Numbers. It’s all about the numbers. As a poet I am no stranger to small audiences. It’s an acquired habit, right? Only for the incredibly intelligent with excellent taste.
These days on tour I play to pretty good houses in most places. There are still a few rooms that feel more cavernous than they rightly should but things are beginning to look up. It only took sixteen years.
But here in Edinburgh the old obsession creeps back in. “It’s quiet everywhere today;” “it’s not really started yet;” “I reckon we’ll get quite a good walk-up;” “no ones really buying tickets in advance at the moment.” All the old mantras creak into use. We tell ourselves this to feel better, of course. We should know better, they are cold comfort, and all just variations on the old adage: “it ain’t you Luke, this whole business is going down the swanny.”
Which isn’t true. Across town my pal Bryonny Kimmings has sold out her entire Fringe run. So there are punters out there. They’re just not coming to see me. Yet.
Yes! Panic not, things are not lost. I have two things on my side. My shows. I have two excellent shows. That sounds boastful. But I’ve just spent four paragraphs lamenting my woeful professional situation, so cut me some slack.
I believe in both of these shows. Stay-at-Home Dandy is my strongest suit of poems to date. It’s already toured the country and has assured me of that. In fact, even though I had a small house (of about 20 punters) yesterday we all had a great time. Even two years ago, a small crowd would have made life difficult for me to really get everyone laughing. Not now. It’s under control.
What I Learned From Johnny Bevan is selling fewer tickets. But I can see the expressions on the faces of the audience at the of the show. I am reading their tweets about it. Surely it’ll break, surely. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done. It’s the fourteenth show I’ve made as well, so I know a thing or two about this.
So it comes down to two factors: word of mouth and reviews. I’m waiting on about five reviews. I ‘ve had one so far. Johnny Bevan had a lovely review yesterday – go on, click it. Not bad eh?
I know this all sounds rather self-pitying. It’s not. I don’t feel sorry for myself. Yet. Ha ha ha. But this is the reality of it. You spend a year (or more) sweating over your art (yes, I went there) and that is the brilliant feeling. To work on something you believe in. To believe in something. And then you come up here and it’s all: “what’s the bottom line?” But y’know, you want people to see your art. Christ, I made this for you! Umm, that was an blasphemous exclamation btw, I wasn’t addressing Jesus. I didn’t make a one man play about the class and the death of New Labour for Jesus.
And of course there is that other thing: money. It’s cost about ten grand to bring these shows up there. So far I have made about a tenth of that back. #rent # food etc.
Right now I am sitting on a bench in Southside. I’ve paused on my morning walk to pen you this missive. There’s that lovely early morning tinge to the air. And I don’t feel defeated. I feel hopeful. And that is a sweet thing. Today I shall try to remember that brilliant feeling and keep the numbers at bay.