Aug 29, 2015
Dogs from my knees to the horizon.
Millions of dogs,
their stupid faces blank and
I've never seen
so many dogs. They all
stand there on twenty-five centimetres of air,
bobbing as they pant.
Millions of dogs.
Aug 28, 2015
Slow Reader is an exhibition of broken words created by me, and hinted at in this here blog post here, and brought to you by Art Works Manchester.
I created this work as a kind of escape from the intense writing process for my Fringe show (see posts passim). There are a bunch of themes at work in Slow Reader, namely:
> Good writing is about editing, about ditching everything superfluous. It’s likely, therefore, that a writer will have deleted many more words than will have ended up in their final draft. Slow Reader is about that creative process of cast-offs and half-ideas; the fuzzy fragments that live at the edges of the creative mind that either don’t coalesce into something solid, or are written and then destroyed.
> The text in the exhibition is taken from several years' worth of my short stories. Many phrases and feelings live on from that work as fragments in my mind, as half-memories. This is those fragments writ large on the walls of a Manchester pub.
> The title also plays my habit of losing my place in a book. I don't fold pages or use bookmarks. I am an idiot.
You can see Slow Reader on display at Sandbar, Grosvenor Street from now for a couple of months or so.
I'm holding a launch tonight (not really a launch, just some drinks and that) and there are examples of the exhibition pieces below.
Aug 22, 2015
I feel empty.
I feel like a Cadbury creme egg that's had its sweet gloop tongued out by an anteater.
I feel like a Stereophonics jewel case without its CD, just some pastry crumbs and a greasy fingerprint.
I feel like a room without a roof nor walls nor furniture nor that family of spectacle-wearing grouse that I swear I saw living here last week.
I feel like the innermost soul of a television talent show: a yearning, brown vacuum of lost intent and forgotten dreams.
I feel like the inside of a balloon.
I've barely gone a day this past couple of weeks without a deadline approaching in the next hour, whether that means show editing, or hitting a flyering spot, or meeting up with someone, or - indeed - sleeping. The fringe was like a hurricane, or at least, a very stern gale. I'm now untethered, flapping gently in a dull breeze, waiting for someone to blow me.
Jeez, I really fancy a creme egg.
Anyhoo, I need a new project. And that project is about to hit like a hurricane train full of creme eggs and grouse.
Watch this space for Slow Reader, coming to a Manchester near you (i.e. Manchester) (i.e. it's a new thing that's about to happen somewhere in Manchester and it's been months in the planning)...
Aug 21, 2015
I haven’t blogged for a few days because I made a point about going to see more shows. My last few Kraftwerk Badger Spaceships went well, and now I am at home in Manchester. My Fringe is over. No more performing. No more attending. No more flyering. Just a big, gassy bag of nothing.
All I have now are reflections of a remarkable time. Here are those reflections in no particular order:
> I wanted to put on 14 shows, stay healthy, and enjoy the experience. Achievement unlocked. My average audience was something like 14 people, which ain’t bad for an unknown. I saw big names getting just 5 more than me. Nearly 200 people chose to see my debut Fringe show above a squillion other possibilities. Lawks.
> Early in the run, I was editing for two hours a day. Then it was one hour, then it was single sentences, and then I had a lovely moment a few days ago when all I had to edit between shows was one word (from “horse” to “stallion” if you must know). This means those that saw KBS later in the month saw a better show. Sorry 'bout that.
> Throw in a couple of low audiences or a walk-out from a famous comedian, and the isolation of an Edinburgh show really hits you. Enthusiastic audience feedback tempered this, and two lovely hosts in the north of the city kept me grounded. And yes, the city itself is such an eye-hugger, it has a way of architecturing your spirits back to health.
> I’m being judged against stand-ups who do this most days of their life. So throw in a run of high audiences and the knowledge that I’m hitting all my performance marks, and there is no better feeling. I’ll always remember the beaming or bemused faces in front of me, or that one person in every show who Does Not Get It, thereby proving my artistic worth.
> I was so limited. Hundreds of flyers remained un-flyered, I was slow to put up posters, I didn’t chase press interest as much as I should have done, and I barely did any guest appearances. But if I’d spent more time on that, the show itself would have been worse. Next year’s to-do list has already started.
> I’ve still so much to learn. I think I will look back on this debut show as a rickety, loveable tin-pot contraption that worked perfectly well thank you very much. What an experience. Achievement massively unlocked.
Huge thanks to the Edinburgh Fringe, Laughing Horse and the Argyle Bar for giving me a stage.
Aug 15, 2015
Flyering on the Royal Mile. In the rain. Oh my.
I was really miserable yesterday. I'm handing out flyers for two hours a day every day. When it's sunny on the Meadows, it's kind of fine. But the clouds spat their contempt when the heavens opened as I was flyering on the Royal Mile on Friday afternoon.
To make it worse, an jolly acapella group next to me blasted out the insipid plop of wedding-reception vomit that is Pharrell Williams' Happy. I cursed my life and I moved further down the Royal Mile for some peace and quiet. And lo and behold, God placed next to me another acapella group. And guess what they were singing. Yeah, you guessed it. In Edinburgh, you are never more than six feet away from the dried, brittle shell of Pharrell Williams' credibility.
I have five more Kraftwerk Badger Spaceships left before I skateboard back to Manchester. Rather than winding down, it feels the show is gaining momentum. Not necessarily in numbers (they're keeping quite healthy considering how weird the show is, and the audiences seem delighted), but creatively I'm treading new paths. Paths with increased momentum. On my skateboard. Basically, what I'm saying is I'm gaining momentum by treading a path on a skateboard. I'm confused. What was I saying again?
Some recent big-ticket Fringe highlights: Stewart Lee being angrily visceral, George Egg's unique and spectacular cookery comedy, Joseph Morpurgo's blistering inventiveness, and drinks with friends. Some great spoken word events too (Oh Standfast / Cassie Atkinson, Stand-Up Versus Slam, Luke Wright). I tried for tickets for Nina Conti and Bridget Christie, but failed. Paul Foot and Tony Law to come.
Aug 13, 2015
I got a review. I got a flipping review.
After only ever performing a one hour show a handful of times in my life, a reviewer sat in my audience and scribbled this for Broadway Baby: "Badger Spaceship is a seriously excellent piece of music-based comedy, and is a delight to sit through." It reads like there's a star missing, and the reviewer says "inane" a lot, but consider this:
> The show starts with a dry reading off a page to test the audience's literary mettle and, it has to be said, stamina. I am fascinated with audience alienation as a comedy tool. What I do is not 'easy' comedy.
> I'm ridiculously inexperienced at this type of performance, and I'm being judged against comedians that have worked their material over hundreds of times.
> The show is in a deep level of flux. I'm tweaking Kraftwerk Badger Spaceship every day. Some new bits work, some new bits don't so they get chopped, but the new ending is landing the show beautifully.
So am I proper chuffed with that review? You betcha.
I'm now into the second half of the run. Today is my birthday show. So it's time to increase the risks. I've switched out a weaker element of the show, which will shift the whole structure, and instead I've added these little chaps (pictured above). Already grasping for that extra star...
I feel like I'm living on the streets, despite being put up by generous hosts north of the city centre. I'm still staggering around Edinburgh in my homemade sandwich-board. I'm slowly toasting in the sun. My trainers have fallen apart. Yesterday, I paid £6 for a microwaved quiche: apparently "some rocket" constitutes a salad these days. If only I was a normal stand-up comedian: I'd totally mine that for content. It'd be cheaper to buy a real rocket! Amiright? Whatever, shut up. I've got a REVIEW.
Aug 10, 2015
I did something drastic. I rewrote the show's ending. Today's audience was the guinea pig and it worked beautifully. The new finish lands the show with a nice clunk, a bit like a hippo dropping into a wheelie bin. I'm more pleased than a buffalo in a model aircraft shop. The audience responded like a newt riding a toboggan. Basically, something-something animal in something-something humans use.
I went to see Sam Simmons' wondeful Spaghetti For Breakfast. Sam's one of those people who's trying to bring something unique to his shows, someone who's blazing a trail of creativity through a dying forest of 't-shirt-and-jeans' stand-up comedians. Not that you should set fire to trees. Sam saw me at a bus stop after the show, thanked me for coming and shook my hand. We embraced, pressed our cheeks together and both rasped in unison, "let's petrol-bomb a larch." Okay, that last sentence didn't happen, but the point is he's a nice bloke and what he's doing is weirdly important.
One chap to whom I handed a flyer told me he owned a Moog. "Robert Moog gets a mention in my show," I said. He seemed happy with that information. I also met a cartoonist for the Beano. Two dogs have asked for flyers. Someone told me to laminate my sandwich-board: I presume that was local speak for something. Tell you what: flyering's a trek but it works. I reckon it's adding a third onto my modest audience figures. Can't complain.
Do make noise about the show if you can, chums. I'm a third of the way through. It would be great to get standing-room-only: I think that's achievable - but my audience is the only publicity machine I have. Kraftwerk Badger Spaceship is 5pm every day here until August 19th. If you tweet, use the tag #KraftwerkBS: I may even make a cartoon from your tweet (see above). Clunk!
Aug 8, 2015
Two Edinburgh shows done. A dozen to go. If you've seen me perform, please do leave a review on the Edinburgh Fringe page for Kraftwerk Badger Spaceship, or perhaps pop a review on Twitter using the hashtag #KraftwerkBS.
I've spent the first few days either losing myself in re-writes or losing myself literally on the streets of Edinburgh. But this morning, I booked a bunch of shows to go to. I did two and half hours of flyering yesterday, with another two hours later today, but I don't my Fringe experience to be all promo and no audiencing. That'd be stupid. People who have seen the show won't be surprised to know I have tickets for, among others, Sam Simmons and Stewart Lee.
Audience numbers picked up last night. It's a lovely venue space at the Argyle Bar's Cellar Monkey - just on the south side of The Meadows. I'm so hoping word of mouth gets around, because I've been crap at proper publicity and promo. Too busy writing the flipping show.
On the positive side, I've fashioned a crappy card-and-pen sandwich board with some audience quotes on. It also carries a Twitter quote from Broadway Baby: "This looks way to interesting to ignore." Sometimes that makes people ignore me more out of spite and/or fear at the weird man dressed in cheap stationery items.
Aug 6, 2015
I must be an interminable fart on Twitter at the moment: Fringe this, Fringe that. I remember the days when all I cared about was getting my nappy changed and where my next rusk was coming from. Boy, those A-Level days were simpler times.
See what I did there? That was a joke. That's what people do at the Edinburgh Fringe.
I went to the free fringe festival launch party yesterday. I hoovered up free drinks like an anteater clearing up after an earthquake at, say, some kind of aardvark craft beer pub or something. That's less of a joke, sorry. People were very friendly. Some stand-ups did their thing then I got on the wrong bus home. Y'know, normal Fat Roland stuff.
I'm very aware of being a very small badger in a huge metropolis of badgers here, although the free festival organiser bloke did say he'd seen busy Twitter activity (#KraftwerkBS). I am no-one. That's why I'm doing stupid stuff like Fat Roland's Audio Spaceship: I finished episode two yesterday morning, and you can listen to it below. Episode three will be after the fringe, alas.
First Kraftwerk Badger Spaceship show (5pm, Cellar Monkey) tonight. How do I feel? I feel prepared. I've scoped out the venue, checked the tech. My main worry is few people turn up or the previous act overruns. However, this is my fringe mantra:
- Do the best show I can no matter what happens;
- I will do the show for one person: none of this "not enough people to perform" crap;
- Celebrate small successes and don't fret over mistakes.
For now: dress rehearsal, breakfast then the wrong bus into town.
Aug 4, 2015
I'm going to try to keep a blog diary during the run of my debut Edinburgh fringe show Kraftwerk Badger Spaceship (#KraftwerkBS on Twitter). Try. Don't hold me to it.
The response to my Manchester preview was immense. Funny and creative and strangely touching, they said. We liked the pictures and all the funny bits, they said. Please give us back our grandparents, they said.
I requested feedback, and every response I got was intelligent, informed, encouraging and challenging. You'll see some quotes from the feedback appearing on Twitter over the next week.
After the preview, I shortened some of the show to create time for a new ending that should finish things on a kind-of high. Of course, adding a new bit has eaten into my post-preview confidence, but I like that. I want some danger in there.
I've been clothes shopping. Had my hair cut. My elbows waxed. I'm ready for the fringe. Two days to go.