Friday, 23 May 2014

The Paul Richards Disasters

With the current solo show reasonably close to being nailed (the material is tried and tested now, I've performed it fully a few times - it just needs a bit more of a run live before I can start to enjoy it properly), the timing of an offer of a second fringe show was perfect. The offer - for just week 1 at a nice venue with a daily performance time of 7.30pm, works well because I'll off stage by 5.45pm with Getting Lost In My Hometown so I'll have a little time for a quick bite to eat before hitting the stage again. With the solo show running for all 3 weeks without a day off, on accepting the offer I decided that this new show shouldn't be another solo piece and it would be nice to have a little team with me for this one. If I have two shows at the same festival they should be very different, and of course it's nice and healthy to work with other people.

The show, The Paul Richards Disasters, will be more of a sitcom on stage. The plan was to write four episodes of a sitcom of the same name, film them throughout June for a YouTube series, release them in July, and then perform a stage show with the best bits of them, re-written for live performance. The only problem is, I've now written all four episodes and these won't work on stage. I'm really excited about them; they're incredibly adventurous, fast, very physical. They're going to be a bugger to film but I can't wait to get started (I'll have Abi, Hind and Izzy joining me for these episodes) and get them out there - this is the sitcom I've wanted to write in years. But this won't work on stage. As a format, it just won't. So suddenly I need to write a whole new show, with a similar theme, and with the same name, but it will be quite different. Not quite what I had planned then, but I feel fiery at the moment - creatively so at least, I've written 8 sitcom episodes in 14 days, this can be done, and done well I hope.

I turn 33 tomorrow. I think the reason why I've been writing so much recently is because I feel a touch uncomfortable about things at the moment. Birthdays are always a time to measure achievements, success, and I'm really on the right track, things are happening. I'm uncomfortable due to family illness, about to be unemployed by the day job, having to look for a new place to live soon etc - the usual. But there's plenty to be excited about...the positives by far outweigh the negatives.

As a drummer we've enjoyed a little success with our World Cup track, Roy, which has received plenty of airplay (including Radio 5 Live yesterday) and we'll even be on BBC TV next week with it. Fred's House are continuing to storm every gig they play and it's a joy to be involved (even in Peterborough, and as we all know - it's virtually impossible to have fun in Peterborough), Dowsing is creeping back up again and the band rehearsals have been such fun - making music with Andrea, Gav and Sam is so easy, and in a couple weeks time I start recording a Christmas album with Grace Williams. As a writer I've had a scary amount of interest for my debut novel, the first series of Emily & Michael is being screened in Michigan in November (we started filming the second series this week, it's a cracker) and the stage stuff is, slowly, working itself out.

So yep, Paul Richards: 33; still addicted to Red Bull and Facebook, still talks too much in situations where quiet is probably needed, but knows how to hit some drums and write a show. Mustn't grumble, really.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

All I've got is awkward

I have to say, despite typically getting lost (standard) to the venue (road closure, then accidently driving to Ely, and then being stuck behind a very slow lorry, and then a tractor, and then a learner driver), the show in Norfolk started to see the solo show work quite well. The locals were nice, I was a bit jumpy at times but they stuck with it and I could feel this one starting to work. Thank god for that, I was getting a bit worried.

The show on Saturday was the one I was very worried about; a huge venue, for charity, 100 tickets sold. The first time I've ever had to use a microphone for comedy, and again people were expecting conventional stand-up. That probably involves telling jokes or something, I don't really do those. I enjoyed the microphone a bit too much, I enjoyed making noises down it. I'm not sure if the audience enjoyed it as much as I did, but still - the feedback afterwards was pretty positive. With such a huge audience, who didn't know me (with the exception of Marcus, Leigh, Fiona, my bandmates) I could feel the room being divided - some who perhaps didn't like the odd swear word, others who wanted more. I tried to keep everyone happy, without over analysing the situation because it's tricky being on stage by yourself for an hour anyway without worrying about pleasing people.

After my show, the band played. Being a seated audience we tried to get the audience on our side and ended up in what we call 'covers land' - I personally think it worked quite well. And it's great that the band have the ability and options at shows to change things around if need be. I don't have that as a 'comedian', all I've got is awkward. 5 down, 41 to go.

Lots of positives and negatives in my life at the moment, lots of things stopping me sleeping. Dad is ill, I'm cutting down any commitments until his operation is out of the way, I'm suddenly single again (and very confused by the way it happened), but the Emily & Michael sitcom is suddenly generating a lot of exciting industry interest (in both the UK and US), band-wise things feel great - with Fred's House and Dowsing, my debut book is selling well, and our World Cup single is a winner...

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Lost, then

'Lost, then' is the opening slide/image to my solo show, but that shouldn't give away too much of the plot if you're planning on seeing it. You'll probably know from the title it's about getting lost, obviously there's a fair bit more to it than that, but - almost as if I'm being faithful to the title, I've had real issues finding all three of the venues I've performed at so far. The run of shows has been staggered, as it will be for the rest of the year, to fit around other commitments, but by early November I would have performed it 46 times which isn't a bad run, as much as part of me still thinks it's not enough. There's still talks with other venues too, mostly for October, but by then my head will very much be wrapped up in all things Christmas show. The first few 'proper' performances have taken place over the last week and, as always, I've come away with a lot to think about.

The final preview/lounge show around Izzy's was a cracker - it was a relief if anything that it came together so well. And don't get me wrong; everybody that has seen the show so far seems to have enjoyed it (unless they were pretending) but it's fair to say I'm hardly storming it.

I walked on stage in Leeds last night - nice big performance space, and it suddenly occurred to me: shit, I'm a stand-up comedian. How did this happen? This wasn't really the plan. This is theatre. Theatre which has, thanks to the whole going solo thing (cost effective/it's better to fall out with myself rather than drag other people into my artistic tantrums) merged into storytelling comedy, which in return has been billed in quite a lot of places as just 'comedy', which suddenly makes people think I'm a stand-up. It's a simple chain, I understand how this has happened, but suddenly the expectations have changed a bit, and so has my performance. Last night I was even pacing around the stage like stand-up comedians do. I never used to do that. There's jokes in this show, of course there is, but it's all to build the story. Either way, it has taken me a few days to realise what has happened.

The signs were there a couple days before when I checked in to my hotel just before the Liverpool performance.

Receptionist: So, are you here on business?
Me: Kind of.
Receptionist: Golf?
Me: No. I'm a performer.
Receptionist: Performer? What sort of performer?
Me: It's a thing.
Receptionist: Where's the rest of your cast?
Me: It's a solo show.
Receptionist: So you're a comedian?
Me: Definitely not.
Receptionist: So you're an actor then?
Me: I don't think so. I'm just...anyway, what time is breakfast?

The opening performance in Halesworth felt particularly strange. They're such a lovely bunch there, and I always (well, both times I've been there) get treated so well by both the audience and staff. The food is lovely, the vibe is friendly, but when I didn't get the first laugh, where I thought it should be, I panicked slightly. How arrogant am I to assume that they, or anybody, will find anything I say funny? Let alone one specific ice breaker. I had them on side shortly after, but by then I was in garbling mode, rushing through the show like some nervous, panicky amateur. I left the stage furious with myself, all of this work I'd put into my performance to produce an energetic but equally coherent and confident show lost in an instant. It's the first show, these things happen, but the 2 hour drive home felt horrible.

Having spent 5 hours getting to Liverpool the next day I was fired up by the traffic issues and frustrations finding the venue; I was annoyed enough to give a pleasantly shouty performance yet tired enough to do it as a pace people would understand. When I got to the venue the audience was so small (2) I got offered money by the venue not to do the show, but I did it anyway. Better performance that time but difficult, you know, to get a vibe going in that kind of environment. Back in my hotel by 9pm that night; a Friday night spent in a single room in Southport with a Ginsters slice, a can of Carling and a television with a bad reception, I already started to realise that touring solo is a test of character.

Leeds last night felt better; big room and relatively small turnout but it was progress, performance edgy but not as edgy as it has been, gradually it's coming together. It's weird; when I've driven home after a great gig with the band I usually can't sleep for hours, the adrenaline is still buzzing around my body. After doing one of these shows I get home and I'm exhausted and ready for bed; clearly being on stage for somewhere between 50-70 minutes, completely alone, is a good workout, mentally.

Anyway, 3 down, 43 to go.