day 12: capital vs. magic

Apart from more visits from London, Tuesday was the worst day yet. I spent most of the day picking up the visitors (Nan and Jennifer) from the train station; but then the showcase was crap. I sucked – the crowd was small and I just didn’t have any energy, so none of my jokes hit and after a while I just felt like I was boring the audience. Jay Foreman had to cancel, because the constant gigging has wrecked his fingers (Linus Lee made a very good replacement but he wasn’t Jay). And Nick Sun wasn’t up to his usual brilliant form either. I left feeling disappointed.

Then the Flashback show was wrecked by a whole bunch of things that weren’t our fault: Dr. Brown overran again, though it seems that it’s not entirely his fault because the Big Value showcase that runs before him keeps overrunning too. By the time we got into the room and started the show, we were half an hour late. That really makes a difference to audiences after midnight, because people have to leave to get back to babysitters etc. Those who stay, and have had to wait in the bar, are usually either so tired or drunk by then that it wrecks the show.

Then we had the problem that half of the Just The Tonic venue staff – flyerers, bar staff, etc. – were in the bar right outside the room, getting drunk and making a huge amount of noise. To add insult to injury – literally – one of the venue staff was outside making sarcastic comments about the show (despite having never seen it) to people coming in.

I don’t think it’s entirely the fault of the venue staff, either. They don’t seem to understand how performance art venues work, what they do or what their value is. They are mostly kids on an insulting amount of money, whose training seems to consist of being given an A4 sheet of paper telling them not much more than that they need to take tickets, collect glasses, and show people in and out of the room.

That’s not it. They need to be made to understand that performers have paid thousands of pounds to the venue to put on the show, but the reason they’ve paid those thousands is to create magic because they believe in it. But what the venues care only for their profits, so they don’t bother to tell their minimum-wage staff that it’s a magic that only works if other people believe in it too.

If the audience go into a show believing that they will have a good time, most of the time they will. If they go into a room half an hour late, having been told by a drunk young man outside that they’ve wasted their money, then they probably won’t enjoy it so much. And the performers are screwed, not just financially but in terms of their credibility as artists and as the people they are trying to create themselves as.

Capitalism doesn’t always fuck art. But in Edinburgh, it frequently does.

And the worst thing is that, as always, the victims are turned against each other. I was so angry that I gave a bollocking to a member of the venue staff who had actually done her job quite well that night, just because she was there.

It’s not fair on anyone.



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