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Standup & Scratch – prepare to be surprised

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As a performer you can never predict who is going to be in an audience, and you have to be firing on all cylinders at any point.  Last week I was having a drink with two friends, they got into deep conversation, and my mind wandered a bit. I realised that upstairs there was a standup gig going on. So I left them to their conversation, paid my £6, and settled down at the back. 

There were about 15 people in the bar room, and we were to be treated to four acts I had never heard of.  First up not brilliant, second up slightly unusual mix of sad clown and manic angry, and then the third up was someone I will keep an eye/ear open for. Young Lowestoft based comedian called Ben Smith. 

Now I don’t work spotting talent for Edinburgh Festival any more. When I was at the Pleasance I persuaded them to take a lovely young singer impressionist Jason Wood (who went on to big tv acclaim, although now sadly no longer with us). He was playing as part of the middle of a long bill in a tiny comedy venue. But I will drop my colleagues at the Pleasance a note and suggest they keep watching Ben.

Since then I’ve suggested one or two artists, some of whom are now regulars on the EdFringe circuit. Noone knows I slipped in to the see the show last week, or that I have any interest in furthering careers.  I’m like hundreds of other people working in the theatre business – we keep thinking of the future, and hoping to be excited by a performer.  

It’s the same as the advice I give anyone going to an audition – remember the person/people sitting in the audition room are willing you to be good. They want you to be the best. They want to be able to say – “great, job done, this actor or this comedian is perfect for that part or that slot. Let’s pack up now and go to the pub.”  After seeing Ben I felt I’d had my money worth and returned to my two friends, still in happy conversation, and I will be going back to that pub again to see what other artists are there to spot.  

Why not try it – don’t just walk past your local comedy venue, or your local fringe theatre – have a look inside, see what you can spot for under a tenner. There are loads of “scratch” nights (a term used generally to mean the chance to see shows that are in development, from 40minutes of a full show destined for the Edinburgh Festival, through to ten minutes of an early idea which might, or might not, become a wonderous piece of work. Remember War Horse started with workshops, Jerry Springer the Opera started as a ten minute idea in a scratch at BAC (Battersea Arts Centre). It’s great fun feeling that you are in at the birth of a real talent, or a new play, or a fine new actor.

Sorry for the gap in Blogs - I'm back on track now so my reader can expect something every week or so.  Do feel free to suggest a topic on which I can waffle.


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