It's actually happening and it is so very exciting. Thanks to funding by Arts Council England the creation of Jolie Booth's new show Sisterhood is going ahead in 2018. Jolie will be working with an incredible team of women to explore the paradigm shift of moving from an analogue world to a digital one, exploring the current state of feminism during this transition and celebrates the power of female friendships and mentorships, through the eyes of three generations of women. The team are going to squirrel themselves away for a residential weekend in April to create the main body of the show ready for an initial scratch performance at the Marlborough Theatre on Sunday 22nd April at 3pm and a full preview performance in the Brighton Fringe Festival at the Marlborough Theatre on Sunday 3rd June 7.30pm. Do come along if you can.
Now let's meet the team...
Andrea Brooks (performance creator) - Director extraordinaire. Teaches MA acting at E15. Jolie met Andrea through the New Deal (a benefit scheme created by New Labour that was actually brilliant) where she was given to Jolie as a career mentor. The piece of paper she wrote out for Jolie at their first meeting went on to become her life and they've been friends and on many adventures ever since.
Caragh Kelson-Bailey (performance creator) - Creative, witty and utterly gorgeous. Jolie met Caragh for the first time when she was thirteen and Jolie found her massaging her husband under a cart with a gaggle of other thirteen year olds, who she chased away with a large noisy bell. Caragh stuck around regardless though and they've been friends and on many adventures ever since.
Alberta Jones (production designer) - Has created many stunning sets for theatre shows over the years including TESTOSTERONE's fabulous set for Rhum and Clay (which is how Jolie met her) and also Jolie's treasured set for HIP. Jolie is very excited to be working with Alberta again.
Mish Maudsley - Jolie and Mish cut their teeth together as part of a new media collective called Nothing To See Here back in the early noughties. Jolie was learning to be an actress and a producer whilst Mish was learning to be a designer and artist. Their careers have grown together and Mish designed the logo for Jolie's wedding, which is now her tattoo, Jolie's book cover for her published novel and most of the marketing print for the shows she's worked on over the years.
Jamie-Rae Tanner - Statistician extraordinaire. Jolie met Jamie via the Bristol / Glastonbury Festival crew of the Croissant Neuf stage, who are all like a second family to Jolie. They are still getting to know each other better, but have a mutual respect for each other's adventurous spirits and strong wills
Jess Bernberg - A female lighting designer recommended to Jolie by the brilliant Geoff Hense from Arcola. Jolie was looking for a brilliant and daring designer, preferably early on in her career and Jess was sent her way.
Jolie will be blogging the development of the show as the process unfurls. To date the Research and Development funding has been secured, the residential and scratch performance have been booked, the preview in the Brighton Fringe has been registered and tickets for this are now on sale, and a slot at the Pleasance Beneath at 12.45pm each day throughout the Edinburgh Fringe has been confirmed and tickets for this will be on sale shortly. It's all happening, which is terrifying and terribly exciting.
We had the most incredible time taking our fabulous production TESTOSTERONE by trans writer Kit Redstone and theatre company Rhum and Clay to the awesome Feverestival Campinas this February with help from the British Council. We have never fallen in love with so many people so quickly...
MUSEUM OF ORDINARY PEOPLE CALL OUT:
Do you have an archive / collection of documents or objects that are important to you and tell a story of everyday / ordinary life?
The Museum of Ordinary People is holding its first free Workshop Series and is looking for participants…..
This collection could be letters left behind by a loved one / diaries or documents / found objects / a collection that chronicles a migration, a loss, a great love or anything in between...
The Museum of Ordinary people is a new project that celebrates the ripples that ordinary people leave behind, forging connections between generations and gathering stories of everyday objects. Aiming to explore and document the magic and the mundanities of ordinary life.
We are developing our first series of creative workshops working with people who have an archive or collection of documents or objects to explore them and the story they tell, leading to an exhibition held as part of the Brighton Fringe Festival. The workshop course is free and involves 6 weeks of Workshops held on a Tuesday evening (beginning in April) followed by a week long exhibition.
The workshops will be part academic learning (accessible to all) and part creative practice; Involving learning about archives and collections, objects and materiality and about artists that use objects and documents in their work and will also involve learning artistic practices to decide how to create an artistic presentation of your collection to exhibit.
There is no prerequisite for artistic experience or academic level of study (this is open to everyone) but an interest in collections, museums, art and objects is desired.
We are really interested to hear from people from all walks of life and any experiences / stories / documents are welcome!
Please like our page: https://www.facebook.com/museumofordinarypeople/
And to find our more, contact Jolie or Lucy by emailing: email@example.com
Wed 28th Feb - VAULT Festival - London
Mon 12th - Tue 13th Feb - Transforma Space - Kazakhstan
Tue 20th - Wed 21st Feb - International Theater Festival of São Paulo - San Paulo
Sat 24th - Sun 25th Feb - FEVERESTIVAL - International Festival of Theater - Campinas
Thu 1st Mar - Marlowe Theatre - Canterbury
Fri 2nd Mar - The Place - Bedford
Sat 3rd Mar - Harlow Playhouse - Harlow
Mon 5th - Wed 7th Mar - The Old Market - Brighton
Tue 13th Mar - Exeter Phoenix - Exeter
Wed 14th Mar - The Sundial - Cirencester
Thu 15th Mar - Hertford Theatre - Hertford
16th & 17th March - Newbury Corn Exchange - Newbury
Wed 21st Mar - West End Theatre - Aldershot
Tues 27th March - Norden Farm - Maidenhead
Thurs 29th & Fri 30th Mar - MAC - Birmingham
Sat 31st Mar - Lawrence Batley Theatre - Huddersfield
Tue 3rd Apr - Greenwich Theatre - Greenwich
Mon 30th Apr - Hartlepool Town Hall Theatre - Hartlepool
Tue 1st May - Saltburn Arts Theatre - Saltburn
Wed 2nd May - Alnwick Playhouse - Alnwick
Thu 3rd May - Arts Centre - Washington
Fri 4th May - The Witham - Durham
Sat 5th May - Bishop Auckland Town Hall - Bishop Auckland
Thu 10th May - New Theatre Royal - Portsmouth
What a rollercoaster ride of a month August turned out to be... I've just got back from a break post Edinburgh (which I always book in each year otherwise you just don't stop when you get back) and in a position now to be able to look back at that month objectively, I have to say it was the hardest Fringe show I have ever produced. Why? Well, partly the ticket sales seemed down somewhat across the board. Apparently the Pleasance sales were good - possibly even up - but a news report I overheard said audience numbers across the festival were down, especially in the last week. Which isn't surprising really considering the current economic climate. But the main reason why this show was difficult is because it is right at the vanguard of change. And that's exciting of course, the whole point of theatre as far as I'm concerned, but it's lonely at the vanguard and bloody hard work, I'm the most broken I have ever been after a Fringe. And this time the vanguard was less lonely then it was when I was here last time with Backstage in Biscuit Land. Back in 2014 we were the only high profile show exploring disability, along with The Vacuum Cleaner, also at Pleasance, with his incredible production Mental, exploring invisible disability. This year there were at least five high profile shows exploring transgender narratives. This meant that sometimes we heard punters say things like "Oh we've already booked in to see a 'Trans' show." Competition is healthy and the other trans narrative shows at the Fringe this year were great. Together our voices are louder, but it was still competition for ticket sales.
But it isn't about ticket sales is it? It can't be or we would never do the Fringe. No, the reasons for doing the Fringe as far as I'm concerned are these...
Edinburgh success checklist;
• Tighten the production - The production significantly tightened and developed during our month long run. The actual show developed and meant it had settled in and we were ready to hit the floor running during the British Council Showcase week at the end of the month.
• Become clearer on how to market the production - Also the marketing settled in as well. The best market research a producer can do is go out and flyer for a few weeks at Edinburgh, you'll soon find out after a while if what you're saying to punters matches what is written on the flyer. You discover what the right thing to say is to hook in audiences. Every year I get back from Edinburgh and re-write the show's blurb.
• Have industry folks talk about the show and want to book us - We managed to get the industry talking about the show. There's one major way of doing this and that's to let everyone have a comp who asks for it. That does start coming out of your own pocket eventually, but I think it is an expense that's worth paying. Industry people talk and they will talk about the show. They are the go to people in their circles of friends who are visiting the festival for information on what shows to go and see. They will talk when they get home. They then will also turn into future bookings for tours. Our comps ended up costing us around £1000, but this will be covered if just one or two of these venues go onto book us, and they already have.
• Receive a positive buzz from audiences - We received a standing ovation nearly every day and people tweeted about the show afterwards. The buzz definitely got out there. This is thanks to a mixture of postering, flyering, press and the industry buzz I mentioned earlier. Industry people tend to tweet, so they definitely helped with our online presence. Another plus to flyering for a show as a producer is you bump into people who saw a performance in the days to come and you can ask them what they thought and how they would sell the show to other audiences? And obviously at the end of each performance we asked the audience to tell their friends about the show and to tweet about it.
• Get good reviews for future touring - For this you need a PR person. You can't do PR on your own. A good PR person knows the big journalists personally and understands how all the broadsheets, smaller publications and blogs work, so that they can tailor the way they pitch your show to attract as many of the right publications as possible. Reviews do and don't matter. At the actual Fringe they help with morale and depending on the publication can help a bit with ticket sales, but even a good review or even a whole article from Lyn Gardner does not a full house make. The main use for reviews is for use on your flyers and posters afterwards. With reviews, it is more about the quality of the publication then about the stars. A four star review from Lyn Gardner needs to be up on your poster before and above a five star review from a blogger no one has heard of. If you're not sure which of your review publications are the most prestigious, look at which ones other companies are using, especially companies you think of as a rung or two above you on the professional ladder.
• Earn a 'sold out' laurel - We sold out a good few shows, but we didn't actually achieve a 'sold out' laurel this year. The sell-out status of your show is determined a few weeks after your Fringe box office payout has been sent to you at the end of September. The show would have had to sell 95% of its capacity across the entire registered run (excluding previews) from both the Fringe box office allocation and the venue box office allocation in order to qualify. The copyrighted logo was introduced to combat a growing tendency for shows to advertise a "total sell-out in 2009" when, in fact, they had simply sold out for one night of the run, perhaps when they stuffed the auditorium full of their family and friends. It is a bit arbitrary still though as a 50 seater sell out run receives the same laurel as a 150 seater sell out run. But every little logo helps, especially when it comes to designing your flyers and posters.
• Win an award - We won the Indies award for Best Theatre, Family, Musical or Dance Show at the Pleasance, Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2017, which was great. Awards are like reviews, they help your morale during the Fringe and they are another selling point to promoters and audiences. Even an award nomination is worth talking about.
• Be part of the British Council Showcase and attract international theatre promoters - The showcase week went exceptionally well and was full of surprises. We had been expecting the show to be of interest to the English speaking delegates from places like Canada, the US, Australia and New Zealand, but to our surprise it was very much taken up by the South American delegates - from all over South America - and the South East Asian delegates too. These delegates saw the show and then expressed an interest in wanting to book us to bring our production to their countries, which is very exciting news.
Off the back of all this I will now be able to build a national and international tour. This means I am certainly chuffed. It was hard work, but we got what we needed. And the show feels in better shape now then it did when we headed up to Edinburgh at the start of August. Which is the main thing.
Genre: Feminism, Verbatim, Physical Theatre. Venue: Paradise in Augustine's. Festival: Edinburgh Fringe
The Low Down
A new verbatim play devised by Mary Higgins and Ell Potter, HOTTER platforms the voices of everyone - from grannies to trans women to teenage girls. By drawing on their own experiences as well as collating the stories of others, HOTTER presents a nuanced and uncensored portrayal of the human body. The show fuses recordings, movement and original music to explore how our bodies can make us both laugh and cry.
This was a punt on an unknown venue, with an unknown theatre company to see a proper fringe show. It had been recommended to me through a conversation with a group of sassy, creative, vibrant twenty-year-old women. We enjoyed one of those rare and nourishing conversations that gets right into the nuts and bolts of things, in this case the subject had been about gender, and it had led them to recommend this show to me, so I decided to trust them on it. Which in turn led to me taking a whole gang of friends, made up of mixed genders, to go and see Hotter.
The show is simply staged. We enter the auditorium and there's already two young women striking a pose on the stage adorned in brightly coloured clothes. Hanging along the ceiling is bunting made out of cartoon pictures of vaginas, which we discover later is called 'Cunting'. The show opens with the women mouthing along verbatim to interview recordings about whether the interviewees preferred being cold or hot. The two performers are instantly charismatic, funny and endearing. They mouth along to the words perfectly, which sets me at ease. It showed commitment to their craftsmanship and this allowed me to relax... It wasn't going to be awful. The piece opened feeling like Creature Comforts and was just as funny. But this was only the beginning.
What unfolds before us is a colourful collage of questions, reflections and discoveries about the female experience and about living with a body that doesn't always feel like it's your own. Some moments are funny, some moments are painfully sad and some are deliciously surreal. But the whole piece feels truthful and beautifully washed with brightly coloured playfulness. Overall it leaves you with an overwhelming sense of celebration.
Mary Higgins and Ell Potter are endearing performers and they remain committed throughout the show to the sometimes peculiar choices they've made with the piece, but their commitment to every choice means you feel right behind them every step of the way and in turn feel supported as an audience member to go there with them. I was genuinely impressed with the confidence they had in their delivery. Even when being vulnerable and revealing their cracks to us, it was delivered in a strong and confident way. It was a pleasure to watch them work.
The show ends with a wonderful moment of festivity and elation. This left us all with a strong sense of unity and generosity towards both ourselves and each other. This show is by women, but it isn't just about being a woman. Anyone who has experienced having a body will enjoy this show. Bodies are complicated places to be and we all left the theatre feeling we had laughed, cried and celebrated our own bodies in a room full of other people doing the very same thing. It was a brilliant fringe moment and I highly recommend getting out the big venues and going and taking a punt on this.
Genre: Children's Theatre, Clowning.Venue: Pleasance. Festival: Edinburgh Fringe
The Low Down
Climate change is massive and Bees aren’t... Multi award-winning theatre company, ThisEgg, invites you to save the world – one bee at a time. A new comedy for children and adults alike, co-produced by Pleasance.
This is the first piece of children's theatre I've been to this year and the bar has been set incredibly high. The show doesn't feel like it has been written for children, it feels like it could just as easily have been written for adults. The educational information is expertly woven in amongst the humour and there are facts in there that I'd never heard before, meaning this show taught me things I didn't already know about bees, both about what they do and how catastrophic it is going to be if or when we lose them.
All three of the performers are adorable in their own ways. Josie Dale-Jones has a deliciously sadistic edge and the makings of a colourful little dictator, Greta Mitchell feels like she's just walked out of the TV set and into your living room from CBeebies, and Joe Boylan brings delightful clowning to the stage as a giant huggable bee. The dynamic between the three of them is great fun to watch.
The premise of the show is funny, but I don't want to give too much away. It's a simple and effective set up. The way the storyline, characters and bee facts unfold is smooth... Nothing feels shoehorned in. They deal seamlessly with issues like people being scared of bees due to getting stung, by demonstrating how much worse it is for the bee, whose insides are ripped out along with their sting and they also point out that only female bees sting anyway - which I didn't know. Joe is a great clown and his bee interpretation keeps you chortling throughout. If you entered the theatre scared of bees you'll leave feeling like all you want to do is give them a great big cuddle.
It's a simplistic piece without too much set. A flip chart and some party hats are pretty much all they need, but with these few items they create a medley of colourful moments. This show feels fresh and contemporary. Not at all what I had been expecting. There wasn't a hint of condescension or dumbing down, pitched perfectly between adult humour and younger silliness, interlaced with clear useful and pretty worrying information. But it also comes with answers for what can be done to help, which is refreshing. Adult theatre so often poses problems, but then leaves the audience to figure out how to make a difference. This show has an answer for how to help and gives it to you... Quite literally.
There are genuine moments of belly laughter throughout, from both the little ones in the audience and the adults alike. And I'm pretty sure everyone left that theatre a fully fledged signed up member of the Bee Party.
We are creeping closer to the half way point of this year's Edinburgh Festival and it has been the usual rollercoaster ride of ups and downs, but this year's fringe really has been an eye opening experience for my team here at TESTOSTERONE. Having produced a number of different productions at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival over many years now, this has been the first time that a show my awesome team and I have flyered for has caused such a visibly disdainful reaction. TESTOSTERONE has proven to be much more divisive than I think we had perhaps naively expected. Although TESTOSTERONE is not simply a trans narrative, but an objective look at the sometimes toxic world of masculinity through the eyes of a new man, around one in ten tables of punters start slipping each other sideways glances as soon as you mention there's a transgender person at the centre of this show. Some people are outright telling us this show is not for them as soon as we mention this.
There are many productions with transgender narratives at the Fringe this year. The overwhelming difference between TESTOSTERONE and the other shows being presented is that our production is not about being transgender or transitioning. That does appear as part of Kit's story, but our focus is one step beyond that, transitioning has happened and is a thing of the past. What we're interested in is what then happens once a FTM transgender person becomes immersed in the world of masculinity? What is the difference between the two gender worlds that they have experienced? What has Kit learnt? What has been gained and what has been lost? What does it mean to be a man? The perspective of TESTOSTERONE has far more in common with Grayson Perry's The Descent of Man than it does with the other trans narrative shows at the Fringe this year. Perry observes in his ground breaking book that “Gender inequality is a huge issue for all of us and… the world would be a better place without it.” “I often look at men and think that they seem to be victims of this drive to perform their gender. What are they afraid of? Why do they play the man so extremely, whether with muscles or knowledge or wit?” “Boys are taught to be brave but in quite a specific way, mainly when facing physical danger on the sports field or in the playground. But what about emotional danger?” TESTOSTERONE is an almost feminist, light unpacking of this big and crucial issue. It's not providing answers, merely signposting theatre goers who might not have heard of Perry's argument to the beginning of the conversation.
But because there's a trans person at the centre of this provocation it has proven to be divisive. We knew it would be, but it is interesting to experience this out in the field. I've said for years now that if it can be true to say that the future exists in a science lab somewhere then it can also be true to say that the future of culture exists at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. When I came here three years ago with Backstage in Biscuit Land by Touretteshero, the theatre and entertainment landscape across the UK presented a noticeably different face to the one we see now. The Edinburgh Festival Fringe itself was significantly less accessible, fewer theatres around the UK had considered how a person who uses a wheelchair might gain access to their stage - let alone get around the dressing rooms or have use of an accessible toilet from backstage. Comedians were still making inappropriate jokes about mental health and disability. It was socially normally for people to use discriminative language as part of their everyday speech. Three years later and any comedians making the same kind of jokes now get lampooned for it, language on the whole has been cleared up, and - in no small part influenced by the success of Backstage in Biscuit Land -many festivals around the UK are now much more on it with regards to Access, including the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. There's still a long way to go obviously and it's not all down to Touretteshero, but Jess Thom's work has been a big driving force. The Edinburgh Festival Fringe implemented a three year access improvement business plan off the back of a meeting and discussion they had with Jess about her problems with getting around the city. The Pleasance Courtyard, which presented Backstage in Biscuit Land, has gone through a redevelopment and access has been at the heart of their improvements. Venues the show toured to throughout the UK have been able to push access to the fore - many of these local authority run, and often one of the last front line services being offered by councils and often the last department thinking about access and inclusion at the moment. By presenting a show like Backstage in Biscuit Land and inviting Councillors to see the show, venues have been able to demonstrate the need to implement a host of step changes in improving access and inclusion at their venue and throughout the council as well as helping cement their importance as a necessary front line service. Last of all, relaxed performances and access needs have become woven into the very fabric of theatre making. The culture around access in this country has noticeably shifted since one little production of Backstage in Biscuit Land nervously wheeled out onto the stage for the first time at the Pleasance Above in 2014.
And we are already seeing the same with trans issues of inclusion at this year's Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Many of the venues now have gender neutral toilets. I keep hearing the same conversation where ever I go... Men complaining they have to queue more now. Women pleased they no longer have to queue for so long. But no one really outright objecting. People get used to things very quickly... That's why we've done so well as a species. We adapt. In three or four years time this will almost certainly be the norm all over the country. And the sneers and up turned noses being experienced by my flyer team and I at the moment is simply paving the way for future trans performers who will be flyering this very same courtyard years from now without it being any kind of big deal at all. Adapting to be more inclusive and thoughtful of the needs of other people on the fringes of society is one of the best things about being British. We do it. And I think part of the reason why we are one of the more inclusive societies in the world is because we have the Edinburgh Fringe Festival driving this along. And then we take that drive and promote this inclusion all over the globe through the work of the British Council. It feels great to be part of this pollination process and it gives me the strength to continue flyering regardless of the rain and intermittent sour faces. We are paving the way for future smiles.
Genre: Drama, Solo Show. Venue: Pleasance. Festival: Edinburgh Fringe.
The Low Down
Based on a true story, Yvette is a one woman show with original music about a stolen childhood and growing up with a secret.
The writing and direction of this play is beautifully crafted. It begins with an endearing opening that instantly draws you into the character of the story; Evie, a thirteen-year-old who lives in Neasden with her Mum. She is funny, bubbly, young and full of spirit. She wants to tell us all about her crush on Lewis, trying to be a woman, friends, virginity, garage remixes, hello kitty underwear... Urielle Klein-Mekongo is instantly likeable as an actress, her sassy performance and swinging moves are on point and she has you laughing and putty in her hands in not time.
Which is when the gristle of the story really lands in your laps. There is an ‘Uncle’ lurking in the corner of her story. And the effects of her experiences with him leave imprints on her mental health and day-to-day behaviour that Evie has to then spend her formative years unravelling and making sense of as she tries to find her path into the world of womanhood. Mixed up in all of this is the colour of her skin and size of her body. How does a young scarred woman find ways to love herself when the world around her is telling her daily that nothing is right about her?
This is a vital piece of work highlighting mental health issues in the BAME community and an area of conversation that doesn't receive enough focus. Watching this production it became strikingly obvious how being judged every day on what you look like and discovering that from the moment of your birth the cards you've been dealt in life have been stacked against you, that mental health issues would be hard pushed to avoid. And if you then chuck into the mix the trials and tribulations of life as a woman, regardless of colour and creed, you'll soon find you have all the ingredients necessary for a heady mix of possible breakdown scenarios and invisible disabilities. The writing also alludes to male issues in the BAME community too, young men growing up with pre-ordained peer pressures, and the futures this means they often find themselves steered towards growing into.
Staged simply but effectively the theatrical elements woven into this piece punctuate the script with lingering images. The soundtrack is funky and Urielle's singing and dance moves are utterly fabulous. All these elements transport you into teenage parties, school classrooms, sacred adolescent bedrooms and humiliating bathroom beauty attempts.
Urielle is a strong woman and Evie, the lady this true story is based on, is also strong. This means the story doesn't just hit you in the heart but also pulls fire up into your belly. The issues in this play are not okay, are far too familiar and way too ignored. It's a beautifully crafted piece of writing, with precise direction and just the right mixture of laughter, tears, and the desire to act that are what make for great theatre. Winner of the Young Harts Writing Fest Audience Favourite, Kings Head Theatre Stella Wilkie Award and The East15 Pulse Award in 2017, Urielle Klein-Mekongo is certainly a writer and actress to look out for.
Tour, Tour, Tour!
It can take ages for anything to happen, so don't be impatient, but make sure when you get home you email the people you met. You're given a book filled with the delegates you meet and it has photos. After presenting Backstage in Biscuit Land at the showcase, when I got home, I went through this booklet with a highlighter and marked off everyone I'd met and anyone I thought the show would be of interest to, whether I'd met them or not. Then I emailed them all personally, sending the information sheet again and let them know we were interested in working with them. We fairly quickly secured a date in Toronto. This meant that the game was on for building a North American tour, because venues need to share the costs if possible. We were able to secure shows in New York, San Francisco and LA. This took place in March, the spring after the showcase, which was pretty quick. It was great. The accommodation provided for us was incredible and the venues were so warm and welcoming.
Visas and tax are a nightmare so you have to just relax and take your time with this. Get as much help as you can from the British Council, who have done this job a thousand times. Whatever you do don't panic. If anything goes wrong and your visa gets rejected it's not the end of the line necessarily. These folks are used to this happening and they're there to help.
We also got booked for a tour in Australia of Sydney, Brisbane and Adelaide, which happened at the end of the year after the showcase. There were also separate bookings in Belgrade, Sweden and Norway. This has been since 2015 and there's always the possibility that more shows abroad will be booked in still.
The show translated well into the different cultures we visited and was warmly received. As mentioned before it felt like we were making a difference in the world and this is such an honour. Really the the whole reason I make theatre is to try and make the world a better place and to mix this with getting to travel as part of my dream job... Well, it's the experience of a lifetime.
Network, Network, Network!
I love networking, which is lucky, as that's the main point of the British Council Showcase. Obviously the delegates from around the world come and see your show during their visit and decide if it is for them or not. The work speaks the most. If your show isn't going to be suitable for their audience then they ain't gonna book ya. But it is possible to win over delegates who perhaps can't quite see how the work will fit in, but are open to persuasion. That's when the networking events come in... There are three types of main events; the opening ceremony, the networking breakfasts and the closing party.
The opening ceremony is fabulous. It makes you feel really special and it is the moment when you get to see everyone's faces, so you know over the coming week that these people are either fellow performers, producers or international delegates. Clock them, remember them, and if you don't get the chance to speak to them at one of the networking events then you might bump into them at another show. I won the pot of cash at Money by Kaleider in 2015 by buying into the table in the last half hour and suggesting the money goes to Touretteshero (because they wanted to give the money to a good cause, a performer and to something that was fun. Touretteshero 'ticced' all these boxes) and at the show (because it was also in the showcase) were delegates from South Korea. They then grabbed me at the next breakfast to say hello and to congratulate me on the win.
The breakfasts are great. The British Council put on a proper good spread and everyone's there downing coffee and chatting shop. Don't stress out. Eat your fill, don't worry about having to look like you're talking to someone the whole time. It's early, so get your sugar and caffeine levels up first of all and then worry about networking. If you see a friendly face latch onto them and go prepared with some interesting tales to tell and decent questions that will ensure the person you've latched onto has to talk to you for a little while at least. It's a good idea to know at least a bit about each show on the showcase so that you know who people are if you find yourself speaking to a fellow performer. Have your packs to hand - this is your information sheet, a flyer, your business card and any other bits you can afford to add in, all within a plastic wallet. Some people get badges made or stickers. If you can afford it then do it. If you can't then don't worry, the most important thing is the show.
Top tip with business cards... Make sure there's room in the design to be able to write stuff on them. If there's a recognisable thing about you (I've got leopard print hair for example) then write this onto your cards before putting them into the packs. It's personable and means they won't forget who you are. Make sure when you're get a card given to you, as soon as the person who gave it to you leaves, write on the card what you talked about and where, so you're not left with a load of meaningless cards at the end of the fringe. This was the best networking tip anyone ever gave me and means business cards remain useful years after they were given to you.
The last event is the end of Showcase party. Everyone wants to go to this and it's a proper party. Obviously don't do anything stupid, but do have fun. We got a few extra bookings from being the most fun people at the party in 2015. Think about it, if you run a venue then not only are you looking for great shows, but you also collect great people. If you liked a team and thought it would be fun to hang out with them then you're likely to programme them at your venue, invite them over to your country and hang out with them. Do be yourself, have fun - don't get pissed and try and pull - but do get pissed, dance and be fabulous.
Once Selected for the Showcase by the British Council
The British Council will contact you and let you know if your application has been successful. If it has then they will ask you to give them some additional information about your company and then they will send over a production company to meet you to make a promotional video for them to use as a way of introducing your work to the international delegates attending the showcase. To see examples of these videos then the one for Backstage in Biscuit Land is here and the one for TESTOSTERONE is here.
You need to then look back at your application and cast a critical eye over your budgeting and offer. Strangely, the British Council Showcase isn't really that different from a normal Edinburgh run, in that you still book your own venue and do all the same promotion you would normally do (though obviously the additional marketing of being part of the showcase helps vastly) and in terms of putting together your information pack you need to think along the same lines as you would normally for touring to UK venues. Your budget for touring internationally needs to be realistic - no one has any money anymore - and your offer has to stand out. Just because you're in the showcase doesn't mean the delegates are going to book you. It's no different to a normal run in that sense. There are many things to consider when trying to get booked, for example dance shows will always do well because there isn't the language barrier. If your work is text heavy then non-English speaking countries will need to know why their audience might want to come and see your show? In this case it either needs to be visually spectacular, or high quality work that is exceptional to watch and can be enjoyed even if you don't understand the language, or it involves challenging social and cultural norms in some way that can be utilised as an agent for change. Just like with UK tour booking, your work isn't necessarily going to be right for all audiences at all the venues you approach, so don't be disappointed if a delegate can't see you fitting in with their programming.
But there are ways to make yourself more enticing.
For example, the legacy of touring Backstage in Biscuit Land was that the venues we visited had to rethink their backstage areas. Funnily enough we didn't know this was going to happen when we set out to do the show, even though the title of the show suggests otherwise. The reason for this was that in theatres the front of house is accessible, but an assumption is often made at the design stage that wheelchair users will not be needing to access the backstage areas of the theatre and therefore backstage can often lack accessible toilets, dressing rooms and even wheelchair access to the stage. One of the legacies left behind from touring the show therefore was for venues to rethink the design of their buildings, creating a cultural shift in expectations that will hopefully make it easier for other performers who are wheelchair users in the future. With TESTOSTERONE we are hoping for the same kind of legacy, with regards to supporting trans audiences and performers, the issue of gendered toilets being an immediate conversation that springs to mind. If a show is likely to encourage a trans audience to the venue, how is the venue going to let this new possible audience stream know that they are entering a safe space that has considered their needs and is welcoming. Offering gender neutral toilets is an immediate action the venue can take that speaks volumes. Both front of house and backstage.
With the information sheet therefore (to be given out at the Networking Events, which I'll talk about in my next post) your budget needs to be reasonable, your information needs to entice and you need to have considered what you're offering to the delegates. After that it's pretty much a normal Edinburgh Fringe run. You'll be told when you can announce to the public that you're in the showcase and you are encouraged to do this with great aplomb... And rightly so. In a festival of over 3000 productions, a showcase that makes you stand out from the crowd is a massive boost, for the show you're presenting and for your future as a company. It's a big deal and the fringe is a lot of fun when the ride has been made this much easier for you. But it is a responsibility. You are representing, not just the UK culturally, but also theatre as a sector. We tend to want to impress and make a difference in the world as theatre makers, and this is an opportunity to do just that.
Being Selected for the Showcase
It's very excited to be taking TESTOSTERONE by Rhum and Clay, in collaboration with writer/director & trans man Kit Redstone, up to the British Council Showcase in Edinburgh this year. This is the second showcase in a row that a production I've produced has been selected, so I thought that this time I'd share my experiences and tips. So here it goes...
First of all, to get onto the British Council Showcase you need to apply. The showcase is biannual and the application process opens around October of the fallow year. To be kept in the loop follow the Showcase Blog here.
I'm beginning to appreciate what kind of work the showcase is looking for... On the road with Backstage in Biscuit Land last year one of the wonderful things we discovered is how progressive the UK is. I mean obviously there's a long way to go still, but in terms of conversations regarding access and inclusion, excluding Canada, the UK felt leagues ahead of many of the countries we visited. This should be celebrated. Which is what the British Council's creative arm is for - celebrating British culture. As an aside, I think it would be in the British Council's interest to do some promotion of this achievement in the UK too. All too often the narrative of being a 'Brit' includes the image of drunk xenophobic skin heads, but the reality is that we are inclusive progressives, and this is something we should be shouting about from the roof tops and proud of, it ought to be part of the 'What it means to be a Brit' lexicon. It makes sense therefore that Backstage in Biscuit Land was selected to be part of the showcase and TESTOSTERONE equally so. Both harbour a series of powerful, important conversations at the heart of a high quality playful piece of theatre. Not all work in the showcase is political, it's showcasing quality work first and foremost, work that will sell to international audiences, but if that quality is also moving relevant conversations forward and is challenging cultural norms then all the better.
You don't have to be an established theatre company to be selected, Backstage in Biscuit Land was Touretteshero's first ever theatre show, but Touretteshero did already have a proven track record of delivering high quality events, talks and training, so you do have to demonstrate that you are able to deliver work that will represent the country in a professional light whilst overseas.
Last of all, the British Council need to have seen the work. This can be sent to them as a film, but it's always better for them to have seen the show live.
Selina Thompson Ltd
A journey to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. In February 2016, two artists got on a cargo ship to retrace one of the routes of the Transatlantic Slave Triangle – from the UK to Ghana to Jamaica and back. Their memories, their questions and their grief took them along the bottom of the Atlantic and through the figurative realm of an imaginary past. It was a long journey forwards in order to go backwards. This show is what they brought back. Commissioned by Yorkshire Festival, Theatre Bristol and MAYK. Supported by Arts Council England.
Touretteshero and Battersea Arts Centre
Jess Thom has Tourettes, a condition that means she makes movements and noises she can't control, called tics. Following the award-winning Backstage in Biscuit Land, she takes on Samuel Beckett's short play in a theatrical experience that explores neurodiversity and asks who is allowed to perform what and who gets the final say. All performances are relaxed. This means that if you tic, shout or move about, you're more than welcome.
£¥€$ (LIES) – Ontroerend Goed
Big in Belgium, Theatre Royal Plymouth, Vooruit, Richard Jordan Productions
‘The best way to rob a bank is to own one’ (William Crawford, Commissioner of the California Department of Savings and Loans). Ontroerend Goed invites you to get under the skin of the well-to-do, the 1%, the super rich, the ones who pull the strings, the faces we never get to see. For one night, you can take their chairs. You call the shots. You're in the centre of our economic system. You shape the course. And who knows, you might make the world a better place, more fair, more responsible because you'll do things differently, for sure.
A Talawa Theatre Company, HighTide and Soho Theatre production
Three girls. Best friends forever. All the big issues: love, sex and religion... But when they're kidnapped from home, their world is turned upside down. The only hashtag that matters now is survival. A funny and fiercely passionate new play about enduring friendship, the power of imagination and the stories behind the headlines that quickly become yesterday's news. Written by the Alfred Fagon and joint George Devine Award-winner Theresa Ikoko. Shortlisted for Soho Theatre's Verity Bargate Award. Part of the British Council 2017 Showcase. 'Scorchingly intelligent and as powerful as a gut punch' **** (Times).
- Try and get into a good venue - This is my biggest tip. If you can get into one of the top five venues it will make your life so much easier. Especially Pleasance Courtyard or Summerhall. The reason for this is because they have contained areas of people you can flyer to. If you can avoid the Royal Mile it conserves some much needed energy. When flyering, stop and talk to the people and have a proper chat, don't just shove a flyer in their hand. That's why it helps to have a venue where you can sit down and have a good ten minutes with the people you're flyering. This genuinely gets bums on seats.
- PR - If you can afford a PR person then do it. Normally they cost around £1500, but they are well worth it as they will get you the reviews you need for future marketing.
- Spread your marketing techniques - If you can afford some of the big posters you see outdoors on the boards around the city then these are the best form of marketing. The basic package starts at around £1000 and you book this through a company called Out of Hand. Don't go crazy with printing posters and flyers. You only need between 200-300 posters and up to 3000 flyers. Don't waste paper by getting too many. A good, reliable, quick and cheap online printers is solopress.com. It's worth paying a distribution company to get some of these out around the city, on top of your team going out and putting some up themselves. Out of Hand charge £420 for 3 weeks of poster and flyer distribution.
- Definitely utilise all of the free social media tricks - Follow the other acts at your venue on Twitter and try to find ways to cross promote, set up a Hootsuite account and create a proper campaign of tweets that are scheduled in so you don't have to worry about them anymore, then top these up with regular fun tweets, instagram photos, etc. Make an event on Facebook. Invite theatre bloggers to see your show and link up with them online.
- Order a food shop online for your arrival - When you get there you have to hit the floor running and you can easily find it's suddenly week two and you have spent a fortune and eaten badly. Arrange an online food shop to arrive for when you get there. Then you can make sure you've budgeted properly and have some healthy food available for you to just grab in a hurry. Take tupperware with you so you can make yourself packed lunches.
And don't forget your walking boots/ wellies and raincoat... It often rains.
There is plenty at the Pleasance venues to appeal. Derevo are back with a new piece, Last Clown on Earth, to celebrate their first gig on the fringe 20 years ago. Gecko’s The Dreamer is a Chinese-inspired take on A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Cardboard Citizens’ Cathy is inspired by the Ken Loach film Cathy Come Home. The Wardrobe Ensemble dissect 1990s school life in Education, Education, Education. The New Diorama explore the Secret Life of Humans, Rhum and Clay examine masculinity in Testosterone, Jess Thom (AKA Touretteshero) is performing Beckett’s Not I and Paper Cinema bring their animation skills to Macbeth.
For full article click here.
Bunty #101Collabz + Barnacles (horns drums heaviness)
By Michael Kemp — May 30, 2017
Under the spreading petals of an illuminated purple flower, the Brighton Spiegeltent pulses into life.
Four members of Barnacles approach the fifth (the drummer) from the mirror-ball floor, horns initially playing a mournful/joyous ragged New Orleans funeral march as they weave their way through the gaudy-hued Festival revellers. Closer to the stage they turn up the intensity, the repertoire becomes livelier ~ breaking into dizzying time signatures and gravity-defying stop/start punctuation marks, traces of vintage James Brown/Famous Flames riffs, squeals of free jazz ~ leaving us primed, and hungry for more, by the interval…
A few more drinks from the Spiegeltent bar, and then, visuals flickering into life on the screen behind her, the crowd go wild, and we stand and behold the sonic enchantment which is Bunty Looping ~ spinning words beyond language, inventing new languages, opening new doors, to strange and unfamiliar landscapes, experimental soundscapes ~ coaxing fresh-as-fuck sounds to enthral, to excite, to explore…
Jomotopia’s retina-pleasing single-frame and swirling images meld with Bunty’s astounding vocal gymnastics, surprises and twists at every turn, a shapeshifting Kali-esque destruction of genders and national borders ~ she rises up and crushes the staid corporate world between her amorous thighs ~ there is a communal sense of awe and wonderment ~ and much dancing ~ there is an inspired call and response from opposite ends of the tent with jungle girlchild Bellatrix ~ circling each other like exotic species of birds in some Henri Rousseau canvas ~ microphones at dawn ~ seamlessly fusing the spiritual with the corporeal ~ whipping up the-mother-of-all-storms and generally raising the roof, or tearing the roof right off, the Brighton Spiegeltent. Bunty Looping gives 200% ~ no half measures…
Huzzah! (and a brandy cocktail on the way home at “Be At One” bar).
Wednesday 24th May 2017
Don't think Mr Buxton really requires a review from Kriya Arts, but having enjoyed such a wondrous evening it seemed rude not to. As someone who was late to the party on both the Adam Buxton and David Bowie front, this show felt like a fairground whistle stop tour through the deliciously eccentric minds of both men and made for full belly laughs, moments of poignancy and even the odd tear.
Buxton's playful delve into the YouTube comments beneath his favourite Bowie videos are comedy gold. I'll be 'poofreading' my comments for ever more. And Bowie's antics on Pett Beach struck a deep chord... I am also just some "c**t in a clown suit."
On a sad and depressing day, Buxton lifted a very heavy spirit in the room and reminded us that life is a gift and coming together in shared spaces to be entertained and laugh as one is part of life's richest delights. Our time here should be lived to its fullest splendour and with a wry tongue in cheek smile... As Bowie did... And Adam does a pretty good job of doing too.