My elfin stand-up comedy chum Laura Lexx (she really did once work as an elf in Lapland) is going to the Edinburgh Fringe with multiple shows again this year and the problem as always is that playing the Fringe is (in the words of a comedian whom I have embarrassingly forgotten) like standing in a cold shower tearing up £20 notes.
As well as being a stand-up, Laura has her elfin toe dipped in ‘legit’ theatre. Her company is called Spun Glass Theatre. Last year, they played the Edinburgh Fringe for a second time and played the Brighton Fringe and branched out into school entertainments and – I love reading a bit of good creative PR speak – “completed development on a truly original piece of theatre”.
You Left Me in the Dark is, according to the blurb, “a piece of new writing inspired by Chekhov’s The Seagull which explores the themes of abandonment and devotion… The music of Florence + the Machine reflects the passionate nature of the characters’ love affair with each other and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.”
Frankly, I see few openings for knob gags in that – I am a simple man with simple tastes – but Chekovian drama has its followers.
The brain-stumper, though, is how do you finance a trip which you have to assume may result in a 100% financial loss – which is how any trip to the Edinburgh Fringe may end however good the project is – although, with luck, you may break even and fame and fortune may follow?
One route is ‘crowd funding’ which Spun Glass Theatre enterprisingly and successfully tried last year. There are websites like WeDidThis.org.uk which allow members of the public to donate money to artistic endeavours. If the company reaches their target for donations within a specified short period, they get to keep the money and give rewards to those who donated. If they fail to reach their target, they do not get the money and the people who have pledged pay nothing.
This year, Spun Glass Theatre is trying to raise £1,000 and the deal is that, if you cough up anything from £5 to £20, you get a variety of rewards from free tickets to free workshops to original artwork. And the money goes to funding the planned show.
“We regularly apply for funding via other routes,” Laura tells me, “but the numbers applying mean it is almost impossibly competitive. Crowd funding gives you the chance to be more proactive than just continually spending all your time writing applications and poetry.
“And I think crowd funding is a good test of whether you’re making something which has some appeal. If people won’t fund it being made (for rewards) how are you going make the project seem attractive enough to sell tickets?”
Of course, any project is in competition with all the other projects on a crowd funding site to get money. But, Laura says:
“We’re already half way to our target on our WeDidThis page and kicking the ass of everybody else that’s in the running this month, so we stand a good chance of getting there! We’ve only got a fortnight to go, though..”
Well, I’ve coughed-up.
I admire enterprising elfin chutzpah.