Trump
Rain

So, as we head home, and struggle to remember The Hot Summer Of 2018 which seems years ago now (it ended the second we arrived in Scotland) I look forward to a busy week of schools, beginning Tuesday. I’ll update the notes below when I have a chance to research other peoples’ Edinburgh stories. Here’s to next year.

Other stories:

Edinburgh Fringe crowds grow by nearly a million in a decade - The Scotsman
(Article includes Fringe up 9% on last year, up 52% on 2009; Space sees 11% increase on last year; Official Festival slumped by £500,000 on last year's takings)

Andy Quirk's financial breakdown of his two Free Fringe shows - with graphs!
Reflections of a First Timer by Julian Lee
Underbelly's record breaking 2018 figures
Pleasance's record breaking 2018 figures
Comedy Guide's overview of all the Edinburgh Fringe 2018 stories (a good round-up of things I missed all month)

Comedian Sian Docksey's financial breakdown on her Free Fringe show (from which this is just one slide):

Shappi Khorsandi on the politics of reviewers

Brendon Burns announces he's retiring from Edinburgh

Brett Goldstein's stats (via @brettgoldstein)




The Award Winning Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre were Superheroes at The Gilded Balloon at the Edinburgh Fringe from August 1st to 26th 2018 and will be on tour into 2019.

Saturday, 25 August 2018

Art at Edinburgh 2018 - a very poor year


Whatever happened to the art at Edinburgh? It’s always been the backbone of our visits, the Fringe being complemented by the biggest array of art to be found outside of Venice. Until this year, when we’ve been met with an endless succession of closed galleries, ex-galleries, galleries that are no longer free, and artwork which is, on the whole, a bit underwhelming.

Top of the list of closed galleries must be the Collective Gallery on Calton Hill, which has frankly been the only reason to climb all the way up Calton Hill for a number of years. It’s listed in the Edinburgh Art Festival programme, with a whole page to itself, but thank god we found out in advance (from the website) that it’s not open. 

Add to this the closed basement floor or The City Art Centre, the closed lower level of the National Gallery of Scotland, the broken lift at the National Portrait Gallery (which formerly gave a marvellous all-round view of the exhibition floors), the closed-despite-being-advertised-as-open Burns Monument, no work this year at the High School on Calton Hill, and the closed permanent and the temporary galleries at the National Library of Scotland, and you have quite a diminution of what’s been on offer before. You now have to pay to see the exhibitions at Dovecot Gallery, which is a shame, and we didn’t bother.


Summerhall has continued to lose exhibition space to performances over the years. When we first discovered it, it had more art on show than any other venue in years, in all its buildings, and on all its floors. This year there was nothing in the courtyard that now houses a tent theatre, nor in the buildings behind which now house performance spaces and a BBC studio. Even the lower cafe area, which 4 years ago housed one of the most impressive installations, is now just some little used tables. And the exhibition from the DeMarco collection hardly compensates including, as it does, a display of drawings by Orson Welles which have to be the most amateurish display on show this year. A supposed exhibition in the basement was also closed. 

Not that there isn’t competition on the “slightly rubbish” front. It would be cruel to single out the Institut Francais’s exhibition by Adam Lewis Jacob as the biggest display of “Will This Do” work, but I challenge anyone not to be non-plussed with ennui (how apt the French should have all the bon mots). Similarly disappointing were Tacita Dean at the Fruitmarket (once you’ve decided she’s a bit over-hyped, as I did when she was being a bit dull as a Turner Prize finalist, it’s hard to find anything exciting in her work), and the students work at the College Of Art. 

So what was good? We enjoyed The Common Sense video piece by Melanie Gilligan and the sound installation by Shilpa Gupta, both at the Art College. Barbara Rae’s painting, and the accompanying work at the Royal Scottish Academy was very impressive, outstripping the staid and conservative work one sometimes expects from academicians; Raqib Shaw at the Nat Gall of Modern Art was very interesting, if a bit Roger Dean album cover-y; and Victoria Crowe at the Nat Portrait Gallery was good if you like portraits of famous Scots, and heavy use of the colour brown; Lucy Skaer’s curated exhibition at the Talbot Rice was good, but the whole was less than the sum of its parts, and it was made of small and diverse parts.



There were nifty, but slight, installations in a church off the Royal Mile and a bar just behind St Giles, and some lovely films of Edinburgh in the 1950s at Stills Gallery, but nothing you’d be in a hurry to tell all your friends about.

Most impressive was the Jacobs Ladder exhibition at Ingelby Gallery, in their impressive new location in the New Town. This was complemented by an exhibition at the University Library on George Square, which I’ve managed to never visit before in my 30 years of coming here. It was good, but not enough on its own to make Edinburgh feel like a town you’d come to to see the art.

And most fun was Rip It Up, the exhibition of artefacts from the history of Scottish pop music. With an excellent TV series to go with it, this was the most memorable exhibition, full of nostalgic treasures and well produced displays and videos. Not strictly art, but knocking spots off the art for entertainment value.

There is undoubtedly art we haven’t seen - we didn’t venture out of town, and we weren’t going to pay to see the likes of Rembrandt and Canaletto (we may be jaded after the two visits we made to the Venice Biennale last year) - but it wasn’t as if we didn’t try. Genuinely it would appear that Edinburgh has less art on, in comparison to previous years, and what they have is not as impressive as previous years have had to offer. Other opinions may differ.



Friday, 24 August 2018

"Take a hanky for the tears of laughter you’ll cry" - Audience reviews


There's a first for everything. And on Thursday night's show it was The Socks performing minus an eyeball! Just seconds before the show began, I jerked the Sock on the right up and caught it on something, yanking his left eyeball clean off. Luckily it didn't seem to weird too many people out and the show went fine.

Audience reviews are, as the Gilded Balloon have been tweeting, the best. And, in our case, they've also proved to be the only reviews we've got (Geek Chocolate notwithstanding), so we'd best enjoy them.

And, delightfully, of the 8 reviews posted by punters on edfringe.com, 7 of them are glowing (the eighth being the one posted by Keith D after "That Night", which we've already discussed). Here they all are.

RTB16 days ago

Very very good!
Put a huge smile on my face which was still there several days later...kind of like the rictus grin of the Joker...
Seriously, well woth going to if you want severely cheered up!
The programme was funny but the improvs were tripply funny!
What...a...hoot!

David Robinson13 days ago

By far the funniest, sockiest and Scottishest show at the Fringe. It actually hurt to laugh so much. Not only were the scripted bits hilarious, the audience interaction shows that this is a real talent. Why are the socks not on TV? They are far more professional and entertaining than Ant and Dec and much more practical.

Frankie B.8 days ago

Successfully funny. Audience was falling about.
So much better than the big name improv/stand ups we've seen.
Quite clever too behind the apparent simplicity.
This is one show I would actually see again - and I don't think that about many Fringe shows.

Fiona6 days ago

Loved the socks. This show never fails to make me laugh. An hour never seems enough. Very talented man and very talented socks. A hilarious hour.

SueP5 days ago

Saturday night’s brilliant show was a great way to start the week. Might have to see it again! Reccommended.

Frances Mitchell1 day ago

I admit it, I never really grew up. I like puppet shows and cuddly things, and after finding The Socks on Facebook over a year ago, I’ve been waiting eagerly for them to come to Edinburgh. I took 3 friends with me, and The Socks didn’t disappoint. I can’t actually remember the last time I laughed so hard or so long at daft jokes, fun puns and a very clever background of superheroes as diverse as Irn Bru Man and Super Gran. Absolutely hysterical, very clever, and if you’re in the mood for some daft, modern, happy fun, then this show should be your shout of choice. (And take a hanky for the tears of laughter you’ll cry

Gibletmanabout 17 hours ago

‘Holey socks, Batman! Is it a bird? Is it a plane?’
‘No, old chum, it’s the Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre...’

Yes, the socks are back and this year they’re taking on the subject of superheroes. It was inevitable this topic would eventually get the SFSPT treatment given that puppet master Kev F Sutherland’s other job is as a comic-book writer and artist. Oh, and he was once bitten by a radioactive sock which gave him the uncanny ability to speak in a high pitched Scottish accent and hold his hands above his head for extended periods without getting tired...

Unfortunately, Sutherland’s familiarity with his subject matter is too big to be contained and the show doesn’t entirely translate for a general audience. For instance, why does Spider-Man not appear yet we get the Fantastic Four - an odd decision for a one-man sock puppet theatre where more than two characters on ‘stage’ at the same time is extremely challenging (although admittedly one of the FF is invisible). There’s also an unfathomable ‘sub plot’ about a long lost racist brother and a song about the Bechdel test that appear to have been rocketed to earth from the exploding remains of an entirely different show.

Nevertheless, the socks’ great irresponsibility does lead to some great laughter, and they are still a mainstay of our trips to the Fringe.

To the sockmobile!

The Award Winning* Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre are Superheroes at The Gilded Balloon at the Edinburgh Fringe every night at 10.30pm  until August 26th 

Thursday, 23 August 2018

Cosmopolitan - new clip from Superheroes


Another new clip from Superheroes, Cosmopolitan. Enjoy. If there was ever an indication that I'm aiming to upload the whole show, it's the fact that I'm uploading a bit of nonsense like this. I'll get onto the meatier scenes next.

Unlike Shakespeare, which had lots of stand-alone sketches which you could watch in isolation, that's really only the case for Superheroes' songs. The comedy routines are all episodes in the plot in this show, which really means they will mostly only make sense when you watch the full hour.

As I did with Shakespeare, I hope to edit the scenes and upload them piecemeal, then assemble the whole lot together into a concert DVD. The whole hour should go online in the fullness of time. But, like I say, you really have to be there to enjoy the experience.

At time of writing, just 4 shows to go.


The Award Winning* Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre are Superheroes at The Gilded Balloon at the Edinburgh Fringe every night at 10.30pm  until August 26th 

Dead Ringer - new clip from Superheroes


Another clip from the Scottish Falsetto Socks smashing Edinburgh run of Superheroes - Dead Ringer For Superman. It's on Youtube in subtitled form, or vanilla. Enjoy. There's even a square version on Facebook, if you fancy.

This has been probably the most popular song in the show, with the glasses prop proving a fun if unpredictable bit of slapstick that's different every night. This take is from what I call That Night, the one night when we had an unresponsive audience (as discussed here) and even they laughed at it. Other nights (we videod three) had better laugh tracks, but not as good prop shots or music mix.

(If you really want to know how it's done, the front-on shot and soundtrack are from Monday Aug 20, and the side shot is from an earlier night).


The Award Winning* Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre are Superheroes at The Gilded Balloon at the Edinburgh Fringe every night at 10.30pm  until August 26th 

Wednesday, 22 August 2018

That Night


Every Edinburgh run includes a night which becomes known as “That Night”. A night when, assuming every other night has been going swimmingly and you’re doing a show you’re happy with, the audience will come along and simply not get it. It happened this week on Monday night when a healthily sized audience sat there in near silence, seeming to not understand gags, or maybe just dislike them. It’s hard to tell, though I did hear one woman talking to a friend as they left asking “how much of that did you understand?”. So quite possibly there was a contingent with English as a second language, we will never know.

You know That Night’s gone badly when you get your only bad audience review. The edfringe.com website only has six reviews on it for the Socks, all glowing. Then someone called Keith D has come along, clearly on That Night, and provided the poo in the punchbowl. He writes “Very disappointing show. Avoid if you can. Part of the show was not even performed, as the 'sock puppets' ran out of time. The only vaguely amusing bit was when the sock puppet 'outfits' started falling apart mid-act.” (I thought it was Keith D, who I know on Facebook and who is notable misanthropic towards the Fringe in general, but he reports that it’s not him, adding “ I shall find this imposter and kill him with socks”). I am reminded of the two audiences that came to our Glasgow previews back in March, one of whom loved the show and one of whom was the “Hooray Henries” who sat there playing with their phones and soured the mood for everyone. Maybe they’d come back on Monday to wreak their revenge and repeat the experience?

I’m happy to report that Tuesday night’s show was a return to form, and with only five performances left to go, even if we were to have another That Night every night, and let’s hope we won’t, it would remain statistically insignificant and won’t sully the memory of an excellent show that’s been a joy to perform almost every night.

And, as if to prove that no night is all bad, the video of Dead Ringer For Superman that has gone online was recorded on That Night. The laughter’s not as big as the other two nights we got on camera, but the lyrics are clearer and the shots of the costume collapse were the best. Hey, even Keith D enjoyed that bit.

(By way of context, here's my report from That Night in 2009 (again it was the final Monday), when the flat audience reaction totally threw me. I now recognise a bad night when it happens, and know it's not my fault. Showbiz.)


The Award Winning* Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre are Superheroes at The Gilded Balloon at the Edinburgh Fringe every night at 10.30pm  until August 26th 

Monday, 20 August 2018

Tortoise and Tweets - a half time report


Here we see the goodies from the goodie bag we all came away with after a pleasant afternoon soiree organised by Hare & Tortoise Productions, the new company set up by Jon Rolph & Claire Nosworthy. Jon, you won't remember, produced my BBC radio pilots Come Together and Meanwhile, way back in the days of yon and yore, and it was great to hear from him again. Having been producing the likes of Armstrong and Miller, and currently developing the Scarfolk Council into a TV series, he has bigger fish to fry than the little old Socks, though hope springs eternal that he & Claire might catch our show while they're up here.

The do started at 11am and, by dint of the fact that I was en route to the last of the month's Comic Art Masterclasses that afternoon, I was the first person to arrive. And it would seem the only performer in Edinburgh who was awake before midday. The goodie bag is the most Edinburgh-friendly you could conjure up, and the Lockets were immediately got through, along with the various energy food & drinks and, of course, the Tunnocks tea cake.


I've been Tweeting very heavily this Edinburgh season. Whether or not it's been to any avail, it is hard to say. Our numbers, as reported elsewhere, are down on previous years, but that is for myriad reasons, which will be investigated thoroughly at the end of the month. Whether they've been bumped up or left totally unaffected by our Twitter activity I really cannot tell. They probably haven't been helped by these rather desperate tweets where, in bursts of passive-aggressive ennui, I've let it be known how hard I've found flyering, some days this month. There have been, it's felt, an inordinate number of resistant punters, in comparison to previous years. This could be faulty selective memory and bias confirmation, but there have been days when you wonder where I ever got that idea that the streets of Edinburgh were full of punters looking for shows to see, and all you had to do was convince them yours was the one they wanted.


There have been a few days when the flyering experience has reminded me of Adelaide. It was there that we found everyone had "already got one". That meant either they'd already booked the one show they were going to see that night, or they already had a flyer and were limiting themselves. This year I've also found that an awful lot of people seem to be day trippers or folks on the final day of their holiday who, by the middle of the afternoon, are on their way home. This phenomenon occurs on any given day of the week, bizarrely.


And, with the exception of Geek Chocolate's lovely report, we haven't had a single review this year. Nothing with stars on, nothing from a familiar name. I have, with only 7 shows left, given up hope on getting any reviews which will be seen by punters and have, instead, just started Tweeting our old reviews from 2009 to 2016. Five stars from Edinburgh Evening News, 4 stars The Scotsman. Ah, memories.

NB: My blog about whether Edinburgh is quieter this year, has been read 880 times. Since which time we've just had the busiest weekend when nobody would be under the illusion that the city was in any way quiet. They were a lot of drunks and stag parties, the like of which nobody would want within a mile of their show, but there were certainly a lot of them, so yeah tourism.


The Award Winning* Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre are Superheroes at The Gilded Balloon at the Edinburgh Fringe every night at 10.30pm  until August 26th 

Saturday, 18 August 2018

Passing The Bechdel Test - new clip from Superheroes


A classic from the Scottish Falsetto Socks' show Superheroes - Passing The Bechdel Test. A song that I'm quite proud of, it's now online in both subtitled and vanilla form. Enjoy whichever you prefer.

There's also a big square version on Facebook, for your pleasure.


The Award Winning* Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre are Superheroes at The Gilded Balloon at the Edinburgh Fringe every night at 10.30pm  until August 26th 

Superted vs Jimmy Savile - new clip from Superheroes


Another brand new clip from the Socks' Thursday night performance of Superheroes, this time they're ad-libbing about Superted and Jimmy Savile. Relax, some proper scripted stuff will eventually find its way online. Enjoy, if you can.

Socks Superheroes video playlist


The Award Winning* Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre are Superheroes at The Gilded Balloon at the Edinburgh Fringe every night at 10.30pm  until August 26th 

Friday, 17 August 2018

"One of the most entertaining and anarchic nights out in the Fringe" - Geek Chocolate

Thanks to the lovely Michael Flett at Geek Chocolate for our first review of the Fringe! And a smasher it is too. They don't give stars, but darned if those don't read as a four.


SCOTTISH FALSETTO SOCK PUPPET THEATRE: SUPERHEROES

They have become something of a Fringe institution, or perhaps they just require institutionalised, the antics of the Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre returning to the Gilded Balloon for a tenth season, this year with a show entitled Superheroes, with no expense spared* as the greatest heroes and villains of Marvel and DC arrive in the form of knitted cotton.
A sold-out late slot on a Saturday night, the presence of puppets does not indicate that this is a show suitable for children, an on this occasion due to some unfeasibly uncooperative props there is perhaps even more profanity than usual in the ad-libbing, often as hilarious as the scripted gags.
Featuring a better Joker than Jared Leto, the show is also educational, enlightening the audience to the meaning of motion capture (for those who think they already know; you’re wrong) and the differences between cosmopolitan, Neapolitan and neo-classical, though the songs are largely reworkings of classic pop.
What might be more obscure to some is the Bechdel Test and the importance of modern entertainment to embrace its challenge, and thanks to a guest appearance by Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy discussing something other than their shared nemesis “with pointed ears who wears his pants on the outside – it’s not exactly Dostoyevsky,” it could be argued that Superheroes passes.
Supported by Cassie the Technician who provides the varied musical accompaniment, the terrible puns are fast and land with a suitable kapow, for certainly the audience were groaning, and while a knowledge of Scots dialect and superhero lore is helpful to get the most out of the show the antics and shenanigans are sufficiently lively to carry the uninitiated through the maelstrom.
The current profile of superheroes higher than it has ever been thanks to the recent offerings of DC and Marvel such as Justice League and Infinity War, these are of course addressed, but nor are the classics forgotten, the trailblazing performances of Adam West, Lynda Carter and Christopher Reeve, all celebrated in one of the most entertaining and anarchic nights out in the Fringe.
*taking into account Fringe ticket prices, the ongoing policy of austerity, pre-Brexit anxiety and the harsh rule of Thanos

The Award Winning* Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre are Superheroes at The Gilded Balloon at the Edinburgh Fringe every night at 10.30pm  until August 26th 

Thursday, 16 August 2018

Packing Tape Man - new clip from Superheroes


A brand new clip from last night's Scottish Falsetto Socks: Superheroes show, when the audience suggested Packing Tape Man, and the boys had to make of it what they could. Relax kids, the rest of the show is very tightly scripted, honest.

Socks Superheroes video playlist


The Award Winning* Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre are Superheroes at The Gilded Balloon at the Edinburgh Fringe every night at 10.30pm  until August 26th 

Wednesday, 15 August 2018

Wonderful World - new clip from Superheroes


Just for you, a brand new clip from the Scottish Falsetto Socks' new Edinburgh show, Superheroes - What A Wonderful World, in which the Socks sing about the sort of Batman and Superman film they'd make.

More clips from the show will find their way online soon, though at time of writing we don't have a complete recording of the show yet (my batteries ran out halfway through, may need a new battery).

Socks Superheroes video playlist


The Award Winning* Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre are Superheroes at The Gilded Balloon at the Edinburgh Fringe every night at 10.30pm  until August 26th 

Is Edinburgh Quieter This Year?


After two weeks, I've finally spotted one of our quad posters, on the far side of The Meadows facing away from the road. Still have yet to find the other poster.

Is Edinburgh Quieter This Year?

I’ve read nothing about the Fringe-going visitor population of Edinburgh being any lower than previous years, and I’ve not read any show complaining  about low audience numbers. So, I’ve got to ask: is Edinburgh quieter this year? 

I’ll be the first to put my head above the parapet and say my audience numbers are lower than previous years and the streets look relatively quiet to me.

The Socks’ Superheroes show is not doing badly, and by the standards of a lot of shows I know we’re doing well. I know this anecdotally, from having seen the size of queues going into other shows in my building. But looking at my sales graph, which shows me the Scottish Falsetto Socks sales for every one of their 10 years of shows, I’m looking at crowds that are just that bit smaller than before.


And it’s not as if we’re not going for them. Yesterday (Tuesday) I did the longest stint of flyering so far this year. The passing punters of Bristo Square got five hours of quality flyering from me. They were good (ie the sort of people who look like they go to comedy and theatre), they were receptive (they took the flyers and laughed and said thank you), they looked as likely to come to the show as any punters I’ve seen in my 18 years of Edinburgh flyering. 

I even got to exit-flyer the audience of Chortle Fast Fringe where the Socks had just done a cracking three minute slot. You can’t do better and more efficient flyering than I did on Tuesday 14th August.


But despite all that, Kev F’s Theory Of Flyering failed to be borne out. My theory, established in 2001 and tested every year since, hypothesises that 3 hours of flyering will equate to 30 bums on seats. Celebratory blogs like this one from 2015 show me adding 100 sales in a day through intense flyering. Tuesday’s 5 hours of flyering turned the morning’s figure of 17 tickets sold to a final tally of just 36 tickets sold. 

And it’s not as if we could be suffering bad word-of-mouth. This year’s show is in perfect shape now, with audiences laughing throughout and giving me great direct feedback. I know it’s vain, and could be self-deluding, but I think you know when your show’s good (for example, in 2015, I didn’t feel my show, Minging Detectives, was the best, and in fact found myself apologising for it in conversations with fans a year later). This year I have no such doubts. Superheroes is a hilarious show, and songs like Bechdel Test,  Avengers Reel and Dead Ringer For Superman deserve 4 star reviews on their own. But we’ve had no reviews yet, which can’t be helping. 

And we have crowds that, though lovely and voluble - and seemingly full, thanks to fellow performers getting in with their passes and filling up the back rows - just don’t include as many paying customers as past years. Thanks to the double oddity of having to cancel two shows in week one for family reasons and flyering less in week one because of my cold, our sales graph is deceptively low. But if you close up the two-day flatline on the graph, total sales for 2018 are behind every year except for 07 (debut show) 08 (Return) and 12 (the notorious Olympic year). Remember, just three weeks ago, we were looking at record-breaking advance sales. Suggesting that our core punters are as strong as ever, it’s the passing trade that’s fallen off. 

So, I put the question out there, is Edinburgh quieter this year? Is any other show, which has been here before, seeing smaller attendances than before? Is anyone feeling that the bars are quieter, the streets are emptier, and the punters are staying away?

Or, horror of horrors, is it just us?

UPDATE. 8pm, twelve hours later i've had lots of responses to this blog. As well as conversations on the street with three comedians and two reviewers, all of whom agreed that things were quiet this year, these Facebook comments came in. My further thoughts are below them.

Patricia Silver yes it seems quieter this year

Daphna Baram It is quiet for me but this is my first full run since 2015 and my venue is a bit off the beaten track.

James Worthington We felt last year was much quieter than most, especially than the year previous. Is it dying out?

Dave Flynn I'm a punter at the Fringe, who has been coming here since 2007. I've seen 25 shows so far this year, and I've never been to so many packed out venues before. 

Steve Day I've not noticed it being quiet. The pavements seem, if anything, more thronged than I can remember. I've been delighted with my numbers.

James Cook Personal perspective from the 3 shows I do:

1. A kids show at 10:45am - never done one before. Smallest crowd has been 3 families, biggest about 15. Increase on previous years - infinity per cent.

2. Board Game Smackdown. 3rd fringe in the biggest venue yet (100 cap) not uncommon for us to have standing room only and have had to turn people away a handful of times. Increase on previous years: easily 50%

3. A stand up show. Only the second non themed show I’ve done. Had 11 in last night and was disappointed - two years ago I would have been happy with that. Have been getting around 25, 50 at weekends.

Paul Savage Defo quieter.

Mill Goble Definitely quieter on the press front, and when flyering 12-1, 85% of the people I see are other folk doing shows or Spanish tourists. Of the five or so shows I've seen, they've probably been averaging about 35-50% full.

Lindsey Marie Silver There are more meeting places/watering holes this year. I think that’s why it feels quieter out and about.

Alex Petty I’ve not noticed it being quieter. cowgate is heaving and even more dangerous to pedestrians than ever, the mile is packed and venues are reporting increased takings - though a small increase rather than a giant leap. Show numbers around my venues seem to be good overall too from reports I’ve had.

Paul Currie It is apparently according to the taxi drivers .. and they know

Ewan Leeming Anecdotally:
     1/ We're printing a lot more than usual - especially more flyers which generally means people let down by big companies or making last minute change of plans.
     2/ Performers in central venues generally saying bigger audiences.
     3/ Performers in less central areas generally saying lower audiences.
     4/ Niche acts reporting bigger audiences.

Anthony Jeannot Nothing to compare it to, so not super helpful, but in a very small venue, I did not need to flyer this year and had it 70-100% full right through the run. In my first run, if this is what it's like in a down year, I'd love to see it at full tilt.

Andre Vincent (on an independent thread): 
The Voodoo Rooms are not getting the traffic it used to get and they need bums on seats. 

Pete Harris My experience this year is an noticeable increase in punters, probably, in part, to do with the good weather in the first two weeks. 

So, my further thoughts? The people above who are happy with their numbers, eg James, Steve, Alex are in Free Fringe venues (though others, eg Voodoo Rooms, in FF are struggling). Could it be that what punters there are will take a punt on free, but not on paid?

My new theory, conjured up this afternoon, is that a new generation of millennial punters may be used to the concept of "A Festival" as a thing you pay to go to, where you meet friends, you hang out and eat and drink, and you'll watch acts performing for free - a la Glastonbury, Latitude etc - but you don't think of paying money in advance to watch an act.

Whereas, once upon a time, people went to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe to watch a range of theatre, art and comedy, they now to go Edinburgh to "be at a Festival". But the seven-shows-a-day punter, with their tightly planned schedule and their deep pockets willing to take a punt on seeing something they've never heard of before, is an ancient beast on the brink of extinction.

Look at Bristo Square & George Square. Hundreds of people are sat at tables, drinking beer and coffee, and eating at a bigger range of street food stalls than ever before - just like they did the previous month at Latitude, Reading and Larmer Tree (is it any coincidence that all those open areas now have mock grass flooring to resemble a Festival in a field?). If someone had come up to them at one of those field-festivals waving a flyer asking them to pay an extra ten quid to sit inside and be performed at for an hour they'd have thought you were mental. Why, they ask quite reasonably, are these Edinburgh nutters breaking the rules of Festivals by doing it here?

So that's my follow up question. Have Festivals ruined the Fringe?



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