Thursday, 30 August 2012

The news that brews

Well i kinda forgot that part of the idea behind this blog page is that it forms part the "news" section on the R2M website...not just an outlet for my waxing lyrical about whatever floating my boat or burdening my boogie.

So i'm happy to report that i've somehow managed to blag my way into a show that will tour internationally. I had hoped to do this with R2M, but of course there's still time for that. The show in question is Blaze. It's an uber commercial hip hop venture but will be touring to Thailand and Russia so i'll have some of that thank you very much. I'm not even on board for my dancing prowess but more for my unique comic timing and animated visage. Yes i get to clown about a bit and dance a bit and generally have a good time. Nice! Cast turnaround is pretty high so i may be out on my ear before i know it, but for now i'll enjoy the ride.

So that's something to look forward to, but looking back...way back...back into 2006, we are remounting the first half decent theatre piece created by Random Aspekts and will be performing Rock a Bye B-Boy at the Edinburgh MELA on the 1st & 2nd sept. We'll have to dust the cobwebs of the old pyjamas and try and find that Thomson Twins record we added some glitter and sparkles to as part of our prop requirements....where did i leave it...?

After that we return to the Glitch project with performances at Whale Arts (6th Sept) and InSpace (7th Sept). Both venues in Edinburgh so if your in Auld Reekie come and check it out.

Then it's a reunion with Wild Biscuit for a performance of MOVE at Blas Festival 2012 at Eden Court Theatre, Inverness on Sept 8th. Bagpipes meets breakdance!

...and then i'm outta here. It will be some serious R&R for a couple of weeks before returning back to the big smoke to get involved with a dance version of 12 angry men called "Deliberance" as part of the DanceLive Festival 2012 in Oct.

Boom! There you go that's what's up in the world of R2M. Of course throughout all this ill be punting the fine name of R2M out and about. The goes without saying...except i just said it. I do have some pictures i ought to upload but don't have them on my person just now. However did you know that R2M has a Tumblr page...lots of pics there.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Tales of the Unexpected

I chose that name for this post because it is exactly that...a lot of things happened during R2M's first real Fringe outing that I did not expect. Firstly, I hoped to be able to make good on my promise of keeping a daily blog. That did not happen. At the end of each day I found myself pretty exhausted and continuously forgetting to film or photo any daily happenings. So I was tired and without much fodder to post. So I didn't. I am trying to figure out if this experience has been to my benefit or not. I guess I will find out about that in the future.   I have discovered that the fringe can be quite brutal. It can chew you up, spit you out and leave you doubting whether or not you should be doing what you're doing. I have seen this happen to other people. Now, I experience it for myself. With Watch iT! I thought I had a pretty good product that had been tried and tested and would be welcomed with open arms into the Fringe bosom. It even came with the endorsement of being part of the Made in Scotland programme. I had a good team working with me covering all bases. We were to show the work in one of the best venues for dance & physical theatre during the Fringe. Our promo game was tight. Social media output was on point. Everything seemed to be in good shape so all I had to do was delivery 23 stellar performances. I wouldn't say they were all stellar but i'll at least pat myself on the back for delivering the goods 23 times in what is quite a physical piece. Yet, somehow things didn't quite take off in the way I was expecting if i'm honest. And it's the disappointment, lack of response and ubiquitous stress that causes the Fringe to wear you down and doubt yourself.

So what happened? Reviews happened. Quite a lot of them, which is great. But, just not ones that showed the work in a very favourable fashion. Despite the subjective nature in this mysterious art form, it's difficult to say they don't matter. Because they do matter and especially in the Fringe context. The reviews are really the first kind of contact punters will have with your work if they don't know you. And when there's over 2500 shows to chose from, with prices that sometimes make you think twice, you want some kind of assurance that what you're going to see is half decent. I know years ago I would happily take a risk on work I hadn't seen before or had any clue about. But then again I was only paying £5 a ticket. So I don’t really blame any punter for wanting to get some quality for their cash and if quality is defined by the number of stars attached to a show then there you go...And I have to admit it was strange to receive such negative press during this outing after showing the work back in 2009 and 2010 and receiving great reviews. I think there's something in not being the new kid on the block anymore or perhaps tastes change? Reading the reviews it seems to me that people expect the work to be about the mass media influence on our decision making. But it isn't. Its a much more personal look at the literal relationship between man and his TV. The work consistently got 3 star reviews (bar one 4 star), which in the Fringe is basically as good as saying don't spend your cash to see this show. It's tough to take I must admit. Especially, as I mentioned, coming from a good starting point. I began to think that this was doing more harm than good. But if i'm getting the same level of feedback then perhaps there’s something in that. Perhaps there is something I don't see that others do? So I suppose in one sense it has been helpful. It has made me reassess how I look at the work and how it is coming across to people. As a result there are some parts I will change but others I won't. Like it or lump it. When you show something everyone is going to have an opinion...and they vary greatly, so it has been a good lesson in learning to deal with this level of critique. I have to admit thought that there are some reviewers from Scotland that will be getting the tony thrills veto from now on...til the end of time.

Bloody Team GB. Why did they have to do so well this year? I jest. What a great summer for the UK sports fanatics. Trouble is they all spent their holiday cash on going for a once in a lifetime trip to the Olympics or just stayed at home or in the beer gardens and watch Team GB smoke pretty much the rest of the world (except the USA and China). One is hardly going to come to the theatre at 1pm when such action is taking place. I think the Olympics had a big hit on the numbers of punters in the streets of Edinburgh this year. Things did pick up towards the end of the month, but it's been a quiet one. For everyone it seems. Just had to be the year I was taking my own work to the Fringe. 

Our promo game was good. Along with some good design, t-shirts and badges I even built a TV head to out and about with. This was an absolute winner. People just come up to you to see what you're flyering or want a picture (then you hit them with a flyer). Rumours of the TV head guy spread around the town. It was easy to shift 2-300 flyers in under an hour on a good day. I have no idea how much of this translates into bums on seats though. I guess I could have been out pounding the streets a lot more during the month. We did have an additional street team doing some of the work but you can always try harder and do better.

I also think the work suffered from it's marketing. When I made this piece it was a real departure from the normal hip hop and breakdance stuff that i'm used to. There are elements of that genre in the piece but not a lot. It's really about so much more than that. Yet when I toured the piece back in 2010 I knew that the hip hop tag is always good selling point to theatres and to bring in audiences etc...and i'm strongly associated with that world in Scotland. I think many people didn't quite get what they were expecting...or were surprised and got more than they bargained for. Eitherway, confusing the audience in this sense is never a good thing I reckon. So it's taught me that I need to represent my work as clearly as possible and find the right context for it, not trying to make it as broad and accessible as possible when it isn't. Yet this is quite tough in the Fringe when you only have 40 or 80 words to describe your work and make it look words aplenty.

Ultimately, we just didn't get good audience numbers through the door. This is disappointing mostly because you're making work for people to see it. Besides getting it seen by promoters (of which we had a good attendance) I wanted to get exposure to a wider audience and begin to develope some kind of recognition within the UK dance audience. We'll just have to try and set up an english and welsh tour then.

So have there been any positives to beasting myself for the last month? Well it has been great to do the piece this many times. I have started to find new nuances, directions and content for the work. I don't feel like putting the work to bed just yet and along with the interest from venues there's the chance to develope the piece in conjunction with a theatre in England. It's also been good to show R2M as a company in front of the scottish arts industry. It's no longer just me in my living room building props but I’ve had the chance to work with a good team that will push the company forward and the creative industry folk have seen this. Basically, it gave good face. However, it will be a year or two before something (if anything) will manifest in the form of a tour...which is what we're after in the end. To tour, show the work, make connections, have experiences and perhaps, just maybe make a little profit.

What I have noticed is how we are all obsessed with quantifying how good something is. This must be good because it has X amount of stars or has won X amount of awards. Even in the art world where everything is subjective, we still strive to be the best and quantify it somehow. Our innate competitive trait perhaps? A form of validating what we do and all our hard work? A reward? Getting something  tangible out of the intangible? Convincing the paying public we're worth it...who knows?? I'm not gonna lie...I would have loved to have won something or gotten X amount of 5 star reviews. It wouldn't hurt would it? But it's not gonna kill if you don't get them either. I'm off to Bangkok to do a show in a couple of weeks and then maybe Russia. I get to travel a bit, work with good people, get a lot of pleasure from what I do and occasionally get paid....those rewards aren't too bad in the end.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Up and running

2 down and 21 to go. This time without any technical drama. The show before us got out pretty snappy so we had adequate time to set up and fiddle about with a few things. This is quite the luxury in the Fringe scenario. Numbers are pretty low unfortunately. This is to be expected early on in the run and without any reviews done yet. Although i am hearing across the board that things are generally quieter than this time last year...#olympicfever perhaps? I do have a good team on the case and PR peeps in place doing their thing. But, since it's the fringe one has to go that little bit further to stand i'm working on something a bit hush hush which hopefully will do the trick. Well at the very least it will probably please me...and you might as well be happy when you're working. So we need those reviews to come in. I've asked not to be told if any press or promoters turn up, so i can keep my head in the game and just do a good show. That doesn't mean i don't get involved in the job of getting them to actually turn up. So once the show was done i hot-footed it over to Fringe central and joined the heaving ques for the Meet the Media day. This was an event where you (and pretty much the rest of the Fringe performers) meet various journalists from various papers, magazines and press listings and convince them to come and check out what you're doing. This is all in the hope they will write a glowing report. After which, you can add numerous photocopied stars to the laminated posters of your show that are currently scantily clad and perched on wall (or rail) outside your venue. It helps to have badges to give away. Good job i had some. Forget trying to show anyone your superbly crafted 2 min video promo...there just isn't the time. The whole scene rather reminded me of the old meat markets and the days i used to get involved in the castrating of cattle back on the farm...although this time just your career is on the line...not your balls! x

Friday, 3 August 2012

Nice and smooth Rodney...nice and smooth

Today was the first show of the 23 show run a.k.a. the preview. And luckily it was the preview as there were a few hurdles to over come before we got through the show. Number 1 being the fact that my adorabel portable TV managed to short out the electrics to one side of the stage. Some dodgy wiring to blame it turns out...i slowly raise my hand in that case. Secondly, a couple of the projector shutters decided to put themselves on standby while the show was up and basically not do the job they are supposed to do. It was one of  those moments when you're on stage and you ask yourself "shall i carry on?" and quickly run through the various up coming scenarios where said feature will no longer be in use. I couldn't do it in this case and we had to reset. Thankfully it was right at the beginning and during the fiddling period some more punters came in the door. After that the show went pretty smooth to be fair. It is going to take some time to settle down i'm sure. Many things happen in 3's they say...good things and bad. So the last thing was that i found out the show has been listed as being universal. Well it's not...and shouldn't be. It should be a nice, safe with a hint of the risque, PG. I got one complaint from a concerned parent about it's suitability after watching iT! with their child. Strange, as the info i submitted for the show info clearly stated something has gone awry. Not much i can do about the 10, 000 or so Fringe brochures out in circulation but i can get the online listing to be altered. Ah well, it wouldn't be the fringe without some carry on.

So with the show over i had to go and look pretty and jump about up on Edinburgh's answer to the Acropolis, Calton Hill. The PR company i'm working with had managed to entice a good number of photographers to come and take a few snaps for the local (and national) fringe press. It was raining a bit too much to bring out any of the kit, so it was just myself and my branding paraphernalia. After throwing myself about and jumping off some rather high and awkward concrete fixtures we got the shots we needed. I realise the photographers don't really care if you hurt yourself or not. They will ask ridiculous requests knowing full well that most folk will say GTF! ...but some won't.

With that done i did a bit of sneaky shopping and snapped up a few bargains before heading back to the gaff and getting my tickets for a Chilly Gonzales concert. I don't go to gigs that fact hardly ever. But, when Chilly comes to town i make an exception. if you don't know this guy then get to know - recommended and you know i don't play! I managed to get the heads up for the launch of Northern Stage at St Stephens venue. That venue has been stuff of legend on the fringe with some great work being there in the past. It's been in a sort of limbo for the last couple of years so i'm keen to see what these guys will bring to the fest. They have already brought free cakes and champagne so that's a good start...

So pleased at being a recipient of two of my favorite things that i did a celebratory dance when (i thought) nobody was watching....

I gotta start doing these blog posts earlier. night. x

Thursday, 2 August 2012

1 more sleep...

Yes...and i had better get to sleep pretty quickly as well. It's been a looong..but enjoyable day as the fringe festival opens it's doors to the masses. I guess this is also the beginning of my fringe frolics blog. I will attempt to post a blog each day as long as the indulgence in the Fringe doesn't get the better of me. So we put Watch iT! into it's new home for the next 25 days or so. We'll be presenting the show at ZOO southside main house. It felt good to get into the space and i think once we settle down a bit with the show, then it will look good. I've got a new tech tema on the go as my previous techs are loaded up to the brim with other Fringe work. A few cues have gone awry but it is to be expected...certainly keeps me on my toes anyway. I've also got an equally strong team on the promoting side to sell the show. When i stand back and look at it, theres actually been about 7 people (not including myself) involved in the work so far. A solo show is definitely a team effort. So apart form techs, there's been press launches galore. One at the ZOO where i thought it was just a photocall. Alas no it had to be a short live performance. Eek...what to do. Nearly every aspect of Watch iT! involves either set or AV stuff. I opted for my little pas de deux avec mon TV. That seemed to go down well.  After that it was a quick shaved followed by a trip to the Inspace Gallery for an exhibition by ~in the fields. I did a spot of work with these guys on the topic of the problem with plastic. It was a good experience working to a different brief. Today was also the launch of the Edinburgh Art Festival so lots of galleries had plenty of wine and canapes on the go.

Meandering around Inspace

Through the looking glass

Double T on the book wheel
After a bit of hobnobbing on the Edinburgh art scene i managed to score my first Fringe freebie (courtesy of Zoe P...2nd name check!) to see Knee Deep at the Spiegel Tent in George Sq featuring a bunch of quite talented and energetic aussies (with lots of tattoos also). Well worth a look...even if you just need some motivation to get active. Once that was finished it was a quick dash back to Thrills HQ to burn a CD for the 2nd of today's press/launch party performances. The List party general marks the start of the Fringe, with acts doing short excerpts of their shows and an abundance of free booze to get things moving. I did a repeat of the TV pas de at least that section will be pretty shit hot for tomorrows opening performance. the ironic thing is that it was held in the old veterinary college where i did my training back in the day. I even performed in the same hall i used to practice my breaking in...and subsequently get a telling off from the janitors because i was making too much noise.

Summerhall courtyard...never had parties like this when i was there

Old anatomy room now cutting up beats not cadavers
So there it is. Show is up tomorrow. Better get some kip. x