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This was 7pm last night when we were still in Brighton, and still awake. Today: we’re in Edinburgh, and asleep. The terror remains, though.

Here we are, then. Arrived in Edinburgh. Feeling – so far – remarkably refreshed. I say ‘remarkable’ because we travelled up by megabus (other services that cost slightly less than three Starbucks coffees are available, no doubt).
As is the case every year, there was a group of kids (apologies, these days, anybody below the age of thirty is a ‘kid’) who chose to sit nearby and talk VERY LOUDLY until about 2am about their show that they’re doing in the fringe – you never to need to worry about deducing wether or not you’re sharing the coach with other fringe performers: they will soon let you know. That’s annoying enough, but it becomes positively skin-clenching when they spend a full ten minutes forgetting the name of the – as they call it – ‘main fairy’ in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
I’m selling the journey as much more painful than it actually was – and since we were able to doze – even actually sleep – during the journey, and arrive in Edinburgh relatively refreshed at around 7am, just in time for some decent coffee and the first of today’s thirty-plus cloudbursts.

It’s not even midday, and we’re already unpacked and showered (we’re normally in B&B or hostels, so this is unheard of), and so we’re about to strike out to town and take advantage of the fact that we have a day to ourselves before the insanity starts (again, in a day of Firsts, we’ve normally arrived when the fringe is already well under way and all our friends are deep in madness – another thing I’ve never spotted before is the ‘poster posts’ without posters)

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Give it three days, and there’ll be a ballet dancer in a green bikini from Oxford on top of this.

I don’t think I’ve ever walked down the Royal Mile with the relative possibility of not having someone proffer a flyer into my hand. This year, truly, is a year of Fringe Firsts. Not so for most people on my social media feeds, who – either as stand up, improvisers or producers, have been doing this thing for ten, twenty, sometimes even thirty years.

Let’s see how this goes …

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Not long now. We leave for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe on Monday night, and we haven’t even packed. What we have done, however, is send our set up ahead of us. That feels particularly odd. I mean, a lot of the oddness is the fact that we’re actually doing a show up there (that hasn’t really calcified itself into reality as yet), but since we’re (the company of three) going to be going up to Scotland on the late night ticket via Megabus (you know, like proper starving artists), it feels strange that our set – such as it is – is going to get a slightly less cramped journey than we expect to have.

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The bus we have is probably *not* going to look like this. But I would like us to take a moment to acknowledge which studio made this    tits-n-laffs 70s comedy.

As I write this, the rain is pleasantly pattering down outside the window, almost as if it’s prepping a thousand Southern actors and stand-ups for the variances of the Edinburgh weather. It is  – as I’m sure I’ve mentioned before – the very first time that I’ve been up to the fringe as a production (as it were), so it will be interesting to note just how this goes – not just in terms of success, etc, but basic sanity. I’ve always been very aware, if only on an academic level, of just how lucky we are to be living in a city – Brighton – that hosts the third largest fringe festival in the world. Each May, we don’t have to fork out a fortune to bring a show (and a cast) down to the South, and find accommodation for the duration. Now, we’re getting our hands down and dirty with everyone else.

 

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We’re hearing rumours of various posters already turning up around Edinburgh. We’d ask you to send us pics of this one, but it’s still at the printers. 

I’m going to be doing some reviewing while I’m at the fringe (and sombrely pondering just how long one can create their own work while reviewing others – I’m not exactly Tynan), and will post the links to the reviews on this blog, as well as updates on the Cast Iron Theatre Podcast – already past it’s 21st episode.

 

 

Thursday 27 July 2017

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Cacophony A3 Poster

You may think we’ve been sharing this poster a lot. You ain’t seen nothing yet.

On Saturday, we had our preview of our one woman show, CacophonyIt’s the first time that Cast Iron Theatre has brought a show up to the Edinburgh Fringe, so – perhaps unsurprisingly, it’s also the first time we’ve done an Edinburgh preview. It went really very well, so we’re somewhat giddy with excitement and anticipation. We also asked for feedback – which we received – and we’ll have another rehearsal before the week is out to see how well (and how appropriately) it fits in with what we already have – if at all.

I’m in the middle of edits on a short story that I’ve written, which will be published in a book later on in the year. It’s the first time that I’ve been published in a book, and so also the first time that I’ve had an editor (this blog entry seems to be about firsts, apparently). I found the list of edits and rewrite suggestions .. well, maybe not ‘exciting’, exactly, but it felt quite invigorating, permission to really get stuck in with the story and have another swing at it. Yeah, yeah: as I said, it’s my first story with an editor – I’m confident the ‘excitement’ will wear off pretty quickly.

Last night, I told another story. I had been invited along to a spoken word event at the Artista Studio in Hove, and I had said ‘yes’ slightly before I realised that I didn’t really have a story to tell. I mean, I have plenty of stories – some of them are even finished, believe it or not – but most of them are written to be read. That statement, I realise, may require a small amount of unpacking. I write for a few different mediums: stage, page (as in prose – short stories or novellas), stand-up, and on rare occasions screen and radio. And I guess I should include blog entries in there too – that counts, and certainly it counts for the point I’m trying to make. Even within the confines of stage, there are many differences: a musical is different from a biographical piece – and not just because of the inclusion of songs, there’s something about the pacing, and the size of the performances, that make the actions on stage (and therefore the words on the page) a completely different proposition. Even a sketch and a short funny play are two different beasts (and if you disagree, then we have fundamentally different ideas about what constitutes either of those things – although I’d concede that a lot of my favourite sketch writers are more interested in character than gag, which confuses the argument somewhat).

My point being that although I have a fair amount of short stories in my toolbox, they’ve really been written to be read in silence, just the reader and the page, and no interferences or interruptions. Sure, they can be read aloud, but it’s different. So I realised with only a day or so to go that I didn’t really have a story that I wanted to take along: which for a storytelling night, isn’t exactly great. I began to think about something that had been mildly annoying me of late (if you ever think you never have an idea for a story, just think about what’s pissing you off at the moment – stories, when you strip them back, are often simply about opinion plus response), and I began to staple various bits together in my head as a narrative.

Couldn’t think of an ending, however. My mind is quite busy at the moment with about ten and twenty things to do with Edinburgh, and plus there are a few things to get sorted before we leave to get on the megabus (oh yes, no expense spared). So I couldn’t really focus on the ending. The ending had to be good. The ending had to earned.

(The line ‘The Ending Had To Be Earned’ deserves an entire blog entry in itself. It’s come up a lot in the improv classes recently, where endings have come out of nowhere, just because the actors have felt the need to get the hell of stage as soon as possible. At least in improv the performers – sort of – have an excuse [not really] in that the story hasn’t been planed. It’s much more difficult to ‘seed’ in plot points that will become important later. But that (not entirely convincing) excuse becomes positively porous when you attempt to use it defend the close of a story that you’ve actually written and therefore – presumably – have done at least a couple of drafts over. So: Earn Your Endings. A blog for another time.) 

So, no – I couldn’t focus. And when it came down to it: I still didn’t have an ending. It’s been some long time since I’ve appeared on stage by myself performing (I’m not including presenting or compering, which is again different). And I was – well, I was nervous. Quite a bit nervous, actually. It’s good to remind yourself that you can be vulnerable on stage, and that you don’t have all the answers. Doesn’t mean that it’s always gonna be fun when it’s happening, though.

Finally, I had a flash of inspiration. And when I was on stage, I told the audience that they had a choice: either they could go for the incomplete story, which meant that I would have to come up with an ending right in front of them, making it up on the spot (which would either be absolutely fine, or we’d witness a Hindenburg style moment), or they could choose the story that I’d actually had published in January, and so we knew that at least two editors and their peers would agree was basically coherent.

I gave them that choice.

Guess which one they went for. Go on, guess.

 

Tuesday 4th July 2017

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Hurtling ever closer to the Edinburgh Fringe with our solo show Cacophony (which I always panic that I’m misspelling, which will make the posters and flyers an interesting experience).  It’s largely a mimed and clowning show (I should point out / remind you that it’s not me on stage), and that’s for many reasons, the top two being that Heather Rose Andrews is a great mime and clown (look, I’m guessing you already know that I don’t mean ‘clown’ as in Ronald McDonald/Pepe/Pennywise), but also because I, as a reasonably verbose writer who can indulge in clever-clever wordplay, it’s an interesting challenge to create (or rather, co-create) a piece that denies me the tools of language and dialogue.

Having said that, I’m still spending this week actually writing up a physical script. A lot of that is because of basic common sense – it will serve as an aide memoire (see, I do like verbosity) for me and Heather, but also will essentially be a tech prompt sheet for the performances. It’s going to be mainly me on the board on the nights, but it’s still (obviously) useful to have a guide to what’s going on even when there’s no dialogue.

I know that this is no revelation to many of you (particularly those who work in the generally more visual medium of film and television), but I’m finding it fascinating. At the moment, there’s certainly a level of  NOW THIS THING HAPPENS, which could run the risk of being rather dry: certainly, it’s being written for our company, and our company alone, as opposed to being produced by a completely different group long after we’re dead (wow that went dark rather abruptly).

In other news, we’re attempting to raise funds for our Edinburgh show, and we’ve hit £100 for the second time. That is not to say that we’ve made £200, but that we have literally passed £100 twice. There was a mistake. A lovely person (let’s call them Theodore) donated £5 to us. Well, that was the idea. But a decimal point went awry, and they actually donated £50. We were overwhelmed: we were not entirely sure that we knew anyone could afford to donate £50 to our cause. We asked each other: ‘who’s Theodore? Is it the Theodore who can actually afford £50?!’ (We know a lot of Theodores; it’s a reasonably common name).

Meanwhile, Theodore checked their balance, and realised to their horror what had happened. Luckily, we were able to rectify the mistake (and kudos to IndieGoGo for letting the money get back to our friend with no fuss whatsoever), and we were back on our not-to-be-sneezed-at £77. Since then, we’ve had another donation to kick it back over £100, and we’re overwhelmed at the generosity of people. Look, nobody has any money to spare, not really, but when lots of friends and similarly-creative people band together and give five quid (hell, even just £1 matters, particularly when every single person on your friend feed gives £1), it all matters. It’s genuinely so special. If you have a moment, please do click through to this link and have a look at the page, with details of what perks are available on any donation from £5 to £500.

Just keep an eye on that decimal point.

Thursday 25th May 2017 

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We’re hitting the last week of the Brighton Fringe here, which might surprise some people, who – despite actually living in Brighton – might have thought that it ends this weekend, if they were aware at all that it was still going on. It’s an odd thing; the fringe: for those of us who are actually involved with it, it’s pretty much a 24/7 thing, with stuff like jobs and other mundane matters being merely squeezed into the gaps. It’s easy to forget that there are many in town who either don’t know or (gasp) don’t care. 

Cast Iron Theatre’s production, Model Organisms, got out of the gate in the first week, and so as a production house, we’ve been able to spend the rear of May in a state of relative relaxation (relative, I said. Things haven’t chanted that much). I mean, there’s a couple of old scripts being revived,  two new shows being created as we speak (about which, more later), and a couple of short stories that are teaching me a lot about deadlines and even more about editing. Actually, the main thing I learned about one of my deadlines is that it’s exactly a month later than I thought it was, which is good news, especially as I already thought that it was in pretty good shape. 

Elsewhere, the podcast is also in good shape: we’ve conducted fourteen separate interviews so far, and we seem to be getting a good response. We’ve been super-busy with the fringe (obviously a lot of people want to sell their shows in May), and so it means that the podcasts have been coming thick and fast. 

Sunday 23rd April 2017

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Busy week (as ever) coming up: we’ve got a number of episodes of the Cast Iron Theatre Podcast already recorded, and ready to drop. Last Thursday, we uploaded our chat with Brighton writer and director Sam Chittenden, and you can find a link to the iTunes info here. It’s been a really fun experience, and we have some exciting episodes lined up, including a chat with Michael Graney, PopHeart Productions, and even a chat with ourselves (sort of), as we get under the hood of Cast Iron Theatre, and chat about Model Organisms, our upcoming play for the Brighton Fringe.

There has been (somewhat) a lull of sorts, a chance to catch my breath as the Easter holidays have passed by, but that moment has well and truly sauntered on. The IronClad Improv sessions are still happening, every Sunday at the DukeBox Theatre, despite the fact that the Iron Duke Pub is no longer called that: it’s now called The Southern Belle, after the iconic train that used to connect Brighton to London. Current rail users may marvel at the fantasy that there was a train that could be relied on to get passengers from the South coast to the capital, but yes, such a thing was in fact a reality. Those of you who are in fact regulars to the Sunday night drop in may be interested to know that there’s a long form course coming up (fairly) soon, and this seems like a good time to give you the heads up that throughout May, the Sunday nights will be at a different location to accommodate the fringe (but will indeed still be going ahead).

Apart from that, I have a couple of deadlines to wrestle to the ground. So we’ll meet back here another time. Subscribe (and rate, and comment) to the podcast, and if you’re allergic to Apple, you can find us on soundcloud, as well.

In Pod We Trust

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Recently, we’ve kicked off the Cast Iron Theatre Podcast, which talks to all manner of creative people in Brighton – actors, writers, directors, producers, improvisers … you get the idea.

It’s a very varied hour (or slightly less/slightly more). In the first episode, we spoke to Sarah Johnson and Guy Wah about the HoveGrown Festival, while in episode two we chatted to Rob Cohen about his three solo shows (with the umbrella title Men Without Friends), and in episode three we had a group chat with four of the Fannytasticals (pictured above). We’ve just uploaded the episode where we chat to Yvette May about her show, 10 Steps To Happiness, and we’re in the middle of editing our fifth episode, with Sam Chittenden.

So far, we’ve been mainly chatting to people that we already know (it’s a very busy town for creatives, is Brighton), and it’s gratifying how many of them we have worked with on Cast Iron itself.

That deserves some unpicking: by no means everyone on the podcast has been involved with a Cast Iron production – and we should emphasise that the pod won’t limit itself to just chatting with those inside the company: as we say on the episodes, if you’re a creative who works, lives, or simply has a single tour date in Brighton, then we’re sure to be talking to you. But still, it’s lovely that we’ve had the chance to work with these talented people on a Cast Iron production. Sometimes (although, admittedly, not in the case of the people mentioned above, I don’t think), Cast Iron – and also Iron Clad Improv – has provided a performer with their first opportunity on stage. We’ve often said that one of the most delightful and gratifying things about Cast Iron is that at some point we will lose our treasured actors / writers / directors: in other words, they will move on – often geographically, to London, for instance – and begin to form their own work. On occasion, we have received an email from a writer whose play we have particularly enjoyed – and has been very well received by audiences –  who tells us that the play was the first thing they’ve written for public consumption, that they’ve wanted to write for years – and Cast Iron gave them that opportunity. That’s a lot of what Cast Iron is about.

Is that enough blowing of trumpets for now? I think so. Here’s the link for the podcast itself, and if you subscribe, a new episode will be in your ears every Thursday. If you don’t have iTunes, then you can listen on SoundCloud. Here, for instance, is episode three. We’d love to have your feedback and responses, so do get in touch.

Hope you have a good Easter!