Saturday, 27 August 2016

All's Well That Ends Well - Edinburgh audit

Me, flyering with my characteristic flick (the fingers, not the hair). 10,000 Socks flyers distributed, and the best part of 2000 for The Sitcom Trials (with a little help from my cast)

I may have said this in previous years, in which case forgive me, but I think this has been my most enjoyable Edinburgh Fringe ever. For one reason above all others: I had a good show from the start.

In past years, 2015 in particular, I've had a show that I've not been completely happy with, and that has led to nights when I've come home unhappy and disappointed. But this year (though I still have 3 nights to go, at time of writing) with Socks Do Shakespeare, every night has been good. Some better than others, but all good. It's the first year ever that I've not changed the script since the start of the run. In the past I've moved the running order around, cut sketches and musical numbers. But this month, though I've added some fabulous gags and ad-libs that have grown along the way, I'm still sat behind the set looking at a script dated July 28th, as printed out for our penultimate preview. I've video'd the show 4 times, partly to ensure I got the audience on a good night, but mostly cos a curtain kept falling in front of the lens halfway through the recording. Let's see how it looks when I get round to editing it all.

Not that everyone agreed about the quality of our excellent show. We've had precious few reviews, with one4review giving us 4 stars and, to my slight chagrin, Martin Gray giving us a nice review in the Scotsman which read like a 4 stars but went out with a damned-by-faint-praise 3 stars on it. Broadway Baby, who've given us 5 stars in the past for shows that were not nearly as good as this, gave us a 3 star review from a student whose main complaints seemed to be that we were too popular and people were laughing too much. This, though, is not unfair. I now know what Mrs Browns Boys must feel like. And she was wrong, and I know it, so there. All other reviewers have stayed away, sadly.

Audience numbers have been good. And stunningly consistent. Have a look at this snapshot of my Sales Graph for the last decade. 

You can see that, for our first 4 years (07-10) we built our audiences steadily, culminating in the stellar sales of 2010 when, in a 9.15 time slot, with appearances on the One Show and the Culture Show, an interview in The Scotsman, the Vuvuzela video having gone viral, and lots of 4 and 5 star reviews all in in the first week, we reached peaks we have yet to equal. Then when we returned in 2012 we hit the London Olympics, which decimated everyone's audiences. Since which time, from 2013 to 2016, we have sold almost exactly the same number of tickets every year. A 10.30 time slot every time, no major telly appearances, our reviews appearing late in the run if at all, and with ads in the programme for 2 out of the 4 years (a cost I think I won't bother with in the future), our trajectory on the graph is pretty well identical every time, regressing to the mean of a final figure somewhere in the low 1700s.

Of course one of the novelties of Edinburgh 2016 for me has been The Sitcom Trials final. I last tried it in 2013, hoping to pick up some of the So You Think You're Funny sponsorship money (which the main competition itself then lost, so we never got a sniff of it), and delivered a disappointing show with which no one was very happy. This year I took more control, producing the show myself, and hosting it too, and it went very well. I might even break even on the box office, we'll have to see. Of course it'll only be worth doing again if I can attract some sort of sponsorship for it, but I'm sufficiently inspired to think I might make a push for that in the autumn.

Everything else that can go wrong seems (so far, touchwood) not to have. I didn't do art classes during the days, so I haven't lost my voice during the run. Our flat (World's End Close, same place as 2014) is great once more. Mum came to stay with us, there was Bec & Gav's wedding, Hev threw a dinner party for Stephen & Nick and Tim & Hazell, the Socks made guest appearances on BBC Shakespeare, Chortle's Fast Fringe 3 times, Forth at Work and Kids Do Forth On The Fringe, otherwise keeping our powder dry, and during the day Hev & I went to see all the art in town (21 galleries and exhibitions, according to Heather's diary). I met some good folk in the street, comedians and friends, the people you see once a year and have long chats with in the Loft Bar. The selfies will linger, the conversations have long since evaporated.

As for the rest of Edinburgh, the usual things have gone on and have been of note only to the obsessives who are up here. The Edinburgh Comedy Awards went to many of the people we all knew they were going to, and there were ship-in-a-bottle fracases involving Wil Franken, Peter Buckley Hill and others, none of which you'll need to remember when you get home. The weather was largely good (some wind, some rain, but mostly bright sun, especially in the past week) and there were lots of punters around throughout the month (avoiding the week 3 slump that we saw in 2015). 

I am reminded of the Goodies song I Wish I Had Something To Say. I've enjoyed doing my show every night, and that's been what my whole month's been about. That and Hev & I enjoying a holiday. I have work to get back to next week (The Book Of Esther, Clifton Village, and a new commission about loaves and fishes, plus my first few schools) and the only cloud on the horizon is that I've, foolishly (due to my own oversight) agreed to play on the final Monday, the 29th, which is something I've always vowed never to do (since the Sitcom Trials team did it in 2001 and it was the most depressing anticlimax imaginable). So far we've sold 6 tickets. I take great consolation in the conversations I've had, and things I've read online, about acts who've had crowds that small even on regular nights. So, let's just count our blessings and hope we can sail across the finishing line and home.

The plan is still to take 2017 off from the Edinburgh Fringe and discover what the rest of the world has to offer in August (for the first time since 2011). A Socks Do Shakespeare tour in Spring 2017 beckons, if I can get busy with my quill and carrier pigeon and book the damn thing. 

Exeunt, pursued by bear.

2015 Report
2014 Report
2013 Report Part 1 and Part 2
2012 Report
2010 Report
2009 Report

The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre do Shakespeare every night at 10.30pm at the Gilded Balloon at the Edinburgh Fringe August 2016. BOOK NOW to avoid disappointment

★★★★★ "Accessible, contemporary and ridiculous" - Brighton Argus May 2016

Friday, 26 August 2016

Socks do 10 Edinburgh Fringe Questions - British Comedy Guide

This, fresh online from the British Comedy Guide:

The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppets answers 10 questions about their 2016 Edinburgh Fringe show...
Give us a quick overview of your comedy career so far. Are you happy with where you're at?
We started appearing at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2007 so this is our ninth new show. We've done horror, sci fi, detectives, and now we're doing Shakespeare. We're happy if we're somewhere people want to laugh at us.
Tell us two truths and one lie about yourself (but mix them up, keep us guessing!).
1. Benedict Cumberbatch once tried to walk off with us.
2. Donald Trump called us his favourite thing about Scotland.
3. Our fans include crime writer Val McDiarmid, singer songwriting superstar Dean Friedman, and former home secretary Jack Straw.
Describe your new show in exactly 23 words.
From Macbeth to Richard III to Romeo & Juliet, we do Shakespeare better than he did cos we make the comedy bits funny.
Any cunning plans to get more punters in?
We've done Shakespeare. In 2016. For god's sake, how much more damn original do you want us to be?
What's your plan for trying to eat - and drink - healthily during the Fringe?
Being Socks, eating and drinking's not really been much of a problem. After getting sweaty on stage for an hour every night, trying not to ming is our biggest challenge. That's why we recommend Febreze, for all your not-minging needs.
What will you miss most while you're away from home?
We'll miss having to explain what the Edinburgh Fringe is to people. Then, if we get good reviews, we have to look forward to explaining to people what "The Scotsman" is, and what all those stars mean.
Aside from performing, what else are you looking forward to doing in Scotland's fine capital?
Veggie food at Hendersons (the best veggie haggis in the world), then watching all the student theatre groups on the Royal Mile lying in the road so that no-one can see them. That and all the art, of which there is tons.
If you took over programming a Fringe venue, what would your perfect line-up of comedians be?
The National Theatre Of Brent (saw them at the Assembly Rooms 30 years ago, still probably the funniest show we've seen), with Johnny Vegas (in his first year here, when nobody'd heard of him and thought he was a scary mad bloke), Noble & Silver (whatever happened to them, they were genius), and Russell Howard (playing in the 50 seater room he started in, which means he'd have to do about 2000 nights to get through all the punters).
Name the one person you'd rather not bump into during the festival.
Shakespeare. We'd only argue about how to do the funny bits.
Why should audiences pick your show over the 1,800+ other Fringe offerings listed on BCG this year?
Because, as a promoter in Bristol once said, "they're alright, if you like laughing."
'Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppets Do Shakespeare' is at Gilded Balloon at 10:30pm until the 29th August. Listing

The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre do Shakespeare every night at 10.30pm at the Gilded Balloon at the Edinburgh Fringe August 2016. BOOK NOW to avoid disappointment

★★★★★ "Accessible, contemporary and ridiculous" - Brighton Argus May 2016

Thursday, 25 August 2016

"Genius!" "Hilarious" etc - ★★★★★ Edfringe Reviews

I totally forgot that there are reviews by the public on the site. Check them out, they're 99% lovely:

Maggie18 days ago

I'd you have never seen the Socks before, prepare to have your mind blown (and possibly warped and melted from the utter hilarity). If you have seen the Socks before, prepare to have your mind blown, and possibly warped and melted from the utter hilarity. The Socks never disappoint.

Maria Paul17 days ago

Genius. Hilarity in doublet, ruffs and tights
Laugh a minute. Great costumes . How on earth does he do it all? Highly recommended.

Sheila Brisland17 days ago

Hilarious! Some of the best costumes I've ever seen on a sock. Some of the best jokes I've heard from a pair of socks! Not to be missed.

Francesca Collis13 days ago

This was a late show for us so we were all very tired. But it was worth staying up for. Very inventive, silly, clever and very, very funny. A unique Fringe experience and highly recommended.

Graham Bull11 days ago

This is an absolute hoot! Daft, irreverent, saucy, silly gags you've heard before, erudite ones you will not have heard. Something for everyone who has ever seen or heard or read a Shakespeare play. If you hated the Bard at school, go and see this. You will love it. There's even a few Nonny Nonny's thrown in for good measure.

George Forsyth10 days ago

A Fringe stalwart - The Socks. I've enjoyed 'their' show 3 or 4 times before but this was the funniest. One of the best hours you can have at the Edinburgh Fringe. The couple next to us spent most of the time crying with laughter. If there had been room for them to roll on the floor, I'm sure they would have.

A room as hot as a sauna but that, in my experience, is all part of a FSPT show. (5 stars+)

Piffy9 days ago

Heard great reviews of this and was disappointed in that I was hoping for a funnier set. That said, the ad-libing was good as were the puppet costumes. Definitely catered for a younger audience but a start time of 22.30 is way too late for the kiddies.

Richard L8 days ago

Lots of fun as always.

Fiona A5 days ago

Never fails to amuse. Another very funny shows centred around two socks. Daft but great fun, you can't fail to love the socks.

Chrispy3 days ago

This show is what the Fringe is all about: 100 people crammed into a sweltering makeshift auditorium (which was probably the bin store a month ago), battling against the sound of another show leaking through the curtained walls, watching a man wearing two socks on his hands making jokes about Shakespeare. Magnificent....

Richard Hardy2 days ago

discovered the Socks by accident last year, and paid a repeat visit this year during preview week (cheap tickets appeal to my Yorkshire soul). Easy to see why the Socks are a festival institution, more difficult to understand how easily I can be fooled that two pieces of hosiery on opposite hands of the same bloke can different personalities.....Puns galore, mixed in with some deeper humour that can sometimes be missed due to the constant verbal barrage and late hour, so pay attention. Already looking forward to next year

Spacepuffin2 days ago

See this! It's original and well performed. How two socks, one bloke and a tartan curtain can be so amusing is baffling. The show drops into a lull about 30 mins in but picks up pace again in the last 10-15 mins. Give it a go, there's nothing else like it.

Ginny Nobleabout 12 hours ago

An absolute joy. I laugh until I cry and have seen the sock puppets 3 times now over various years. Must see

The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre do Shakespeare every night at 10.30pm at the Gilded Balloon at the Edinburgh Fringe August 2016. BOOK NOW to avoid disappointment

★★★★★ "Accessible, contemporary and ridiculous" - Brighton Argus May 2016

"Wee gem of a show" - Scotsman (reads like a ★★★★)

The very definition of an Edinburgh review that "reads like a 4", this has finally come in from The Scotsman.

Comedy review: Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppets Do Shakespeare

To be or not to be... a sock. The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre has been a fixture at the Fringe for years and the joke’s not worn out yet.

The 2016 show pins the usual puns and props to the works of the Bard. Not the Scottish one, but the chap from Avon who didn’t write any good jokes. Well, so say the two singing socks, one kilted, one in a tux, both ready to don a ruff at a moment’s notice in order to make up for Shakespeare’s lack of laughs. They give us their versions of Hamlet, Titus Andronicus, Othello and Romeo and Juliet. Whether they’re laugh-out-loud or groanworthy, the gags are studiously silly, perfect for this late night show.

There’s some great audience interaction and trademark takes on the likes of Pulp and Abba… the constantly bickering socks even brush off Brush Up Your Shakespeare from Kiss Me Kate.

It’s a common claim that were William Shakespeare around today he’d be writing EastEnders. He’d not – he’d be at the Gilded Balloon, laughing at this wee gem of a show. Until 29 August. Today 10:30pm.

Star rating: *** Venue: Gilded Balloon Teviot (Venue 14)

The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre do Shakespeare every night at 10.30pm at the Gilded Balloon at the Edinburgh Fringe August 2016. BOOK NOW to avoid disappointment

★★★★★ "Accessible, contemporary and ridiculous" - Brighton Argus May 2016

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Sitcom Trials, workplace, and all the rest

Over on the Sitcom Trials blog and social media, you may have been aware that I've been running a series of Heats through the summer. No? Well, the facts are out there, and rather oddly get missed from my main blog simply because the show has a blog of its own. So, last night was the Grand Final and quite a success, though I say so myself. I MC'ed this time, having given the job to Mark Dolan the last time we did an Edinburgh final, and was happy with how it worked. We sold more tickets for last night's show (which took over the Socks' 10.30 slot for one night) than any Sock show has done in the same "difficult" final Tuesday. (Well, we equalled 2010's final Tuesday for sales, which is pretty damn good going).

And having pulled my first proper late night after the Trials, what better way to test out my raddled voice the next morning than by playing a short Socks gig as part of Forth Fringe At Work, where we visit a workplace and entertain software engineers for ten minutes. The Socks were on the bill with Ria Lina and Thomas Green, and good fun it was too.

I've had a couple of good nights talking the hours away up in the Loft Bar. Last night my chattees included Dick Fiddy (above), Peter Buckley Hill, and the cast of the Sitcom Trials winners Like A Looks. But for once in a lifetime nights - well, once in 33 years at least - the other night I met up with two people I haven't met since we were at art college together 33 years ago, Anita Bigsby and Paul Gwilliam.

A highly enjoyable and stress-free Edinburgh has entered its last week and we just keep on enjoying it. Here, some more random photos that have come along the way.

Here are my technicians for the month. Steve, behind the desk, is my main man almost every night, and Adam, in the foreground, has filled in for a few nights, including the Sitcom Trials, which was quite a handful. I hadn't told all the teams to bring their sound cues on CD, so we had a mish mash of people wanting to play music from their phones and to get the technicians to download stuff from Youtube. Apparently this is not uncommon recently. Kids today.

And of course Hev and I have been seeing a fair bit of art while we've been up here. This was a sound installation at Summerhall. Other highlights have included a virtual reality piece and a film about the life and work of Alice Neel  at the Talbot Rice gallery, some good stuff from the archive at Inverleith House, and some nifty work in clay by Damian Ortega at the Fruitmarket. Collective on Calton Hill was a bit of a let down, but the piece at the old Royal High School by Bani Abidi made Heather cry, and we got to enjoy the works at Dovecot with Mum when she was here. More work still to be seen.

The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre do Shakespeare every night at 10.30pm at the Gilded Balloon at the Edinburgh Fringe August 2016. BOOK NOW to avoid disappointment

★★★★★ "Accessible, contemporary and ridiculous" - Brighton Argus May 2016

Aug 3 - 29 - 10.30pm The Gilded Balloon, Edinburgh Fringe 

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Great gigs, and a Twitter round up

Having got past the slump of Wednesday's audience figures, the Socks stormed on to Thursday and Friday shows that were on top form, and luckily included me bringing the video camera along for the Friday. So we have a good recording (audio wise leastways) of a cracking audience response and a spot-on performance. (The camera's at a side-on angle so, not the best shot of the faces and costumes. Added to which, our previous two attempts to video the show from the technician's booth have seen a bit of curtain flop down in front of the lens halfway through, meaning we have great footage of one sock, but not the other!)

Of course next week's figures are starting off low, as happened last year, and which may betoken a pattern of change across the Edinburgh calendar. Those people who make Edinburgh a holiday are not doing it so much in week three. So if you've not cleaned up on the box office in weeks one and two (and we've been doing okay) you can't pin your hope on next week. Oh and Monday 29th - the final Monday - is still looking like a really bad mistake to have made. How we will ever get anyone along to that anticlimax-in-waiting I do not know. Still, that's well over a week away, and a lot can change in that time.

One thing that looms large is the Sitcom Trials final, the build up to which, with heats in June & July, all happened over in the Sitcom Trials' own blog. I still have judges to find, and guest places to arrange. But it looks like being fun.

Indeed this year, with the quality of my show being something I'm genuinely happy with, and my audiences having been the best in terms of quality (I could ask for bigger numbers some night, but relative to other acts in town I really really mustn't grumble), it's been a great Edinburgh. Much of which I've not taken time to write up in my blog. Let's see if, along the way, I've written anything of note on Twitter or Facebook.

Have passed 3 Edinburgh Tardisses that are now cafes. What's the chances of one being run by a Clara?

Hev: "Edinburgh is the only place where a lanyard doesn't automatically make you think someone's attending an HR conference."

There's a line in our show about "..probably a Shakespeare Strictly". Life, it seems, is all set to mirrorball art.

Who says kids are immature? These are the ideas they came up with for comic titles today.

I designed this t-shirt! (In 1993). Finally it's news.

Aug 12: Hooray! Edinburgh Parking Services just let me off a parking fine (cos app had wrong number plate showing)

If only those were here.

Thanks to all at last night's excellent Socks Do Shakespeare (inc Ellie & Yates family in selfie). Fab fun again.

The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre do Shakespeare every night at 10.30pm at the Gilded Balloon at the Edinburgh Fringe August 2016. BOOK NOW to avoid disappointment

★★★★★ "Accessible, contemporary and ridiculous" - Brighton Argus May 2016

Aug 3 - 29 - 10.30pm The Gilded Balloon, Edinburgh Fringe 

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Hump Day - a record-breaker

The Socks' costume for Richard III, which has been getting great audience responses, and led to some lovely adlibs (which you'll hopefully see when we get a good video of the show). And I had cause to tweet the photo of him today when I saw people referring to this as Hump Day.

Turns out Hump Day is a thing people with 9-to-5 jobs get every week, apparently, and just refers to it being the middle of the week. Here, in the middle of the middle week in Edinburgh, it finally became a reality for me as I started the day staring at my worst sales figures for this particular day... EVER!

Yes, even in our opening year of 2007 we did better on this day than how things started this year. I woke up looking at sales of 17. Now I know some people would kill for sales of 17. I know that because I indulged in a little schadenfreude by reading and retweeting this story first thing in the morning.

Stepping before an audience the size of a football team must make every comic’s soul shrivel – and the experience is no less agonising for those watching
An audience of 6 for an award winning comedian. That makes you feel a bit better about your own show. Until you realise, wait a minute, he's getting written up in the Guardian and you're not!

Still, flyering was bound to be able to remedy the situation. Anyone who's talked to me about Edinburgh for even five minutes will know of Kev F's Theory of Flyering™. I even put it to the test, with a modicum of statistical analysis, last year and it seems to possibly hold true. In short, 100 flyers, if well handed-out, should result in ten bums on seats. And I do about 100 flyers in an hour. So, today I should have been able to improve on that 17 bums on seats figure, shouldn't I? I hit the Royal Mile.

It was a lovely day on the Royal Mile, it was hot, it was sunny, and by god it was busy. But the paradox of Edinburgh is that that means it was hard-going and most likely fruitless flyering territory. For, though you can get a lot of flyers into the hands of a lot of people, what you soon realise is that the vast majority of them are Tattooies (people only going to the Tattoo and nothing else) or foreign tourists by the busload, who have English as maybe a second language if you're lucky. Most of the people thronging the Royal Mile, if not students in costume and fellow flyerers, are not even aware that there is such a thing as the Edinburgh Fringe taking place, and they are going to unlikely or unable to see any shows of any sort, let alone one at 10.30pm (when, as I am told innumerable times, they will be at home in bed, or at the Tattoo).

So I flyered mostly in the stretch that links the Pleasance Dome to the Assembly and Udderbelly Gardens in George Square, and passes my own venue The Gilded Balloon. A steady flow of lovely people, mostly happy to take a flyer, and most very clearly Fringe-goers. I flyered. And I flyered. From midday till 1.30. Then I had a meeting from 3 till 4 with a producer who's writing a thesis on the Fringe (about which more anon). Then from 4 till 5.30. Then the Socks played another 3 minute slot at Chortle's Fast Fringe, after which I did some of the most feel-good exit-flyering - handing a flyer to almost every member of a capacity audience who had just watched us being funny (they got the Hose routine and the Dog's Cock routine from Socks Do Shakespeare). Then I flyered from 6.45 till 8.15 and came home. Four and a half hours of solid, and good quality, flyering. Kev F's Theory of Flyering™says that should have turned into 45 extra bums on seats.

So we did the show, and it was a fun show. Well, I enjoyed it. I saw at the end that my good friend Martin was in. If he was reviewing us, as he has done before, I really hope he enjoyed it too. Because the occasional lack of audience volume may have been a factor that brought down the feeling of funniness. We ended up with 22 paying customers. Yes, nearly 5 hours of flyering had added just 5 ticket sales to the pile. Making Wednesday August 17th 2016 officially our worst selling middle-week Wednesday ever!

In 2012 (the famous Olympic year) it had been the Tuesday which had seen the slump, to a decade's low of 19. (Not since 2008 had any night of any Socks show ever dipped below 20, and to date it hasn't since, save for that one Olympic Tuesday in 2012). But even that year outsold us on the midweek Wednesday, getting 35 in. 2007's opening year had achieved 43 on this day, and 2008 reeled in 56. We didn't do badly for 2013, '14 and '15, with 45, 45 and 54. And the glory years of '09 and '10 (where we had lots of telly, and all our great reviews came in on the opening week) saw mid-run Wednesday houses of 76 and 84 respectively.

So it is that yesterday stands out on our sales graph as an inglorious historical anomaly. And knocks Kev F's Theory of Flyering™ into a cocked hat of statistical irrelevance. Added to which, on the two days this year where I did no flyering at all (Friday and Saturday) we've had total 100% sellouts. It's almost as if, in the Edinburgh Fringe, nobody knows anything!

Today (Thursday) sales are back in the area they should be*, and Friday and Saturday are on course to the sellout zone. Next week? We'll face that when it comes, says he remembering that, in 2015, Week Three turned out to be a whole new slump all of its own. All in all I'm feeling good, the show is still great, and if there is any word of mouth being passed on, I'm confident it'll all be good. As for the photo the Socks tweeted after we'd got home and counted up the numbers? Here it is (shot earlier in the week in St Andrews Square).

*UPDATE: Thursday night. I chose to spend most of the day doing art galleries and the like, and only managed 45 minutes of flyering. Sales went from starting the day at 33 to a final score of 58. So on Wednesday 5 hours flyering equals 5 tickets, the next day 45 minutes flyering equals 25 tickets. There is no logic to this game.

The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre do Shakespeare every night at 10.30pm at the Gilded Balloon at the Edinburgh Fringe August 2016. BOOK NOW to avoid disappointment

★★★★★ "Accessible, contemporary and ridiculous" - Brighton Argus May 2016

Aug 3 - 29 - 10.30pm The Gilded Balloon, Edinburgh Fringe 
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