The Fringe: Day 6-8 - CRITIQUES
The attitude to reviews is a funny thing. We all KNOW it's just one person's opinion...and yet someone taking the time to come and see your show and pass comment on it can be one of the most anxiety-fuelled practices for a performer. And from my perspective especially if you're performing your own written material, knowing how much of yourself you have put into it compared to previous artistic exploits.
Audience responses have been fantastic - men and women have spoken to me after the show saying how nervous they were about a man doing a show which he says was inspired by #MeToo...and to be very pleasantly surprised. I'm clearly finding a role for this man in the conversational landscape at least, and I hope others will join me. I love talking to audiences about the issues...yet there are the opinions of another group of people that I can't help be interested in. Reviewers.
Of course, reviewers/critics are audience members too. The important relationship between shows, the people behind them and reviewers, is more evident than ever at The Fringe. People want their show reviewed; the reviewer wants to see shows to review them. It's a relationship of balance where there is a lot of responsibility from the stands. Someone is taking their time to do justice to something they've experienced - and when many reviewers are so immersed in theatre fully aware of the time, energy, love and tears that go into making something, it's a role that must have plenty of conflicting emotions. I do not envy them and in fact applaud those writers that choose to be reviewers. It's not something I feel I could do.
I somehow managed to get The Scotsman to my show on the first night - the publication all shows want to come and see their performance - and the first few days was spent frantically refreshing the website. On Day 3 I was grateful another Fringe favourite, British Theatre Guide, was there to see my show. As I have learned, and now understand, reviewers see A LOT of shows throughout the festival and, as much as I would love to have a review appear within a few hours this is rarely going to happen.
On Day 6, both reviews were published - like buses they pretty much came at once - and I got 6 STARS! Between them! That still counts, right? In all seriousness, I'm very happy with the reviews. (You can read them here and here) and whilst more stars are useful to splash across posters, both reviews give positive feedback...
"...poetically written, rhythmically narrated...fascinating issues...", "...this is a perfectly apt Fringe piece for our time: a self-reflective examination of the meaning of masculinity..." and "this is a fitting and important play for many young men, who have never considered their actions and formative years."
...the reviews also acknowledge something that I already knew about my challenging of modern masculinity; my play doesn't give many answers....hmm.
This gave me the opportunity to give myself a review; of my performance yes but, more importantly, what I'm wanting to achieve beyond the festival.
Day 6 - I was very low. In fact, when I published my last blog - and HOME was even more important in this case - I could feel a wave of blue begin to wash over me. The show went well, but with an audience of 5 after a high point of 22 people the day before I needed to care of myself and rest.
Day 7 - Going to see Alan at the Fringe Media Team was useful as I talked to him about the reviews, flyering spots and strategy - good to have one as a solo show! - I was checking out new destinations, starting new conversations. The reviews had stirred something in me overnight. Respecting the reviewers' points...I never intended to give any answers! I asked myself "What do I want others, and myself, to get out of this experience?" That's an answer I know. In a world where we feel answers can be delivered to us via a screen or a book, I believe men need to find out for themselves - dig deep and do the really difficult work for their own mental health and wellbeing. We haven't been invited by our culture to see the questions - though I was lucky enough to begin seeing them prompted by a sustained sense of lacking as the model of a mature man. I tweaked a couple of lines in the play to provoke those questions a little more. I began to PLAY!
Day 8 - On an energy roller coaster from the previous couple of days trough and peak, I was buoyed by not only a third reviewer turning up to see my show (the lovely Polly Allen from Everything Theatre who I've been communicating with directly since the start of the festival, who is a strong advocate for pieces that tackle mental health) but also some men from the Mankind Project came to see it and was lovely to connect with them afterwards - I'll tell you more about MKP in another post, but you can find out more about them HERE, the organisation has been pivotal in my own journey looking at my story of masculinity.
I'm looking forward to Polly's review in that I'd love to hear her views - the number of stars would be a bonus but that's not why I'm here. As Richard Herring said (so I'm told) "Don't come to Edinburgh to get seen. Come to get good!" and I feel performances and my attitude to my sense of purpose is getting better all the time. The relationships I make with fellow performers, reviewers and audiences help me continue to learn so much from feedback I get and conversations I have. And, whilst I'd love 5 stars splashed across my poster, the show is doing what I wanted it to do and making men and women ask the important questions.
Most importantly, in my own critique of my experience, I'm getting so much from continually listening to my own heart and where I want this experience to take me whilst I'm here...and beyond.
The journey continues...
The Spider Glass. 1.35pm each day (except Sundays) at The Space Triplex Studio: https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/the-big-i-am