Monday 3 June 2013

Hit The North - Socks tour diary, Cardigan to Yorkshire

Here we see, courtesy of Jym, the Scottish Falsetto Socks on stage at the Exchange in Keighley, one of the four shows we've played in the past five days in each of which the Socks gave a full 90 minute show, including most of the new Edinburgh show Socks in Space, plus a best-of selection, in Cardigan, Keighley, Goole and Barnsley. Cracking gigs, every one, with some more cracking than others. Here's what we learned...

1) Adult shows are easier to do than kids shows. Keighley was the only one of these four dates which was in a traditional comedy venue, ie with a bar, and where the audience was all grown ups. It meant the Socks had a free rein with their choice of material, and where they could talk like adults knowing that all the audience had a chance of understanding what was going on. In the other three we were listed as 'Family friendly', which is something we've started doing ever since the experience of Adelaide 2012 which led to the early-morning Edinburgh 2012 show Chunky Woollen Nits.

Now we have no problem at all in performing a family friendly show, indeed I feel our chances of appealing to TV are enhanced by letting it be known that The Socks can perform a 90 minute show without sweary words or gratuitious adult content. But the problem with 'family friendly' listed shows - or as they have been in some instances, listed as a 'Kids show' - is that you get kids in. And try as we might to insist that no-one under the age of 7 should come to the show, there are always under-7s that get in. And truly, honestly, genuinely, 5 and 6 year olds kids do not know what is going on in a theatrical stage show or a comedy show, and they are incapable of sitting through a 90 minute show without disturbing it or it disturbing them. In two of this week's show the Socks had to contend with the sound of parents explaining to their over-young offspring what was happening in the show, and my god the sweets! Who takes rustling packets of sweets and sits in the front row of a comedy show rustling them, passing them round, and even having conversations with each other about passing the sweets? Kids, that's who!

Sunday's matinee show in Barnsley was the hardest. Not because there were 5 year olds in, though inevitably there were, but because there was a birthday party in. That was 10 ten year old boys, making the place their own, stomping their feet (The Socks were on the same level as the audience which meant this rattled the set like an earthquake), trying to look over the set during the interval (only stopped by staff intervening), and obviously eating bloody sweets (the first thing I heard, during the show, was not the rustling of the sweetie packet, but the words "Can I have some sweets?". Followed by the rustling of the sweetie packet).

So, although we will continue to try and present our show as a pre-Watershed not-too-adult package, I will be increasingly wary of shows which might attract too many kids. This all comes, of course, hot on the heels of last weekend's Inverness shows, which included The Socks performing in the open air, in spaces which had 4 year olds running around in front of the stage ignoring you. Memo to self, ask more questions in advance!

UPDATE: Tuesday - Sure enough, one of our gigs gets a complaint from a parent who brought a 5 year old daughter and a son "just turned 4" to sit in the front row of one of our Family Friendly shows. We have got to emphasise the "over 7s only" part when we promote this show! She writes that
she'd bought the tickets along with ones for Wind in the Willows weeks earlier, so brought along her husband and two children (5 daughter and son just gone 4), who sat on the front row.  Apparently the age limit wasn't made clear and there was even a special offer for 'family tickets', making it seem like all shows would be suitable for all ages.  Her husband needed to remove the 4 year old twice not long into the first half as he was not interested in the show, understandably, and was later waking up with nightmares because, she says of the 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse prop, which I would guess would have the same impact as taking a 4 year old to see Horrible Histories or making them watch Doctor Who when they're not ready. They got their money back, and I'm pleased to say there was also a positive report to the theatre from their independent reviewer who said it was "Surreal, sock-tastic fun, I think it would do well again if people were forewarned next time!" having realised the kids in the audience problem. 

2) Grouping gigs together is both big and clever. As the person responsible for booking the Socks tours, I am particularly proud of this weekend's schedule of Friday Keighley, Saturday Goole, Sunday Barnsley, and for Heather's suggestion that we stay overnight Fri & Sat in Wakefield. This was perfectly centrally positioned so I could get home easily after gigs, and have a comfortable base from which to start each day (Saturday in Goole also included a Comic Art Masterclass in the daytime, so was a long day's work, by my standards).

Why can't I arrange all my tour bookings like this? Why, for example, did I end up being in Inverness one Monday and the Isle of Wight on the Tuesday? And why, this coming weekend, will I be in Manchester on Friday night, Walthamstow on Saturday morning, and Coventry on Saturday night? The truth is because I don't pick the dates as often as they pick me. And if a theatre can take me on a good day, ie a weekend, I'm hardly likely to turn the date down just because it involves a bit of travelling. Last year's biggest travel oversight was the distance of the drive between Aberdeen and Harrogate. Six hours door to door, who knew the top end of the country was that long? I bet there's far worse still to come, and I'll realise it the day before I set off.

3) The new show is "getting there". Socks In Space has had more previewing and preparaton than any of our previous Edinburgh shows, with us having given it its first tryouts in Leicester in February. Since then a good few pieces have been added and taken away, and we are starting to get something that works. Obviously in these theatre shows, we include a lot of tried and tested stuff, particularly because we were doing these venues for the first time, but they've had a fair bit of "Space" tested on them, and it's going down well.

For the record, and this is for my benefit more than anyone else's, the running order for these 4 shows has been:
1st half: I'm A Sock, Halloween, Michael Jackson, The Western, Horror Cliche Song, Musicals, Sawing A Sock In Half. 2nd half: Space intro (inc Ship in Bottle in Keighley only), Johnny Cash song, The Avengers (now with Iron Man costume & Captain America, v good), Melies Bros (getting shorter every time), Fireball XL5 song, CPR, Star Trek routine (getting longer every time), Ding Dong routine, David Bowie (the hit of the 2nd half since we reworked it), and Star Wars. (Keighley also got Walk On Wild Side & Sweary Poppins).

Not tried out in these shows, and possibly dropped from Space altogether, are the Expendable song, the Bionics routine, the Taylor Swift song, and the 2001 "throw the bone" gag, which I am the only person who thinks is funny. If you saw it in the early previews, then lucky you.

COUNTDOWN TO EDINBURGH - Your chances to see the Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre before the Edinburgh Fringe 2013

May 29 - Theatr Mwdlan, Cardigan
May 31 - Exchange Arts, Keighley
June 1 - Junction, Goole
June 2 - Barnsley Civic
June 8 - Warwick Arts Centre
June 25 - Leicester Square Theatre, London
June 27 - Victoria Theatre, Halifax
June 28 - Wardrobe Theatre, Bristol
July 2, July 9 - Leicester Square Theatre, London
July 5 - The Lord Nelson, Norton Sub Hamden, Somerset
July 13 - Chapter Arts, Cardiff Comedy Festival
July 14 - Sheffield, New Barrack Tavern 2pm
July 17 - Bristol Comedy Box at the Hen & Chickens
July 18 - Larmer Tree Festival, Salisbury
July 20 - Bedford Fringe
July 21 - Derby Funhouse 3.25pm
+ Mimetic Festival, Enfield 8.30pm
July 22 - Clowns Pocket, Neath
July 26 - Lass O'Gowrie, Manchester
July 31 - Aug 25 - Gilded Balloon, 10.15pm, Edinburgh Fringe
Further dates to be added, (plus regular appearances at your local comedy club, check listings for details and, if you can't find us, ask your local comedy club to book us, it can't hurt). Watch Facebook, here or ents24 for updates.

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