Depending on the show, there’s preparation to be done. I’m involved in a bunch of shows at this year’s Fringe, and the one which requires the most preparation is the show featured in the advertisement here (shown for illustration of the, erm, illustration) and mentioned at the bottom of my blog entries – The Seven Deadly Sings – a show with rather a lot of music in it: all the songs in the world, summarised. A modest claim, I’m sure.
The other shows I’m doing rely more on my regular stand-up set and will also be used to try out material which occurs to me. I may even do some improvised songs – we’ll just have to see.
I mentioned the other day that my show is basically ready, which is true, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not a good idea to do previews. Previews are really a good opportunity to get into the swing of running the show, both to refine the material, but also to get into the habit of keeping up a performance for a whole hour. Material, if written well and structured correctly, can entertain an audience, but it’s a whole other skill to keep a performance running at the right pace for over the 40 minute mark.
Last year I think I had a few problems with my 40 minute lull, so it’s been interesting this year to see how the rewrites have appeared to change that. The preview is a slightly artificial scenario, but it’s still a useful way to make sure that you and your show can cope with reality.
If you think 1 hour is a long time (then maybe you’ve seen a really bad show), then what about the journey up to Scotland itself? The majority of the performers who go to the Fringe come from quite a long way away. I used to live in Newcastle and could gig in Edinburgh of an evening and still be back home in time for some sleep. I find it quite surreal that Edinburgh is now a hell of a long way away. It’s an 8 hour drive, and it’s one I’ll be making soon.
Today marks a double dry run. I’ve got my last preview of my show tonight, in Hexham, and I’ve been staying in Newcastle. This means I’ve just done a 6 hour drive – you know to get into the habit of driving huge distances to perform… well, I’m not sure the driving needed rehearsing, but I’m looking forward to the show and hoping to ensure my last tiny rewrites work well enough before I then commit them to memory. The way I see it, there’s no huge benefit in memorising something that’s really never going to work.
You can’t really predict how a show will go in Edinburgh. All you can do is work hard to be as prepared as possible. Strangely, the biggest rule when it comes to a show is to do your best to unlearn it as soon as you’ve mastered it. When you deliberately make the script optional, you free yourself to really connect with the audience. At least, that’s my personal experience of performing live stand-up. I speak as a very scripted act; a lot of my material is in the form of songs. I think maybe the point is that even if you use most of the words you originally wrote, it’s nice to feel like you’re doing it through choice, not habit.
The same cannot be said for August’s big drive to Auld Reekie. Those roads are pretty fixed in position and will take as long as they take to travel along. I think the journey may have a series of 40 minute lulls. Still, it’s worth it.
Only n days left… still too many to have a countdown.
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