Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Getting Personal = Part One

Promotion and publicity is a tough game in the world of performing arts. It's a heady maze to stay ahead of the game, site specific work and quirky devised formats seem to hold the heads of traditional writing firmly under the water, so enamoured are they with the general arts bonhomie. In a world where the stunt is the thing, independent new writing has a complex dilemma in how to generate interest whilst remaining integral and relevant to the piece.

Seeing as the show begins from the pages of the personal ads, I decided it'd be a good idea to revisit my initial research for WLTM = (Bait&Switch), delving deep into the personals once again. During my initial research, I purged through many personals both in newspapers and online. I placed a few bogus ads and watched as a few tentative replies came in. I didn't pursue after the initial contact, as I wanted to build the narrative from that initial, tentative uncertainty. The hallmarks of first dates; the skittish awkwardness and nervousness, but also how much people gave about themselves as an introduction. I would love to write in more detail about how much these responses inspired many elements of the show, but the truth is this original draft was very different from the play as it is now. That original draft bears little resemblance to the finished article; it was a four person monologue show which in the end became so mouthy and, dare I say it, boring that I had to change tact. Looking back, I think I over-reached myself somewhat, the play was shoehorned with characters with a little less grace than Spiderman 3. The whole narrative was in drastic need of focusing, so I took on the key elements of the story which I wanted to remain, trimmed the cast to two and so began the show as it is now.

The personal ads in the show are from the newspaper, as opposed to the internet. Maybe it's some kind of snobbishness, but I felt it was deeply necessary to make that distinction clear in the narrative. Of course nowadays the internet is clearly the preferred medium, but it was important to contextualise it for the newspaper personals; the reason being was initially that I didn't want to make it too 'faddish' but moreso that I didn't want it to be too familiar to people. Social networking and internet dating have adapted into a highly accessible medium. The art of online seduction is too easy. I wanted the characters to be immersed in a sub-culture. The personal ads, antiquated but still going strong, seemed ideal. In meeting they could be discreet, but the format and the process in getting there required a full commitment.

I could expand further, but I think that will do for tonight. They're in the newspaper because the internet seemed effortless and easy. And with less than two weeks to go, frantically racking my brains with Ru for a promotional solution, this was effortless and easy (click for larger)

I placed another ad! Pretty plain, I thought... mildly intriguing but little more. Now my next hope was to see what tentative responses I might get. Well, there's a reason for the delay in posting this blog, and for blanking out that text number too. The responses weren't tentative at all. They were immense, and unrelenting.

Almost sixty emails, and the text phone has simply not stopped ringing or going off. I think the texts must be approaching seventy, so far. Clearly this was unprecedented... but all these people? It seems too good to waste. Some of the effort they've gone to has really impressed me. It's only fair that I reward that intrigue. Question is, can I get any of them to go on an actual, real life date?

Better still, can I get them to come on a date to the Oxford Arms in Camden on opening night just before curtain up?... Find out more in part two...

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Musical Theatre goes to Pot... Noodle!

Ask any of my friends what they think I can't consume enough of and they'll tell you straight, it's the performing arts. No question. Well, that's what i'd like them to say anyway. In reality, they're more likely to say junk food, much to my disappointment. But it seems at That Fringe Festival Over The Border is welcoming a show that has an unusual marriage of the two; Pot Noodle the Musical.

The Guardian blogs have been getting quite feverish about this, and it certainly raises some interesting arguments about sponsorship or corporate involvement. It doesn't help the prosecution either when the event appears to be under the umbrella of the the now seperate comedy festival, which hasn't been met too favourably with a lot of people.

Obviously it's a two edged sword, on one hand artists strive for creative control and integrity, but to do so often demands are placed on corporate sponsors to simply cough up the cash and let them get on with it. The full scale musical advert is hardly a subversive idea, they've got a very committed and experienced team on board, and weighing it against the tone of the advertisements on television it would be expected that more slightly self deprecating absurdist humour will follow. We've self funded for two years now, and it's been a struggle for the most part, so funding may be something we could be cofounded with facing in the not too distant future. What to do if only corporate cash is on offer? Naturally, there's the fear of 'selling out', which is prevalent in the minds of all artists. I think if it’s done subtly and sensitively there’s no problem with strong show sponsorship. The over-riding fear, I guess, is that people will be worried if the floodgates open and soon the theatre will be subject to instructions from corporate advertising chiefs. I suspect this is irrational, but time will tell.

For WLTM = (Bait&Switch), I did daydream of how funny it would have been to get a dating site to agree to sponsor the show, perhaps persuading them to empty their pockets without seeing it or knowing what was to unfold… I doubt we’d have ever gotten away with it. if you see the show, perhaps you will agree as well.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Modus Operandi

I fell into the beartrap. I left the blog unattended. One entry and then I was gone. It's so, so easily done. Look! I've even fiddled with the date so the post I made in January looks like it was written a few days ago. And I would have gotten away with it if it wasn't for that pesky... me. Telling you.

I'm a little disappointed in myself, because much has happened over the past few months and i've neglected to be webwise. This makes me an absolute idiot, and i've only myself to blame for dismal box office returns. As a web user, I LOVE blogs. Love 'em. Can't get enough of all that reading. Which makes me a plank for not continuing with my own, and giving web visitors or anyone interested in seeing our shows NO incentive to come online. What a prize berk.

So i've decided to slog on with the blog, and I promise to be more proactive. I've brought that date forward to encourage some continuity, to renew my vows almost. Now that the das théatre main website is down (struggling to get Dreamweaver to do what I want, and yes i'm rather particular about how I want it all to look) the blog is an excellent way to keep you up to date in the run up to CAMDEN which is all very exciting. I mean, really exciting. It's a bit of a milestone for us to finally be on the London fringe at last, I can't tell you how overwhelmed and proud I am to be here.

So my aim is to keep on top of things, and update you as things progress. Well, as much as i'm prepared to reveal anyway. I'm making a pact with myself not to whinge or vent, especially in the heat of the moment when things can drag a little and nothing seems to go well... it does happen! das théatre does have it's down days. But I won't give away too many secrets, or i'll ruin the magic of the theatre!

Hopefully if some interesting industry stuff comes up i'll comment a little on that too...

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Introduction and Justification

Hello, and welcome to my new blog.

That's the easy bit out of the way. But you see, it's with an awkward stance I begin this new foray into blogging. This time, unlike previous attempts, I'm trying to write something of worth over a document of my own tedious vanity. Not that i'm above it. I've fallen into the bear trap of 'hey, so like... um, this is my life. And I went here today, and did all these things...'

And who on earth wants to read that? I certainly don't.

There's something about blogs and blogging and online journals etc, which just seems to teeter endlessly over a pit of self-ridiculing indulgence and dullard opinion. I would hate to fall into all that. Again.

I wanted to write about mine and Del's experiences with das théatre. Last summer, on the way to rehearsals for 'Penetrator', we found ourselves carrying large holdalls full of props and paraphenalia sans Steve. Struggling down the road in the midsummer heat, I turned to my great friend and co-director and said; 'Did you ever imagine, having your own company... doing your own shows... and it turning out like this?'. Dragging hulking great bags across Twickenham. I wonder if Max Stafford-Clarke ever did this?

But it's experiences such as this (along with flooded campsites, venue hires, printing, lighting boards) which compel me back into the Blogosphere. I felt that these experiences should be documented. At first I considered writing a book, but I think without the occasional touch of humour or slight deviation from topic it would just seem really clinical and offputting. The fluidity of a blog allows an open, informal platform. Immediacy. That's the main driving compulsion.

When you start out on your own initiative, to go independent and to start doing your own theatrical endeavours by yourself you encounter millions of pitfalls that you never saw coming. We're not unique to this. Every fringe company experiences this. But goodness me, I wish someone had given us some advance warning. It's a bit like unicycling through a minefield and spotting a UN envoy on the horizon ready to guide you through. When they get closer however, you realise they’re all made of plywood and HP sauce and are of no help to you whatsoever. Except it’s nothing like that at all. It’s far more ridiculous than that.

Doubtlessly you'll get a flavour of what I mean as the weeks go on, and as we're on the cusp of planning a new show I'm sure the process will provide plenty of substenance. So here's to blogging; let's see what we come out with