ED2010 BEST BITS: Jay Foreman on how to cope with that horribly small audience…
Putting on your first ever show at the Edinburgh Fringe is a risky business. No matter how many hours you’ve spent on the Mile pretending to flyer, there’s a real risk that you’ll amass an audience of three. Or less!
But fear not! Aside from pulling the show (bok bok bok bok bgaaaark) there are plenty of options available to the performer in a nearly empty room.
Option 1: If your face doesn’t grace the cover of millions of DVDs (which, given your current situation, it most assuredly doesn’t) you can avoid all embarrassment by sitting in the audience right next to the nice couple and stare with them at the silent empty stage. Then after ten minutes, turn to face them and say “I don’t think he’s coming”. (NB: Don’t draw any attention to your flyers or this won’t work).
Option 2: Draw as much attention as possible to how disappointed you are with the turnout. It is, after all, the audience’s own fault that they’re so small in number, so be sure to remind them of this throughout your set and make sure they feel worse than you do. This actually happened at a charity fundraiser I did in London – the compere introduced me immediately after telling the audience that due to their laziness there probably wouldn’t be any money for Haiti!
Option 3: Carry on regardless and pretend the house is full. I heard one nightmare story from a children’s show where the audience consisted entirely of a reviewer. But they put on a brave face and gave him the best show they were capable of. (My friend says is it was the most dreadful show he’d ever reviewed).
Or option 4: Make the best of it! If you have a flexible set, a tiny crowd can be an opportunity. Try new things, treat each audience member like your new best friend for an hour and it’ll be a unique, intimate gig. My smallest ever audience was an elderly Spanish couple in the Royal Mile Tavern last year – and all three of us had a smashing time!
This year my show’s been selling out on most days so far (Thank you Edinburgh!!) But if the unthinkable does happen, I hope you both enjoy the show!
Jay Foreman’s show ‘Pretend Your Happy’ was performed at Underbelly during Fringe 2010.