The last performance of 'Jeu Jeu la Foille's Frontal Lobotomy' for the foreseeable future was in Buxton last Saturday. The invoices have been paid, props and costumes put away or repaired/retired, and that final review should be here any day. And as I write this I'm in a state of turmoil, thoughts rushing through my head, thinking on the events that have happened in my personal life in the past 7 months, and remembering that the show was a kind of anchor through all of that.
I heard someone say recently that whatever you go out to attack, comes back to get you. I hope that the show helped to gently persuade people of what they already thought they knew. Certainly I have felt attacked in my personal life, but the audience responses to the show have been very loving and supportive. If anything has kept me going it's this show.
But what do I do with it next?
Some possible ideas that have come out of various audience responses, working with directors and experience of solo touring:
Ask for more funding next time. I should've asked for a higher sum. Over this 7 month tour, because I was lucky enough to receive a small grant from the Arts Council, it opened me up to these kind of conversations with other artists I knew or met along the way. And their grant was always bigger than mine! They were often surprised at how little I was working with. Costs did add up, and though I made just enough in hat donations, and saved some other already budgeted for pounds here and there - I just about broke even. And I didn't pay myself any sort of wage or expenses. All of my full shows, bar two, were free. I've learned from this that I have consistently undersold or undervalued myself, feeling that I somehow wasn't worthy of money. Doing this tour has begun to turn that around for me.
Believe in yourself more. At the start I was doubting everything about touring, but the run at the Vaults was the turning point, and the show got a second wind in May at Chaplin's Cellar Bar. April was a bit of slump audience and energy wise. I got a bit monotone in my delivery, and once this was pointed out to me by a friend or two, I worked hard to turn that around. I loved Brighton Fringe! I also worked hard on the transitions and characters of the show with the help of Pepe Gudino in June, and July was a busy month in terms of shows and audiences. Before the start of the tour in January I performed an extract in a cabaret show called Le Chien Noir. All of the acts were themed around mental illness, it was very moving. I felt I'd done a terrible performance and was mortified, but quickly cheered up by those around me. All those I've worked with and met since conceiving this show have been nothing but caring and supportive, and the audiences have been up for it! Positive reviews and blog posts, some nice personal thank you's and acknowledgment on some level from my peers have been an added bonus.
It has become clearer than ever through the process of performing this show, that the decision I made to operate my own lighting and sound as part of the show, is brave but misguided. It does make the show seem really solo, I'm completely on my own with no one to help me. In May I experimented with a foot pedal to change the tracks, and uploaded my music onto a go button app - I should've done this long before, although I broke the foot pedal in my solo tech rehearsal in the first performance I tried with it. I want it to appear like I'm changing the needle on the gramophone, rather than pressing the screen on my ipad. It looks naff at the moment, and I've thought through every option I can think of to change it.
Get to know your performance persona and be careful when dealing with the media. I've got to know who Jeu Jeu la Foille is more over the course of seven months. Or over the fourteen months since I first let her speak onstage. I've let her do the talking far more this year, and BCC Radio Surrey only wanted me to tell them where she had come from, they didn't ask me anything leading about the actual show! She's not French!!! I've had more interest in my facebook page than ever before, and it's made me think about the work I did before this, and what I might go on to try next. I don't think I'm finished with this show yet, and certainly now it's at least more visible, I need some time to think and try to choose wisely what the next version is, and how visible I want my browsing history to be. This show is niche for one thing, I don't know where it could go.
The show works best on a small stage with the audience up close, but not too close to each other. Comedy audiences need to sit close together. The show at Guildford Fringe was a good example of this, although it was in some ways my freest and smoothest performance of them all, the stage was larger and higher than I'm used to, and the audience were far away and in complete darkness. This threw me a bit, and I wasn't expecting it to. I discovered that looking at people while you're performing to them is really important. Sound obvious, but I found many ways of looking at people who were looking at me. And I tried to really see them too. For a bigger stage I'll need bigger props, but I'm very tied to the idea that the entire show (except a chair) goes into a suitcase that I cart around myself on a stupid trolley. I've discovered that I'm very determined when it comes to being on time for shows, and (except for Latitude that I'm still weeping over) I've made it to all of them, and done a fairly decent job of largely doing this on my own, with only myself to blame and then try and sort it out. There have of course been many annoying things about moving that suitcase around, but I probably needed the exercise.
I'll write more when I think of more,
Jeu Jeu la Foille c/o Vicky Hancock