Tom Derrington reflects on a month that saw his show debut in London
Continuing his monthly diary for Everything Theatre, this month Tom Derrington looks back at the highs and lows of putting on a fringe theatre show in London for the first time.
I have to admit, June was a really strange month for me on this writing journey.
I got to watch a play of mine being performed in London. The entire week was an incredible experience. From getting involved in tech day (I say getting involved – I held a ladder), to sneaking around in the bar, pre-show, desperately trying to work out if any reviewers might be in, (I say trying – who else goes to the theatre with a backpack on). Watching an audience settle in. Lights fade. That terrifying moment of silence as a room of strangers collectively prepare to invest in something you’ve created.
Seventy-eight minutes later – shear relief! No major fuck-ups. Backstage chat about missed lines and fluffed cues that probably nobody noticed. Nice crowd. Snippets of conversations on the way out. She seemed to like it – They weren’t so sure. Supportive hugs from family and friends who made the trip. They said they loved it. I’m buzzing. Can’t sleep. Probably should’ve cut that line in scene two. Didn’t quite land. I’ll suggest that. Quick Twitter check. Owp! Another review. Is that? 4 stars! Get in. Yes! Definitely the dude with the backpack. This is amazing. I love this. And we get to do it all again tomorrow. I can’t wait. I really fucking love this. What is not to love about making theatre?
It’s one week later. Life is back to normal, the post-show blues have set in and I can’t help thinking, on reflection; Was all of that – actually worth it?
I mean, self-producing a play involves a hell of a lot of work! I wouldn’t even like to guess the number of combined hours that went into it – from the writing to the performance. Then there is the endless task of promotion and marketing and despite our best efforts, the ticket sales were bloody miserable. We had 12 people one night and they were all friends and family. Business wise, a disaster! We made a loss of £400 and that’s with a cast of two and minimal set – so of course, none of us got paid. Not one of the theatres or agents we had invited along with complimentary tickets even bothered to reply, let alone turn up to watch. The reviews we received were amazing. They were generous and insightful and really gave us all such a boost during the week. But of course, these are quickly replaced by the new plays being performed later that week and it doesn’t take very long before our stars seem to fade into the website archive.
I guess that’s just how it is. I don’t know what I expected to be honest. Perhaps, being my first time on the fringe theatre scene, I just got swept up in the excitement and unrealistic hopes of having a show on in London. Of course, it ends – the next play begins and it’s all over in an instant.
One thing is for sure though, I have gained massive respect for all fringe theatre makers who do this regularly. It takes so much investment of time and money and people and yes, it really is a lot of fun. I am just not sure right now, whether I would have the energy to do it all again.
Bad timing. Received an email from the Papatango Prize to let me know I had not made the shortlist. Rejections like this are always tough to read but I have to say, the Papatango ones are always the kindest and most thoughtfully written. It was a massive long-shot and I am really looking forward to receiving their feedback in a couple of months.
I’ve just had a new idea! Something I have wanted to try and write about for ages but just couldn’t seem to get started on. And then this evening, whilst bringing my kids to bed, absently humming the Paw Patrol theme tune – BOOM, it hit me. Like that. A new story. A clear angle. Quickly finished up the chorus (they were asleep anyway), hurried downstairs to open my laptop and started typing.
I think for me, this explains the addiction that I have for writing. You can be feeling dejected and uninspired one minute and bursting with creativity and hope the next.
I need to remind myself more often that I’m writing purely for my own enjoyment firstly. Anything else that happens can only be a bonus or valuable experience. So, yeah… I can’t wait to get started on this new story. Let’s see where this one takes me.
Maybe fringe theatre? Why not?
Thanks again to Tom for his monthly updates on the highs and lows of being a writer. You can find all of his diary entries here.