Guest Blog: Nick Hall on Szgrbbble, Spencer and using Plymouth Fringe as a springboard for new work
At the start of 2016 I had the germ of an idea for a new Edinburgh Fringe show. I wanted it to be a Cold War thriller, in the style of Tinker Tailor Solder Spy, with a dash of James Bond thrown in.
The show was called Szgrabble. It took place in an alternative 1970s where the Cold War superpowers, instead of battling over chess, invested all their energies in defeating each other – at scrabble! It would be fast-paced, suspenseful with action scenes, romance and a climactic ending. And I would be playing all the characters. In short, it would be a big ask.
And so I had to get to work. The Edinburgh Fringe, the largest arts festival in the world, takes place throughout the month of August, which seems ages away when you first start the project but actually races towards you pretty quickly as you frantically try to get the show written and on its feet.
But along came the Plymouth Fringe Festival.
Fringe Festivals in the lead-up to Edinburgh can be a useful opportunity as part of the creative process in honing and developing the show to make it the best it can be. But only if you have a receptive audience and supportive atmosphere to help make it work.
And that’s what so great about Plymouth.
By the time I headed down to the South West to perform Szgrabble in late May, the show was in pretty good shape. I’d worked out the structure, the characters, and the jokes – but there’s a million and one things you can still tweak and improve on.
The Plymouth Fringe was a fantastic opportunity to see where the show was at and perform in front of an appreciative and considerate audience.
I performed the show in The Lab in Theatre Royal Plymouth – a lovely artistic space which gave the show an added theatrically while keeping the intimacy for the audience. The room was packed with all ages – again something that’s so crucial as I was determined to ensure the show entertained everyone, young and old.
The show was very well received and was the perfect launch pad for getting the show ready for the Edinburgh Fringe. My success in Edinburgh would not have been possible without the positive reactions and feedback I received during my time in Plymouth, and the support of the organisers.
I would thoroughly recommend the Plymouth Fringe Festival to any performers who are looking to perform their work in a supportive atmosphere and sample a really exciting arts festival down on the South Coast.
This year I’ll be coming back to Plymouth with my new show Spencer – a one-man character show about the only Prime Minister ever to be assassinated – Spencer Percival. I’m really looking forward to taking part yet again in such a warm and welcoming environment. Fingers crossed it goes well again!