Having found a venue, signed up to the Pleasance and sent in my Fringe registration fee, Back to School and Back to School’s Disco were bound for the Scottish climes in August 2012. Hurrah. However, it was mid-March, and in the stark light of day, this gave me four months to produce, fundraise, make, sell and star in two rather massive shows, whilst also trying to earn a living myself. Interesting.
To Horse! (I’ve always wanted to say that.)
Having never produced an event of this scale, I set about trying to find a co-producer. Plying my contacts, I met with a young, astute producer, Mark Cartwright (@markcartwright; again, take notes, he’s fantastic) in a trendy London coffee shop.
NB: For nomadic freelancers the world over, a meeting’s location is of prime importance. Chains, like Starbucks, are for pretenders. The coffee is expensive, Wi-Fi has to be bought, and nesting is prohibited. Always go for the quirky, independent variety, those that don’t take cards, have a plentiful supply of Internet connectivity, and don’t bat an eye at your 24-hour stop over. Yumchaa and Flat Planet are my current faves.
Anyway, I digress. I rock up with a notebook to his Apple mac and a couple of scribbles to his spreadsheet. He mentioned the word ‘budget’. I didn’t have one. I didn’t really have a show either, only a time limit and a kamikaze spirit to sink or swim.
So we spent a good three hours hammering a list together, and with every passing minute my blood pressure rose. Insurance? Security? Accommodation? Soon £24,000 was staring up at me and the seriousness of this comic venture dawned. It seemed I had gone about this completely the wrong way; however, I legitimised my mission (both to him and subsequently to myself) that one must create your own necessity (early advice from a theatre director I slept with to get acting work, which, by the way, never works).
Now, not only do I have two shows to make and a venue to fill, I have a lot of money I can’t afford to lose.
Despite this already hefty challenge, I was then offered a month’s contract to home-school Middle Eastern royalty. Despite knowing that transatlantic producing is not advised, but enthused by the spirit of Annika Rice, I took twenty days to write the publicity blurbs, organise a photo shoot, design the poster, find and book accommodation, create a website, fundraise, and simultaneously decipher A-Level Classics, History, Ancient History, Philosophy, English and, hilariously, Latin, all in stride. Well, that’s if you ignore the 24-hour sustained panic attacks and symptoms of an early heart attack.
Thank God for Facebook! Seriously, despite its uses for stalking, it also served as a nifty tool, with my constantly pleading status updates answered: I found photographers, life models, editors and designers, all through friends of friends.
It was writing the 40- and 100-word blurbs for the Fringe brochure and Pleasance websites that proved the trickiest thing. Because I had no script and was relying on this ‘site-specific, interactive comedy school experience’ tagline, I had to remain as vague as possible, whilst providing enough detail to be interesting. My poor flatmate, who luckily happens to be a rather talented writer and theatre critic (@miriamgillinson) bore the brunt of this perspiration, but after about a gazillion re-writes, this was born:
My only regret is the 80’s mention, since three months later that time period was abandoned.
Next up, the poster. Initially I wanted the poster to be a take on Britney Spears’ ‘Hit Me Baby One More Time’, but then I remembered the condescending Stage reviews I received for my 2006 show (see second blog), which likened me to Miss Spears, and I remembered that I did not have the same abs, so I thought it best to stay well clear. Cajoling a friend of a friend, the lovely and talented photographer Clare McGregor, we decided on a school photograph-type affair, with adults posing as eleven-year-olds.
Thanks to Star Now and a promise of poorly made rice crispy cakes, a motley band of helpers arrived at King Alfred’s School, where we snapped away. I hasten to add, due to the complete lack of time and to highlight my own workaholism, this happened on my birthday, and I’ve got to say, waking up at 4:20 a.m. was my least favourite thing of the whole experience.
But here are the fruits of my efforts:
The next day, having to catch a flight, Factotum Letting saved my soon to be cast from a month of homelessness by procuring a five bed flat. Tick, another £4000 spent, but another job done. I thus flew off into the sunset, hoping this production could wait another month.