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Archive for July, 2015

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A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far way… in zone 2

This weekend, I had the Star Wars Secret Cinema to look forward to.

Unlike the Back to the Future one, I was actually going to get dressed up in a suitable outfit. And after spending an afternoon traipsing around various fabric and charity shops in Walthamstow, I had got my costume together costing about a tenner.

So my plan for the weekend was to have a quiet night on Friday, get some writing done during the day on Saturday and go to Secret Cinema, then do an Edinburgh preview in Balham on Sunday afternoon.

Just as I was about to leave the office on Friday, I remembered that I needed to print my ticket. However, when I saw the date on my ticket I realised that I hadn’t booked for Saturday at all. I had actually booked for Friday. I haven’t had much luck with this event, first I booked a child’s ticket in my excitement, and then I forget exactly when I’m meant to be there.

The problem with getting everything organised for my Edinburgh show and now having more responsibilities at work is that anything that doesn’t fall into one of those categories can get overlooked.

I thought about heading back to my house to get my outfit, but this would probably delay me by about an hour and a half. So I had to head straight there in my civilian clothes. Well, I say ‘civilian clothes’, but I was actually wearing a niche Star Wars reference t-shirt for Tosche Station power converters. And to think, I’d spent all that time perfecting my Jar Jar Binks look for nothing.

The event was talking place at an old printing works in Canada Water. The organisers had impressively recreated a wretched hive of scum and villainy in the place where they used to print the Daily Mail. I don’t know if this was intentional, but it certainly gives the whole thing a satirical slant.

The scope of the event is huge, taking in space travel, Tatooine and a space station, not a moon. They’ve done a great job recreating the look and feel of the Star Wars universe, looking around you know exactly the world you’re meant to be in.

Actors in costumes were walking around throughout proceedings, re-enacting certain points in the films. It’s always a thrill to see Stormtroopers, Boba Fett and Darth Vader, even if they aren’t the real ones.

The most impressive moment is when [spoiler alert] they re-enact the attack on the first Death Star, with the trench run featuring a full-sized X-wing suspended from the ceiling and moving around as if it’s actually flying.

In many ways, it was a lot easier for the Back to the Future event they did. The film was set on Earth, with clothes, technology and vehicles having really existed in the 1980s or 1950s, apart from the time-travelling ones. Star Wars is almost the exact opposite, with everything having been created specifically for that universe.

It was always going to take a lot to top Back to the Future and I applaud the Secret Cinema team for their ambition in realising such a massive project.

There is no getting away from the cost for a ticket. It is £80. And the more money you spend on things, the higher your expectations are. I enjoyed Back to the Future more, mainly because it was a bit more laid back. You had a chance to explore and take in the surroundings. Although you can spend a fair amount of time exploring Mos Eisley with this event, it did feel a bit like you were being ushered around. I can understand that though, it was inevitable with such a gargantuan undertaking.

But if you’re a Star Wars fan, you will find a lot of stuff to enjoy. If I could go again at a discounted rate, I definitely would. If I can also get my voided child ticket upgraded and pay another £20, then I would also go again. I’ll make sure I wear my costume, even if it involves wearing it to work.

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Two more previews done, two to go

I have done another two previews of my show and the material is coming together fairly nicely. Unfortunately, the quiz is currently miles away from where it needs to be.

The first of my latest round of previews was at the night I run in Walthamstow. At my preview there last year, I properly tanked in a sweltering and tired room. This year, I was much more optimistic due to the weather being overcast.

The usual format of this night is to have four acts doing five to ten minutes in the first half and then the same again in the second half. At last Friday’s show, it was business as usual in the first half and I was due to do my thing in the second.

We had about 15 people in for the first half, which wasn’t a bad amount at all for a free gig on a Friday night in July. However, all but two of our audience left at the interval. The first half went pretty well and they seemed to be enjoying themselves. But they may have all decided that they really didn’t want to see my show. The fools.

We managed to get a couple more people in and the preview went ahead. I’ve performed in front of far smaller crowds and it’s good preparation for the Fringe. The show went much better than it should have gone in the circumstances and the recording sounds like the crowd was about five times as large.

But this preview did highlight the risks I was taking in the quiz of leaving too many questions and answers reliant on opinion and subjectivity, as well as questions that are probably over complicated.

My second preview was in Chelmsford. I had five days in between to get the quiz closer to what it needs to be. I ended up getting nothing done in that time and was rewriting the questions on a picnic bench outside the venue, half an hour before I was due on stage.

The first half of material went pretty well, with some big laughs in places. There are a few bits I need to work on, but nothing dramatic. And my last-minute additions to the quiz went well, but there was still a bit in the middle that didn’t work.

I thought the preview was decent, but afterwards somebody at the bar told me that I was very brave, or words to that effect. When someone says this to you after a gig, it generally means you haven’t done very well.

But it is definitely a good thing that I’m having problems with the show. It makes me think harder about how I can improve it. I have two previews left. There’s still time to get things right and I work best when I have a deadline looming.

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First preview for 2015 done

I had my first preview last night of How To Win A Pub Quiz II: Advanced Edition. As I am out of practice with the format, there was a lot of stuff I needed to remember to prepare.

Thinking that I had another crucial five minutes to get stuff ready, it would be a rush but I thought I should have been just about ready to go. However, just as I was trying to remember and find exactly what I needed, I was called to the stage. I was still trying to locate stuff at the bottom of my bag, so had to ask for a few more minutes.

By the time I eventually got onto the stage, I was ill-prepared and couldn’t find the sheet of new material I’d printed earlier in the day.

It could have been a disaster, but fortunately I was in the Hollybush in Cradley Heath. It is one of the friendliest and most forgiving rooms there is in comedy.

I thought I would try something different with the show format. Last year, the first half of the show was stand-up and the second half was the quiz. Last night, I thought I would split that up as well. So I would start off doing 15 minutes of material at the start, then the first part of the quiz, followed by another 15 minutes of stand-up and then the final part of the quiz.

The first part of the show went well, with material that I have honed over several months. But things fell apart in the second half when I couldn’t remember exactly what I wanted to say as I had lost my new material notes. Some of the new stuff about music went well, but the stuff on sport tanked and I didn’t end up having enough time or confidence in attempting to remember the new film stuff.

It could have gone much better, although it’s actually good for stuff to go wrong in previews as it forces you to improve. Despite this, the 15 or so people there seemed to enjoy most of it.

I don’t think I’ll be trying this revised format again, because the one I had last year worked really well. And if you’ve got the audience tuned out of listening to stand-up, it can be difficult to tune them back in again.

With the first preview done, I have just over a month to get the show up to scratch. There is still time, but I’ll be cutting it pretty finely this year.