Catching the train down to the South West I was SUPER nervous – this was my first time doing a solo show, my first time at a fringe festival and my first time in Plymouth! All on my own, I turned up frantically running lines through my head, hoping that I’d brought all the right props in my suitcase and clutching an IV stand. I made my way through Plymouth looking for the venue that I would, in 6 hrs, be debuting The Eulogy of Toby Peach.
Arriving I was greeted with warm smiles from the Plymouth Fringe team. I knew Beth Shouler from some recent work and so a familiar face was most welcomed and she took through the timings of the day, when I could get into the space and who my technician would be. I only now know how important the technician is when you’re performing a solo show and I am extremely grateful that my technician was up for the challenge of taking on my show. It’s a great bonus from Plymouth Fringe to offer this as I would have had no idea who to bring down at this early stage of my process around The Eulogy. With time to kill before my tech time I ventured into Plymouth to pick up last minute props and ply myself with caffeine. There’s plenty around and a quick tip, if you are looking for a last minute sperm pot prop then the Early Learning Centre do paint pots that are perfect!!
The technician, a uni student, was supported by the in-house technician but was extremely able. They managed my mix of sound, video and lighting cues that I had written out on the way down and put it together to look like I actually knew what I was doing – I was very pleased. My day at the Plymouth fringe was also the festival’s first day too and there was a calmness in the air as they eased into the festival. Board games were out as the venues awaited their first audiences. I managed to catch an earlier show, a cheaper ticket was on offer as I was an artist on the programme, and sat trying to put aside the butterflies in my stomach who had discovered they had evolved and got claws that could jab me. As time clicked by I realised there was no getting out of this now, it would soon be my time and I would have to go on. Ticket sales were high (a real treat seeing as I was scratch a solo show about a man’s journey with cancer who had put his name in the title) and we were away. I was so surprised at the response to the show in this earlier form and very grateful to the audience that came on that journey with me, as they stood to applaud at the end it gave me the confidence to push forward with the show. I left that theatre buzzing, there would be lots of work to be done but with the confidence that it wasn’t utter self-obsessed crap (a real worry when you put your name in the title!).
After a few drinks with the Plymouth Fringe team I found my B&B near the seafront – it was cheap but very convenient. A second day meant I could see more of Plymouth, something I would strongly suggest doing, and I went for walks along the seafront, sat in a few very nice coffee shops and got some bloody good fish and chips. I was given suggestions on what to do by the Plymouth team and ended the day warming up for my second show next to the lighthouse, drenched in sun- not a bad spot at all.
The Eulogy went on to Edinburgh Fringe Festival, after winning the IdeasTap Underbelly Award and we had a fantastic month getting it out there and were overwhelmed by the positive feedback to the show from audiences, press and industry alike, as well as being inspired by the learnings and ideas taken away from the experience. Plymouth Fringe was a fantastic venture for my solo show, an important scratch on its development and I am very grateful that they were keen to a chance on it. The whole experience taught me more a lot about performing solo shows and I left proud of the knowledge I had learnt. Plymouth is definitely somewhere I hope I can bring the show back to in the future as the audience were kind and supportive, and the fish and chips was great.
The Eulogy of Toby Peach will be back at VAULT Festival, London, from February 17th-21st. http://www.vaultfestival.com/event/the-eulogy-of-toby-peach/
Future tour dates will be available at www.tobypeach.co.uk/eulogy
Praise for THE EULOGY OF TOBY PEACH at Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2015:
★★★★★ ‘Inspiring & uplifting’, Edinburgh Evening News
★★★★ ‘Heartfelt and buoyant’, The Stage
★★★★ ‘Toby looks and acts like a Superhero’, The Scotsman
★★★★ ‘Insightful and inspiring…with something very important to say’, Broadway Baby
★★★★ ‘Fiercely honest, fiercely brave, fiercely moving’, The Skinny
★★★★ ‘A charming celebration of survival’, A Younger Theatre