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Saturday, 1 July 2017

And the dog watched the show all the way through

So, the debut showing of WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE? Barbara Brownskirt. happened at The Marlborough Theatre as part of Brighton Fringe and the second night SOLD OUT. It wasn't just my family and friends that came but half, yes half of the audience was unknown to me meaning all the work tweeting, flyering and word-of-mouthing paid off.
SOLD OUT makes it sound great doesn't it? It sounds as if Barbara could be on her way to bright lights and big fat pay cheques? 
Forget that. I don't like all the spin that goes on, as the problem with spin is that it's meant to make people feel dizzy and disorientated and unaware of the truth behind the glean.

For any novice writing a solo performance piece, I would recommend Brighton Fringe as a good place to put your first show on. 
The audience are at first a little wary
Worth doing is the Fringe City. A week before my show I went down to Brighton and performed at the free outdoor event in the centre to advertise the show in a 10 minute segment. Think Edinburgh's Royal Mile but in miniature form. It was a challenge - how to stop passers by, dressed in a cagoule with only the poetry. Music works really well, as does getting the audience to participate (Barbara had a tambourine and maracas that she made a volunteer shake). There were other adverse conditions too; the acrobat act before me gave up before even trying as he thought there was not enough of a crowd (there's a bigger stage outside the church up the same stretch). I like a challenge and so I thought to myself, 
I'm going to make this work.
Though one pop sock refused to be as high as the other and it was baking hot with sweat dripping down the inside of my anorak, I decided to announce a count down to attract passers by. The Fringe volunteers shook my musical instruments and a small crowd formed to listen. I began with the Judi Dench poem and carried on with Faberge Eggs, A Bus Stop of One's Own, Same Sex Marriage. The crowd grew, fell and then grew until I had a devoted group. They got it - in a minute or two they'd understood who Barbara was. They got that her failure was part of their own disappointment and rage, but best of all, they were all laughing.

On stage at The Marlborough
A few blogs back I promised to tell you the truth about putting on this show so here goes: the week before the show opened I had only sold six tickets for the Thursday night. Friday was already sold out, but an audience of six people was not good. So, after Fringe City was over, me and my GF decided we'd flyer gay Brighton. Heading towards The Marlborough we talked to the people inside, they were playing pool, eating late lunches. But this brought up an issue: I cannot interact as Barbara. She does not like the public, although she thinks the public need to hear her poetry, she is not a great talker and if you want someone to come see your show, there's a certain amount of explanation you need to do to get their interest whetted. I decided to just be quiet while my partner did all the talking. As we toured the gay bars, some more messy than others, this approach seemed to work out well; they looked at the flyer, my partner explained the show, then they saw Barbara was stalking them a little from afar. All this paid off, people bought tickets and I performed to a good sized audience on the first night.

Polari with Paul Burston flying
Gerry Potter, a well known Scouse poet I met last year in Nottingham on the Polari Tour, once had a famous alter ego poet named Chloe Poems. Something he said keeps reverberating around my brain. He said, after watching my act, "Barbara will take you to places you never thought possible." I'm beginning to realise this as something good happened after the show. The artistic director from The Kings Head Theatre came on the Friday night and loved it. When we met last week, he said he'd brought his little dog and she was in the audience in his bag. She usually sleeps throughout the performances, he said, but this time she listened to every single one of the poems! I loved this, being practically booked up by a dog. Now the show will be on at The Kings Head on 12th August. It'll also be in Birmingham as part of SHOUT festival on 16 November, but first it's on at world renowned Vauxhall Tavern on 21st July. WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE? Barbara Brownskirt. now has places to go. I'm going to keep working on it until I get it to where I want to be. I've got a great director lined up for this autumn and I think, as I gaze into my crystal ball, I can see a little more clearly: 
The future is brown, and the future is Barbara.
And, the future is more fiction writing.

Tickets here:

Royal Vauxhall Tavern, 7pm, 21 July Who Do You Think You Are? Barbara Brownskirt.
Duckie, Royal Vauxhall Tavern, 10pm, 5 August Barbara does Duckie
Kings Head Theatre, 5pm, 12 August Queer Festival '17
The Old Stock Joint Theatre, 16 November SHOUT Festival