Eric Mutch – Debrief Edinburgh Fringe 2011

Eric Mutch

The Fringe was a rough ride for Eric, he broke his ankle at a preview show in Exeter, he was nearly arrested at Waverley station upon arrival in Edinburgh for swearing at a train guard who wouldn’t let him retrieve his child’s push chair and he spent the entire month living on a camp site in one of the wettest Augusts on record.

What are you overall feelings about the 2011 Edinburgh Fringe Festival?

So “that was the month that was!!”, which is a nice little title for a future show and I gathered lots of material during the month too, but I left the fringe feeling a bit negative about the whole thing and quite happy never to go back, which was an odd feeling because overall I had a very positive experience.

Talk us through some of your favourite moments?

A theatre critic told me my show was “funny, touching and emotional”, then told someone else she thought I was having nervous breakdown on stage. An hour after receiving a tweet from an audience member saying “Hi Eric, I was at Mondays show, really enjoyed it, thanks!”, I got a 2 star review from 3 weeks stating that “to watch the show is genuinely embarrassing for all concerned” adding that, the fact I have an “endearing charm”, is a problem. Cunt!

Then spent a whole month thinking the reviewer was the same bloke who came up to me at the end of one of my first shows and said “it was very engaging” with what I thought might have been a hint of sarcasm, only to discover that an audience member in my 3rd last show had come on that guys recommendation!

I received some lovely positive feedback from audience members including “we always give money to the ones we like, so here’s a fiver”, “really enjoyed that, a very different way to spend an hour” and being called me an “anti capitalist anarchist”, which I’m not, got 2 great show reel clips about money showing “how the banks create money”, “why the debt doesn’t exist” and “how to fund the basic income guarantee”, and averaged about £3 a person in the umbrella at the end of each show.

My favourite bit though, like last year, was giving the money away, on the royal mile, by putting it in a chalk circle stating “a fool and his money are easily parted, but a wise fool gives all his money away… yourself”, oh and Phil Kay of course.

How well do you think your show went?

I taped and watched all the shows, and enjoyed them all. I could happily hold my hands up and say what I produced was a great example of my work.

What did you think you learnt from the experience?

Where as I was happy with what I was seeing when I watched the show on video, my confidence when I was onstage, took a knock with that review, and like a worm in the bowels of a lion, it ate away at me for the rest of the run, ironically helping produce some very good shows about anxiety and insecurity, and bringing out my “angry anti authority” mask very strongly too, but the fact was, I wasnt really enjoying playing, and whats the point in doing it, if im not going to enjoy it myself?

On a practical level it also affected my ability to promote my show (I did less and less flyering as the month went on) and this affected my audience numbers, which in turn affected my confidence even more. So the biggest lesson from this fringe is that I let myself be affected by my environment, and I’m quite gutted by that to be honest, because I know I’m a damned sight stronger than that, and quite frankly I ought to know better, but hey I’m human and I will learn from it.

What mistakes do you think you made?

My most disappointing mistake is that I completely lost sight of my aims in being there.

1. To promote “permission to be ourselves” by validating and giving myself compete permission to do whatever I liked on stage, “it’s a fools show, it is what it is”

2. My flyers were also “whats been the best part of your day?” postcards. they were not intended to just promote the show. If all they had done had been to lift someones spirits, then I had fulfilled my aim, but because I lost confidence, I didn’t hand out as many postcards as I could have. That is my biggest regret of this fringe.

What will you do differently next time?

If I had one hint that I’d pass on to anyone going to the fringe next year it would be, to agree with Ian Fox, that you should seriously consider the title of your show, because I’m more convinced than ever before that the title of the show is the thing that sells the show the most. Most audience make their minds up by looking at the boards outside the venues, or quickly scanning the title on one of the fistful of flyers in their hand. The title needs to tell them what the show is, clearly and precisely.

I loved my title “Schizophrene” because to me, it sums up my show perfectly, but I’m not sure it was the wisest decision as a marketing ploy or as an advert for my show. Ian suggested “Eric Mutch: Live and Unscripted” which has a good ring to it, and I’ve also considered “An Audience with The Fool”, but at this time I’m going to go with “Eric Mutch: Money” (which was my original title for this years fringe) I’ve even got the blurb for the fringe programme sorted “Ever been afraid, ever been anxious, ever been depressed, looking for freedom, interested in money? This show is for you” and all in only 20 words.

How do you think the fringe could be improved?

More free venues, cheaper food, cheaper accommodation, cheaper fringe brochure listing (what on earth do they spend all that money on?, better organised fringe listing (by times as in the “PBH free fringe programme” would be a start and the introduction of the “Basic Income Guarantee”.

Anything else you want to say?

A week back in the land of the rationale and the so-called normal, has enabled me to regroup, get a greater perspective on it all and set off on the next journey. A fools show is what it is, there is no right, there is no wrong, it just is, so sitting here, one week later, I can happily pat myself on the back for a foolish job well done. I feel a bit like a foolish pioneer, maybe my work will never be recognised, not in my lifetime anyway, but it will eventually, of that I am sure, and even in today’s market, what is classed as talent anyway? Why do people queue up to watch X Factor? Is it for the great singers, or is it for the loonies, who can’t sing but think they can? Which one is the audience tuning in for? Which one does “normality” say is the talented one? And who’s the fool?

What were your thoughts on cockgate?

Best part of the fringe for me, without a doubt, good on Kunt. The fringe is far too up its own arse for my liking, so cocks on posters was very fitting indeed. If it was personal attack and only on some posters then no I wouldn’t like it, although people are entitled to their opinions, it’s a fringe after all, but this wasn’t personal, and to tell the truth I was disappointed that I never got a cock on one of mine, I felt rather excluded. If I’d been more media savvy I’d have gone round sticking them on mine as well, because it drew attention to the poster, and if I’m going to spend all that money on posters, then the more ways of getting people to look at them the better. In fact, sod it,  I’m thinking of suing Kunt myself, because no one put a cock on mine!!! Says it all really, that in the same week cockgate began, 3 people died in police taser/pepper spray incidents and a naked protester was jailed for ten years….but cocks on posters apparently that wasn’t on!

Did you have any experiences that made you think “only at the fringe?

Yes I heard that some acts and some promoters were pissed off about cocks on posters.

What were your favourite places to drink, eat and hang around?

Easy question. Beetlejuice café on West Nicholson street, great smoothies, and juices, tasty tasty sandwiches, baguettes and soups, really quirky, gorgeous people, chilled, amazing atmosphere. Absolutely loved the place. It should be a “must see” attraction. Also the City Cafe. It was one of the free venues off the royal mile. Totally different to beetlejuice, but amazingly big breakfast, very well presented, and free coffee refills. The staff was fantastic too. If I go back to the fringe next year, I want to perform there for definite.

Did you keep any souvenirs or mementos of your two weeks?

I kept a couple of posters, a fistful of other people’s flyers and an electric hook up point for my tent.

Got to ask about the camping? Was it a good idea? How did you manage it?

Hmmmmm. The weather was shit. Lots of torrential rain. Camping with a nine month old baby was difficult and probably not a good idea. She had just started to crawl 2 weeks earlier and there was no room for her to crawl about in the tent when it was blasting it down outside, which it was most of the time to be honest. In fact having a baby at the fringe was hard work full stop, it made eating and drinking a problem as well, not being able to take her into “strictly no under 18” venues etc, and what seemed a dirth of places to take a baby in wet weather, so no I wouldn’t take a baby camping at the fringe again. As for me personally, there were people arguing late at night, slamming car doors in the early hours, my next door neighbour, chubby brown, watching BBC News 24 via the most humongous aerial I’ve ever seen attached to a 2 man tent at 6am every morning, the porch being a swimming pool on regular occasions, the long  hourly trek to and from the campsite.

Although I have to give a big shout out  to Lothian buses, a bus every 2 seconds and only £1.50 a day to hop on and off any bus. How first bus have the gaul to show their faces up there, beggars belief. A big shout to the people of Edinburgh too, twice my girlfriend left her HTC Desire mobile phone on the bus, and not once, but twice, it was handed in to the driver. I also had a bloke run up to me on the royal mile and hand me 2 fivers, that had dropped out of my pocket!!! But back to the camping why did I bother? Because I love it, that’s why. My only regret is that I didn’t spend more time there and wandering along the coast, getting away from the madness. I would definitely camp again, if I was on my own, but I don’t plan to be on my own (getting married next week),  so I’ll need to find another way to do it. Renting one of the lodges is definitely an option in future, but I’ll have to have a sell out show to pay for it if I do.

Do you think you’ll be back at the fringe again?

Not sure is the answer to that. I Have to decide if it’s the best way to spend my limited budget.  I could have performed a money show while giving away 60 quid a day on the streets of Bristol instead of going to Edinburgh. Having said that, I would like the chance to correct the mistakes I made this year, so in truth I probably will go back yes.

You can follow Eric on twitter.

Eric’s blog posts can all be found here.

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