Monday, 10 September 2012

Mixed fortunes and little surprises

It's been a weekend of mixed fortunes for me. On the Howhow front Grisel and I have decided that if our dreams of putting on a show at next year's  Edinburgh Finge are to become a reality we need one thing. That's money. We've looked at budgets, re looked at budgets, tweeked those budgets... come up with new budgets... tweeked those... made cuts to those tweeked budgets.. tweeked those... and so it goes on. No matter how we look at it we still come up with the same conclusion, Edinburgh 2013 will probably cost us. The slow reality has dawned on us that we need funding if any of this is to happen. Of course when I say we looked at budgets, its been mainly Grisel. She's a tireless saint when it comes to looking at the accounts.

I've also come to a personal conclusion that I need to do something that I've never done in my life before... wait for it... yes, I have to start saving money. In the precarious world performing I guess I've done alright. I've survived. Money has always come to me at the right time, but it's always left me just as quickly. I believe in our production company, but belief alone is not enough. There now has to be a long term plan.

So this weekend I made a solemn commitment to performing my busking show in Covent Garden six days a week. Now at Covent Garden, like The Fringe, we pride ourselves at being open access... anyone can have a go. As a result there are so many regular performers there that a daily draw for shows is necessary. It's ironic that the weekend I decide to positively engage int the whole thing I'm rewarded with the worst luck ever. I've come bottom of the list every day since Friday and have had to endure working in the hot sun when everybody wanted to be in the shade, and in the shade when everybody wanted to be in the sun. I even did one show in the dark. I decided to work today, I mean, it's not everyday that 20 bus loads of Olympic and paralympic heroes parade through the center of town, 3 minutes walk from your pitch is it. Of course sod's law kicked in and I was last on the list again and ended up performing at 11:40 in the morning. For me, it's an anathema for any self respecting performer to work in the morning unless it's a kid's matinee but I though I would give it a go, after all I was there. As tumbleweed blew over the Piazza I managed to get four people to watch my lunatic goings on. Not only were they watching, but they were laughing. This inspired me to carry on and over the next forty minutes the show grew to a massive total of thirty. OK not a large audience, but one that was laughing. I guess this exclusive, but fun show was a reward for one thing... persistence.

It's not all been fun and games in the West End for me this weekend though. I've also managed to spend some time walking around Peckham and Camberwell with Grisel looking at potential venues for The Royal National Theatre of Fools. I guess we are open minded about what the first home for the RNTF will be. Rooms above pubs, abandoned cafes, church and community halls, derelict railway arches. You name it, we are considering it. One such place was the community center of a Greek Orthodox church on The Camberwell New Road. Yes, we even considered that. The hall turned out not to be what we were looking for however I felt privileged to be able to look at the actual church, which is one of the most beautiful I have ever seen. I spoke to a lovely old woman who was busy cleaning in that slow methodical way that only seems to happen in churches. Hale and hearty and well into her nineties, she enthusiastically explained to me that the beautiful and vivid fresco of the last supper had only been painted 10 years ago by a Bulgarian. "There is a joke" she says, "that you can tell it's been painted by some who isn't Greek because the disciples look too well fed." I couldn't work out whether this was a comment on Greek Orthodoxy, or the Eurozone crisis, but I liked her, and the church that she so lovingly looked after. I'm glad that life can stiff offer these little surprises.

Mike Raffone is the co founder of the production company howhow along with his fiancĂ© Grisel Tarifa. They hope to open a new performance club The Royal National Theatre of Fools in Peckham in the winter.  It will be dedicated to the clown, the absurd and the eccentric. Mike is also busy writing his one man show, Clowns, Coulrophobia and Me for the 2013 Edinburgh Fringe. Go to for more info.

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