Interesting audiences

We’ve had a number of interesting audience members at Jules’ show My Sister Says I’m Special.

Part of what makes Jules great is her ability to get the audience involved and feel as if they are having a show in their living room rather than the more formal environment of a comedy club. Her background as a youth worker also means she has a great grasp of when people have something to disclose – generally when she asks them a question and they look at someone else before answering.

We had a group of students in today who started off hung over and tired after a heavy weekend and ended up disclosing they had been to a gay bar where one had managed to pull an older gay man, one (who was a lesbian) saying she had had sex in the toilets with a transsexual man, and a third admitting he had had a blow job from a man despite being straight.

At another session a man told her he had an erection as a five year old and was upset when his father refused to explain what was happening It was his first attempt at heckling and we were not sure he had fully grasped the principle.

Others were less surprising – a deep sea diver who, when teased about whether that meant he went down regularly said he did but his girlfriend didn’t like it, and a man who said his name was Manuel and was a waiter from Barcelona who then was a target for lots of jokes.

And many more I shouldn’t discuss!

Best of all, they all seemed to enjoy it and didn’t regret participating and thanked Jules afterwards for a great show.

As well as being great on the day, it is storing up lots of comedy for future sets.

Edinburgh – week three

Just about to start our third week in Edinburgh of My Sister Says I’m Special. Phil has been replaced by Donna and Chris as roadies and Jules has done some great shows – she is definitely more in the moment when she is on stage and is comfortable enough to really play when she is on stage. We have also managed to see a lot more shows – mostly compilations of comedians (what is the collective noun for comedians? A chortle?). Some of these are great, some not so, but a lot depends on how many are in the audience compared to room size.

I’ve also finished doing the research notes on the novel and should incorporate these into the synopsis next week when it is just Jules and I. I now know a lot about Alfred Jarry and Fin de Siecle Paris.

The best English language biography of Jarry by some way is Alastair Brotchie’s Alfred Jarry a Pataphysical Life which is imaculatey researched and includes lots of material not in other biographies. It is also bias free – Alastair rehearses the speculation about Jarry’s life and works but is careful to identify his own and others’ opinions so the reader can make their own mind up. The Jill Fell book An Imagination in Revolt includes a lot more “creative” biography on Jarry’s art influences – he may have been influenced by various things around at the time but no evidence trail is cited.

The research has deepened my view of many of the subsidiary real characters in the novel but has not made me have to change it radically – just identify ways in which I can give a better picture of who they are in the appropriate parts of the plot. It has also thrown up lots of serendipitous detail I can incorporate to enrich the book and incorporate some in jokes. The danger now is to avoid it being a novel about Jarry rather than one about the two other lead characters so I will have to work on enriching their back stories and emotional depth. There is also the little challenge of making the “villain” a real person when they are off screen for most of the time for the very good reason that they are supposed to be a shadowy figure.

Thankfully I’ve not had to change any of the action, or alter history more than in my original conceit. Some events will change dates slightly or happen in a marginally different way, but not enough to seem like undue artifice.

Onwards and upwards.

Edinburgh -one week in

One week in and we are still enjoying Edinburgh. As well as being co-tech with Phil setting up the show and busking sessions , I have been wandering around town dressed as a Qtapotamus with him and been in the Qtapotamus exercise class with Jules.

I’ve also been keeping all the social media stuff up to date – quite a big job as Phil has now set up Jules website www.julesmaxine.com with links to all the material including videos, media pack info, pictures etc, and posting new stuff to facebook, twitter, flikr etc – both Jules pages and my own, and keeping up to date with correspondence on our email accounts about potential drop in slots.

We’ve only managed to see a couple of shows so far – apart from ones Jules has done slots in – the best being John Otway who was wonderful as always despite having to cut short his set and suffer the sound check of the Spanish balladeer who had double booked the venue.

Phil goes back tomorrow and Jules sister Donna and her husband Chris arrive Monday. Week two? Bring it on!IMG_1175 

Edinburgh – the adventure begins

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Jules and I are in Edinburgh with our son Phil and Bo the dog. Everyone apart from Bo are here to support Jules’ first one woman show My Sister Says I’m Special.

Yesterday was the first performance of the show and Jules’ first busking slot at the mound. Both went really well and she has had her first positive customer review on twitter https://twitter.com/iamjulesmaxine. As well as being the tech for the show (and coping with a mysterious echo on the PA today which we discovered with 15 minutes to curtain up) Phil has done a great website for Jules at www.julesmaxine.com with links to all of the videos pictures etc. I’ve been busy doing the admin – picking up passes etc – and doing the PR – media releases, postering, leafleting, talking to the Festival Press Office and posting lots of stuff on social media. Oh, and appearing in a Qtapotamus suit.

Bo has been relaxing and being quite well behaved for a Border Collie. We are training him up to sit on a blanket while we are busking, or possibly have a collection cup round his neck.

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Getting Ready for Edinburgh

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I’ve not posted much recently as we have been preparing for Jules one woman show at the Edinburgh Fringe My Sister Says I’m Special.

With four days to go until we travel the 450 miles there and just over a week until the show starts there is still a lot of things to do. The show is written and rehearsed and the posters and leaflets, equipment and the hippopotamus suits are all here (don’t ask). The first press release has been sent and the second is about to go out and the media packs just need to be printed out and assembled. I’ve even remembered to buy blu tack to out the posters up.

I now have a wall filled with lists – what we till have to do, what to remember to take, and the diary of what we are definitely doing – busking and drop in slots at other comedy shows, the media photo event, various launch and other “social” events – as well as a list of other people’s shows we may go to see while we are there.

There is a lot of work to prepare properly and a lot of expense – accommodation at festival time in Edinburgh is not cheap. However it should all be worth it. Jules works a lot better with more space than is usually available in a five minute slot. These work best for comedians who do jokes. If you are a storyteller, or, like Jules, you do comic songs, you need more space.

Still, I’m not fully looking forward to handing out flyers in one of those hippo suits if the weather is as hot as it has been, and even less I the Scottish rain no matter how much fun it will be.

Revolutionary Tapestry – the synopsis

I’ve just finished doing the first draft of the synopsis of the novel – The revolutionary tapestry. I’ve also been doing some character studies of the main protagonists as exercises for my Open University course in creative writing so killing two birds with one stone. Now comes the hard slog!

Not that writing the synopsis was that easy. It was a very useful exercise in blocking out the setting, plot, characters and some detail, but there is a challenge in deciding what to put in and what to leave out. As usual Jules was a great first reader as (a) she doesn’t know as much as I do about the setting so is able to say when things are not clear because I haven’t translated what’s in my head to the paper and (b) because she has great emotional intelligence so is able to say if what the characters do doesn’t feel realistic. What is happening inside the characters heads and hearts is one of the things I knew I would have to put in, but I got a bit engrossed in making sure I get down the quite complicated plot structure.

She was also perceptive enough to spot the points at which my energy levels flagged and the writing became more bullet point notes than sentences.

Although having someone read your work is always a bit frightening, the discussion afterwards meant we were able to think about the two sequels as well as the current book – I already had a broad idea for the second one but the third wasn’t even on my horizon until Jules came up with a suggestion that was perfect.

There may well be changes to the plot of the first novel but I think I’ve got the core set out – a hard task as there are several strands happening at once which all need to link together and tie up any loose ends.

Now I need to go back to the research I’ve done and look at where and how facts are woven into the story so I avoid big chunks of exposition, and do more work on all of the characters – not just the main ones – who have more than a walk on part in the book. With more than a dozen books providing core background on setting and characters, and about 50 pages of information gleaned from the internet, this next phase is another big chunk of work. However, when it’s done I will have a solid base to draw on in writing the actual novel.

Building a world that shares a lot with real history, but has some core differences which affect a lot of detail in that world is a challenge. It’s a bit like writing a historical novel, thriller, and science fiction novel all in one. What you invent has to be consistent with aspects of real history as well as internally. Oh what fun!

Time of my life

At the moment I am having the time of my life. This may seem like hyperbole, but is true as Jules and I have the space to be who we are, and do the things we have always wanted to do but didn’t because life and work get in the way.

A bit more money would be useful of course – this week must be our turn to win the lottery – but given the choice between spending money on things and spending effort on developing ourselves the latter wins hands down.

In the last few weeks I have been writing, and doing an Open University course as well as attending the Kessingland Writers Group to stretch the ways I create characters and narrative. Talking this through with Jules has also meant I have been working to put more emotional depth in what I write rather than approaching writing from plot, action and dialogue.

Jules has been doing a lot of stand up gigs and it is a total joy to see her blossom into the artist she has always been but has never had the time or encouragement to be. We talk about “getting over the mountain” which means getting to the stage where you are yourself (or a version of yourself) on stage rather than just doing an act. Her coming sessions as Justin Lee Collins co host on Fubar Radio help with that as she is able to run with the subjects that come up and be funny in the moment rather than agonising over which set of words in a set work best – as you can hear from her audition.

Phil’s band Beyond Truth have also had a recent gig with another coming up and it is also wonderful to see how he transforms on stage when he starts to play guitar. There is a video online of some of the last performance on their website.

And above all else we have been able to live more in the moment. If an opportunity comes up – as one did recently to be in the pilot of a new quiz show – we can go for it and enjoy it for the experience. We are learning that if you take opportunities that present themselves and throw yourself completely into them, you not only enjoy it more, but you perform better. Whether it is a comedy performance, music, or a piece of writing, people want to make a connection with its creator – they want to like you as well as what you do and feel you are doing it for them rather than as an abstract event. One Direction’s fans believe they are singing to them not to the world in general, which is why they love them (there has to be some reason!). And the more you are real with them, the more they give back to you. Honesty really is the best policy!