The Fringe: Day 2 - SELLING
About 10 years ago I became a recruitment consultant. It didn't last long. I've always found the whole idea of SELLING as a bit of a con. To try and trick people into something that they don't want - we were encouraged to make the SALE ahead of it being a fully appropriate match. To be told that I need to convince people of why they want something in the first place seems to be to immoral.
Creative people are often terrible at selling themselves. Amidst the desire to create something for the world to see, or just for them, is this crippling feeling that nobody will like what they do. So the temptation is to just finish creating something then close your eyes and rock back and forth in the corner for the rest of the day. I'm pleased to say that on Day 2 of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, that hasn't happened to me. Yet, at least.
Flyering is necessary. You need to get people to come to your show. It makes sense not just from a financial impact, to recoup costs for the venue hire, marketing, accommodation etc (it's rare for a company to make a profit at the Fringe, especially first-timers), but the more bums on seats the more heartening it is that your work means something to someone - that it's been worth taking the time to check out.
My first experience flyering on The Royal Mile was frightening. There are thousands of people lining the streets and hundreds of them are dishing out flyers - including myself - to bewildered Fringe-goers who perhaps just came to town to see a couple of shows. Well, they've now got fifty of them in their hands are now met with the conundrum of choosing a hillbilly-themed a cappella group singing bluegrass versions of 80's power ballads or twenty different stand up comics who are destined to be the 'next big thing'.
And then there's my one man show about toxic masculinity.
After a few minutes, I start to dish out a few flyers to people - of course people DO want to see stuff and there more than happy to take them. But after a few minutes, something dawns on me. I came here for a conversation - to engage with people about an important topic. Handing a piece of paper to someone may work for a singing group or a comedian - in some respect you know what you're going to get, and chances are you'll be entertained. I had to change tactics. When people are walking past at lightening quick speed - and kudos to the people that do it with headphones on. Clearly seasoned Fringe-goers - I try blurting out something like "A one-man-show-investigating-the-story-of-masculinity-in-an-attempt-to-encourage-men-to-look-at-the-messages-they-have-received-about-what-it-means-to-be-a-man-in-the-post-me-too-landscape..."
A couple of people take a flyer or two...but with more of a polite smile than a look of "Ooh-I-am-totally-interested-in-that-but-I-am-in-a-rush-cos-there's-this-new-burrito-place-I-spotted-that-wasn't-here-last-year-but-yes-I-would-love-to-see-your-show!"
So I stop. I think. I came here for a conversation!
Me: How do you feel about toxic masculinity?Fringe-going woman: Uh, yeah!Me: Yeah, you think it's great or...Fringe-going woman: -No, I mean...wait, do you think it's great?Me: Not at all, in fact that's why I wrote this show....
...And I spend a minute or two having an actual conversation with someone. I have several conversations over the next 10 minutes. I feel great! Until... - I realised...I've only been speaking to women! I've got a show which is fundamentally created to encourage men look at their own story of masculinity, and I'm focusing on...well there is no wrong gender, but I'm clearly avoiding the men - I've spent my whole life doing it and if the men's work has taught me anything it's time for that to change.
Me: How do you feel about the #MeToo movement?
Fringe-going man: NO! Tough crowd.
Tough fucking-massive crowd! But if at first you don't succeed...
Me: How do you feel about the #MeToo movement?
Fringe-going man: Uh, big question for a Saturday morning!
Me: Yeah. But as a man do you feel you have an answer for it?
Fringe-going man: No. Well, I think it's a good thing that women have had the chance to speak out but...uh...
Me: Great. But how does it affect you? Personally, even though I don't feel like I'm an abuser, a Weinstein of the world, the whole thing has left me with a bit of shame...like I have had sexist attitudes toward women, maybe I haven't 'shown up' as much as I would like in relationships. How about you?
Fringe-going man: Well, yeah, it's a good point (takes flyer) so what's this then?
I've arrived. I'm having a conversation with a man I have just met about the difficult terrain of masculinity. I speak to men and women and - what is REALLY great - couples of all gender combos who have clearly had conversations around this between themselves, either about their relationship or the world at large. After 2 days , at both performances I have seen couples that I spoke to directly and had a conversation with as well as the odd solo person. It's not the paper that was handed out, it was the conversation.
I am careful, of course, not to co-opt the #MeToo movement for myself or for men. It's a fine line. But I WAS inspired by the movement to write this play and I want to find out what men's role is in the conversation. We can't just applaud women's courage from the sidelines - it's not enough. And I'm happy to be challenged on that. I WANT to have that conversation.
I didn't last as a recruitment consultant because, honestly, I didn't give too much of a shit about the job. I wasn't great at selling my last few shows cos my deeper end goal was being seen as a 'successful' playwright. Things are different now. It's not a show I'm selling. It's an invitation to a deeper conversations that just so happens to start with a £8 ticket price. With the show audience doubling between the first and second show it's a conversation that will hopefully continue to gain pace.
Once upon a time I hated the idea of selling. Things can change.
The journey continues...
See The Spider Glass until 25 August, 1.35pm each day (not Sundays): https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/spider-glass