Sunday, 24 January 2021

Murder Mystery, lessons learned from parties

For Felicity's birthday this year she treated us all to a murder mystery called Sherlock In Homes. Performed by a Bristol based company called Sharp Teeth Theatre, in association with the Wardrobe Theatre, at was a Zoom hosted piece with five actors, set around a murder in a circus.

The Inspector (LeShart, see above) hosted things and explained the crime. Then we separated out into Breakout Rooms where each of the five suspects took it in turns to come in and be questioned by us. I was, of course, playing close attention because of what I intend doing with my Socks Murder Mystery in February. The big revelation for me was Polls, which I've now worked out how to do, and also the management of the Breakout Rooms, which I'm practicing. They had the advantage of 5 performers, so can keep multiple conversations going on at once, whereas I'll be having all the parts played by the two Socks (and both socks played by me, as well as having to run the Breakout rooms).

The performance lasted 90 minutes and had great improv, very well done by all the performers. After which we joined a new Zoom link and continued the party at Felicity's. It had much more of the feel of a party than other recent events we've done (eg our inter-Christmas party which lacked the buzz of my birthday party Treasure Hunt, probably the last really good one). Both Hev and I commented the next day that it felt like the morning after a proper party, in a good way.

It's still hard to make a Zoom event feel like a room full of people, with the ability to nip into a corner and have smaller chats, but there are worse ways to spend your time.

I am now busy applying everything I learned from last night, and from the technical issues of Friday night's Socks Burns show, to making the Socks Murder Mystery into the best show yet.

UPDATE: Completing a weekend of Zoom parties, on Monday night, Burns Night itself, Tilly & James threw a party. It was very successful indeed. Only three little bursts of games, one drawing the pictures you see above, another being a scavenger hunt, and the third being reading verses of Address To The Haggis between us, the rest was just chatting. Nearly three hours passed most pleasantly, and I wasn't even drinking, which is quite remarkable. James had yet another trick with Zoom I hadn't seen before, by which the viewer can enlarge or reduce the screens they're being shown. Not sure if that can be applied to the Socks shows, but experimenting continues. (I know how to do polls already, so we're learning).

Feb 12: Interactive Murder Mystery

Burns Night report - a success, with some hitches

The Scottish Falsetto Socks' Burns Night Spectacular was a success, it would seem, with 37 paying punters who sounded happy at the end. But my was it fraught with problems.

The first was that the sound from the video clips, which I use for the musical numbers, wasn't coming through. This has happened once before, and was quickly resolved right at the start of the show in question (Hallo Ian, I think). This time I discovered the problem at 7.30, half an hour before showtime. And it was only Hev's searching online that found the solution. There's a setting on the Mac, a tickbox in System Preferences, that had somehow unticked itself. Having ticked it I then had to check out of Zoom and restart it. So the people who'd already joined the waiting room had to be told to leave and come back again.

With 10 minutes to spare, just time to start the countdown video, I restarted the Zoom session and the sound was working. Note to self: put music in the Countdown. I have always had music in the Countdown video. Then I was finding some people liked to chat through it, so for the Hogmanay Quiz I had a silent countdown. That was okay cos I was doing all the talking. This time, cos I was busy sorting technical issues, it was just 10 minutes of awkward silence. So, next time, music in the countdown, just kept at a level people could talk over if they wanted.

The show started well, and I don't think I came across as flustered as I felt, and for the first 40 minutes we had a show going great guns (see Running Order and links below). Then, at 8.40pm, when I was coming to the end of Life Of Burns and about to introduce Dean Friedman, disaster struck as it has never struck before - the broadband cut out. 

Suddenly I was looking at a buffering wheel and a screen that told me the session had ended, and the recording of the session was processing. Hev, through in the lounge acting as Fag Ash Lil the usherette, was also cut off. 

Broadband returned after a couple of minutes and we rejoined the session. And, oh so luckily, Dean had reminded me to make him a co-host at the start. So he was able to spotlight himself and do his musical number, which was supposed to happen then anyway. That was godsend and he is a total star, the saviour of the hour.

The Socks then did our world premiere, the first ever Zoom performance of 4'33". It was brilliant, far and away the hit of the show. I was doing at at the request of film maker Sam Vladimirsky, who was going to include it in a documentary. I knew it was going well when I could hear Heather laughing from the front room. There was great laughter throughout.

Sadly the other thing I knew, as we were doing it, is that it wasn't recording. Because the recording of the first 40 minutes of the show was still processing, I couldn't hit Record for the rest of the show. And Sam wasn't able to make it to be in the audience, so the only people who'll ever see it were the people who were there. I also failed to record St Andrew, which was also great.

Then came our next musical number, Always A Bastard, and because of the restart, the sound had gone again on video clips. (I'd realise this when, immediately on return, I'd tried playing the newly made trailer for the Murder Mystery show. Bizarrely some listeners claimed they could hear the sound, but most (inc my second screen and Hev) definitely couldn't). So that number was dropped and, presciently, Dean dived in and played the song he was meant to play a short while later, Don't You Ever Dare. Ironically neither of Dean's songs got recorded either.

I was finally able to restart the recording for the finale, Macbeth, which went well, and led into a very entertaining group rendition of Auld Lang Syne. I came away thinking the show had been a flop, because I was so stressed from all the technical issues, but watching the videos (such as they are) it turns out it was a fine show, and greatly enjoyed.

I'm dotting the i's, crossing the t's, and working out extra backups and alternatives for the Feb 12th Murder Mystery, not least because it's selling so well. (By Sunday it had already sold 17 tickets, with three weeks to go till the show. The joys of being on someone else's mailing list!)


Intro routine - Piping Them In

I’M A SOCK (song)

Selkirk Grace


Address To The Haggis



Life Of Burns

DEAN FRIEDMAN guest slot 1

Murder Mystery Ad (video)

Story of St Andrew


John Cage 4’33”

“Where’s Dean Friedman when you need him?”




The End

Feb 12: Interactive Murder Mystery

Monday, 18 January 2021

Socks Interactive Murder Mystery Feb 12th

Earth's Funniest Footwear, stars of more Bedford Fringes than any other act (official!) have teamed up with The Quarry Theatre at St Lukes to present their first ever Interactive Murder Mystery. Spot the clues, question the suspects, and solve the crime, live on Zoom.

Expect the usual songs, sketches, socks and violence from the award-winning Socks (Funniest Joke at Bath Fringe 2018, and will they shut up about it?), with a brand new spin. You're helping them solve crime! Probably.

Doors 7.45, show starts 8pm. Suitable for age 12 and over (some grown up language, the rest very immature). One hour show, may overrun. The Socks' performing team will join you in the virtual bar afterwards. Tickets are here. 

Thursday, 14 January 2021

Writing Twelfth Thing, Selling 500 Books, getting reviews


An idea came to mind this week, so I'm acting on it. I'm asking people to suggest ways I could try to sell 500 of my books in a month. If I succeed, I'll reward them by drawing a page of comic strip. I'm holding a Zoom meeting on Friday night to take suggestions, let's see if anyone turns up.

I've tried, tentatively, to get back to writing my fourth book, Twelfth Thing. I worked on it for probably a day and bit at the start of October, then it got batted out of the way by classes, Socks shows, Pirate themed birthday parties, Christmas, New Year and suddenly it's now again. So, after the least book-oriented period since I started (Findlay Macbeth was written in December 2019 and I was busy drawing it right through January last year, and I didn't take a month's gap between either of the other two books, as this work sheet attests), I'm trying to get into it again. I broke the back of it with the fight scene you see scribbled above. I'm hoping nobody can make too much of it out, as I don't want you to get spoilers too early. As ever, I find myself doing a lot of reading around the subject and, in the case of Twelfth Night, I'm finding that all my clever insights into sexuality in the play are pretty basic and everyone's been dealing with them for years. So far no-one appears to have included an alien parasite monster in their adaptations, that I've found, but I won't be surprised to come across one.

Did my first Comic Art Masterclass of the year on Monday, which was a great start to the week, and my efforts to email every school in the country have been continuing (at a rate of slightly fewer than 500 emails a day, that being the gmail limit). I'm starting to get responses, which bodes well.

I've also had responses to a Twitter mail out I did this week asking people if they'd review my books. It's galling not having had a single review yet, but I realise you're not going to get one until you get out there and thrust it down peoples throats. So that's what I did, and currently three people have copies of two books apiece en route to them through the mail. Though whether one can set too much store by the mail at the moment is a moot point. As a result of covid and other complications, the Royal Mail has been performing very badly this past month (so Watchdog told us on the telly last night). Anecdotally I can confirm we had two batches of Christmas cards that had taken over a fortnight to arrive, and we're definitely not getting a daily delivery at the moment. They have my sympathy, their job's not easy. (Plus I got all the copies of my last book emailed out well before the troubles started, so I'm alright Jack).

Next Socks show: Jan 22nd
Next Comic Art Masterclass: Feb 6th 

Friday, 8 January 2021

New class, Zoom talks, lots of emails

 I've joined the Society of Authors. And to prove it, here's me at my first meeting. Just by way of trying to keep myself out there in the world, this is the first of a few meetings and events I've lined up for myself, anything to remind people I exist and hopefully start networking. And another way of getting out there is...

I've organised another Comic Art Masterclass. Although all the country's on lockdown this month, it's not a school holiday (as it was when I ran my classes in the summer and half term) so I can't expect kids to attend on a weekday. So here comes a Saturday morning class, with only a week's notice. Let's see who can make it. 

It'll be the first event that I've plugged to the members of my Kev F Comic Artist Mailing List, which I assembled this week. At time of writing it has 94 members, all drawn from the Kickstarter supporters for my books last year. Let's see who leaves or joins when they start receiving news of events, shall we?

We'll also be able to track the membership of the Scottish Falsetto Socks Mailing List, which currently stands at 112 members, drawn from the ticket buyers for last year's shows. God, imagine if I'd started making a mailing list from the 1000 to 1500 people who come and see the Socks in Edinburgh every August? We could be looking at Zoom shows as a healthy new income. In the meantime, they don't do badly (and Jan 22nd's Burns Night has already sold 20, with two weeks to go). 

This first working week of the year is always an odd one, and finds itself full of chores and admin. One part of which is assembling the Blurb book of photos of the year. I started doing this in 2011, when we came back with our first set of Venice photos, and now have a hardback 7" x 7" book of photos from every year since, plus bonus volumes dedicated to photos from Edinburghs, and our trips to Venice, Adelaide and Malta. Surprisingly we had as many photos from 2020 as in a 'normal' year, managing to fill 314 pages despite not being able to travel through the lockdown. (For the record our furthest trips were the one permitted journey to see Audrey & Dennis in Bodelwyddan between Welsh lockdowns, and one visit to London. A far cry for our usual gadding about.)

Not that I haven't been trying to put myself about. That is I have, as I often do at the start of the year, been emailing schools alerting themselves to the existence of my classes, and hoping they'll have me in on Zoom. This time last year I didn't have to bother as I had so many bookings coming in, for actual in-person visits, from schools I'd visited previously. That's showing no sign of returning in the foreseeable, no are most schools so settled they can entertain the luxury of my classes even by Zoom. But I've had a few small nibbles and we can only hope it will build from there.

I already have the pleasure of knowing my classes next Monday, which were to involve a drive all the way to Cambridgeshire, now only entail a walk to the back room. They're still having me, which is great. Everyone else, I look forward to hearing from.

It's at this stage of the process, of course, that I am reminded of gmail's limit on the number of emails you can send in a day. It is, if you'd forgotten (I had), 500. Which is why I got round to setting up the mailing lists, by the way. So when one door closes another door opens, or some similarly draughty metaphor. Anyway, at a steady trickle of 500 per day, I've emailed the schools of Essex and West Sussex for the first time, as well as getting the first messages since 2019 to schools as far afield as North Yorkshire, The Lake District, and the Midlands. I'm quite relishing the excuse of not driving the tens of thousands of miles that I habitually subject myself to in order to hack out a living as an itinerant artist. But I couldn't half use the money. So come on schools, distance really is no object as long as this lockdown lasts, and my classes are as brilliant as they ever were, even if looking into a video screen rather than bathing in the laughter of an entire class is a bit like calling things out through a chink in the wall with only half an idea if anyone can actually hear you.

Kev F Sutherland, as well as writing and drawing for The Beano, Marvel, Doctor Who et al, runs Comic Art Masterclasses in schools, libraries & art centres - AND NOW ONLINE VIA ZOOMemail for details. His debut graphic novels Findlay Macbeth , The Prince Of Denmark Street and The Midsummer Night's Dream Team are available on Amazon. Follow Kev on Facebook, Twitter. Promo video here

The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre will be touring near you sometime. Catch up with them on Facebook for the latest. 

Tuesday, 5 January 2021

New Doctor Who and other Facebook rambling

Jan 4

Happiness is reading a Giles Annual you've never read before!

My thanks to Annette for the Christmas money with which I bought this in an antiques shop yesterday. The 1952/53 Giles book (the Seventh, for collectors) full of dazzlingly drawn cartoons about the end of rationing, the Coronation, the election of Eisenhower and much much more.

A curio of this time is that Giles was sent as a sort of Artist In Residence, taking the family in a caravan and reporting back in cartoons. So we get a week of him living with a circus, taking part in the National Motor Rally, and spending a week at Silverstone race track. A brilliant book, such a joy. And such a shame that there are only, I think, five books left that I've never read.

Jan 3

I just added an extra prediction to my bound-to-be-wrong Predictions for 2021: New Doctor Who showrunners to be Jim Field Smith, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost.

Having just finished their series Truthseekers (which I'd been finding so disappointing it didn't even make my Top 40 for 2020), and finishing it the day after seeing Chris Chibnall's latest poorly written Doctor Who, I realise that this team could deliver a series 100 times better than the current one.

If Field Smith were to draw on writers he's worked with before, including Matthew Baynton and Tom Basden, this gives him a crossover with the creators of Ghosts and Plebs, and more. Meanwhile Pegg is the guy from Mission Impossible and Star Trek, as well as once being the guy from Spaced. And Nick Frost would also be there.

Imagine a Doctor Who series which might include an episode directed by Edgar Wright, and episodes by Basden, Tim Key, Mark Watson, all the writers of Ghosts, and the people who made Stag and The Wrong Mans. Frost overlaps with Stephen Merchant, into whose universe you might draw Ricky Gervais, Roisin Conaty et al. And the Pegg universe overlaps with Peter & Jim Serafinowicz who in turn overlap with Robert Popper, all of whom would be new to the Whoniverse.

It'll never happen. But wouldn't it be great?

Jan 4

My stab-in-the-dark guess for who'll be next Doctor Who? Guz Kahn.

While I was watching him in the Christmas Comic Relief Zoom Panto thing, where he was a total star, I was thinking "He'd make a really good Doctor". So, though my guesses are always wrong (and I have a very long track record here, dating back to predicting Stephanie Cole to take over from Tom Baker in 1980), this is the one I'd like to be true.

Jan 2 - The Serpent

And already we have our first contender for TV Of The Year 2021. 

No, not Doctor Who (don't get me started), I mean The Serpent. Excellent writing and splendidly directed. As for the casting, there were we thinking it was an international co-production, with all these Dutch actors we'd never seen before, and were had we seen that American girl before?

Turns out the lead "Dutch" bloke was in Dunkirk and a Star Wars movie, and comes from Stoke On Trent; his "Dutch" partner was Mandy Rice Davies in last year's Christine Keeler series; and the American girl? We knew we'd seen her, she has a very distinctive face, but we couldn't pin her down until we looked on imdb. Not only a lead in Ratched, but the daughter in Top Of The Lake. And she's not American, she's Australian.

At least I could be sure we'd definitely not seen the lead actor anywhere before. He was only a regular in the show at Number 20 in my TV of the Year 2020, The Eddy.

Let's just say I don't have the best memory for faces.

Jan 5

The thing that actually scares me is Covid deniers. Have you seen the things they say on Twitter? (Just type in "I guarantee none of us will die" and see what you get). 

You can see how it starts, from fear, and ignorance, and to an extent empirical evidence. There are indeed many people who've not had a one-on-one encounter with Covid yet, that is lost, or seen suffer, an actual person they know first hand.

But the knowledge that people can hold such a contrary view of how the world actually is is slightly mind-boggling. And I can see how that spreads virally, how one doubts ones own sanity and ones own world view. And how it then gets easier to say "maybe it doesn't exist" than accept that all those Doctors on the telly might be telling the truth.

That's the trouble with empathy and reason, you end up having sympathy for the devil. Mind you, I still can't understand why anyone voted for Brexit.

Jan 2

Looking forward to seeing all the Brexit-voting retirees who've been turfed out of the Costas (I mean the ones on the Mediterranean, not the ones on the High Street) on Location Location Location seeing how how big a flat they can buy for the 50 grand they got for their house with a swimming pool in Alicante.

Jan 2 - KLF make their music available for first time since 1992

Am I the only person who hadn't noticed any shortage of KLF on the radio in the last twenty years? Listening to Radios 6 and 2 you sometimes can't move for Tammy Wynette singing about an ice cream van, and the other three or four variations of the same basic KLF song.

Next you'll be telling us Wet Wet Wet have been embargoed since the 90s (and not that no-one plays them cos, be honest, they were okay but they were no Deacon Blue).

Dec 29

Here's a question I can't find the answer to: Where did the current wave of Covid patients catch it? Do we know?

There are currently more people in hospital with covid than at the peak of the first wave (20,400 yesterday, against a previous high of 18,900 in April, though I'm sure there's someone who'll pipe up in the comments that they've been hospitalised "with" covid not "of" covid). So where did they catch it? Is everyone asked their patterns of movement? Have we identified clusters? Do they all work in schools? Did they all eat out to help catch it? Did even one of them go on an anti-covid march? Does that NHS App tell you anything at all?

We're going around town in masks, our hands wrinkled from half a dozen hand-sanitizings, walking in the road to avoid people, not trying on clothes, not touching anything we don't intend to buy. Et cetera et cetera. So, if everyone is doing this, how the hell have twenty thousand people* managed to catch the damn thing?

Anyone know?

Dec 31

My thanks to Dave Nattriss for the stats of the day, ie Where Are We All Catching Covid?

Turns out 32% of transmissions (in 2nd week of December) came through schools, colleges & education, 15% from Supermarket shopping*. Only 7% from hospitals and care homes, hardly any from pubs and bars.

*clarification: 15% is from both working at and shopping at supermarkets, not just shopping. 

I look forward to some man-and-womansplaining about how I've interpreted these facts wrong**, or something. Happy New Year when it comes.

** As predicted I had misrepresented the single biggest figure on the table!

Dec 28

These Nature Photography winners are fabulous. I have only one problem with them...

Why oh why oh why does someone insist that all the photographers give their pictures cheesy titles. "Caught in a blizzard"? "Brambling togetherness"? "Mammals Splash!!!"? (The three exclamation marks are theirs, by the way).

That's how you guarantee these pictures are never taken seriously: caption them for showing at a village hall bring and buy sale.

Saturday, 2 January 2021

Socks Quiz + 1st new show of 2021

The Scottish Falsetto Socks' first gig of 2021 will be their Burns Night Spectacular on January 22nd - on sale now. And it was great to end the year with a successful final gig in the form of their Hogmanay Quiz Night (which you can see in its entirety, here on Youtube).

Quiz Night was joined in with by 36 ticket holders, and watched on Facebook by 400 more (since which, another 100 have watched it on Youtube and FB). The show ended up taking 1 hour 20 minutes to get through, it being that unpredictable how long each round would take, once the audience interaction happened. And the concensus seems to be that it was a success. There was certainly lots of laughter and involvement, and almost everybody stayed in the virtual bar afterwards, for a session which went on till 11, stopping only so I could go and see the New Year in with Heather.

For the record the question rounds, most of which had been trialled on Tuesday night at Hev and my mid-winter party (a low key Zoom event compared to my birthday party in October), were:

Rhyming Presents - 3 rounds, 5 questions each. Who is the celeb in the photo, and what is the present they've been given by the musical act? The song title rhymes with their name.

Play Your Movie Cards Right - 15 movie stills, what year is it set? And is it higher or lower than the previous movie?

Hovis Ad, leading to Name That Bum Face - 5 people with bottom-related names (eg Violet Elizabeth Bott, Jeff Astle)

What Kind Of F&C Song leading to Fart Gallery - 10 works of art with fart-related titles (eg When Did You Last See Your Farter, The Waft Of The Medusa, and Shitehawks)

20 Ad Slogans - performed very quickly by the Socks, name the product

Coke Ad, leading to Name The Cock - 10 people with penile names (eg Willie Nelson, Cece Peniston, The Members)

Final Round - 10 points for a correct guess, minus 10 for incorrect, 5 multiple choices based on earlier rounds.

Amazingly that lot took 80 minutes to get through, with a couple of comedy routines and songs thrown in for good measure. I have to confess I spent a bit too much time devising these and making the Powerpoint rounds, given that I can only use them once, but they were fun to do. It would be great if it's reached a wider audience for future shows, let us see.

The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre will be touring near you sometime. Catch up with them on Facebook for the latest. 

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