On our first fringe we have largely been playing what I assume is the prove-yourselves-newbies slot of midday, which has been great fun in and of itself but a challenge to encourage hungry, hungover festival goers to attend. What we really wanted was an evening slot more befitting of our dark surreality, so we jumped at the chance to take an hour at 20:50 that had been abandoned by another act at Chalky’s.
Our first Chalky’s show was on Monday 17th and it was definitely our most fun. There are very quick turnarounds at the Fringe – 15 minutes to set up for your show. We are not as uncomplicated a show as first intended, as our ambitions extended to a projector and cued sound effects, which means finding a way to hang a white sheet and trying to understand a new sound system very quickly. These technicalities turned into disasters at Chalky’s but it only made the show better.
In our hurried set-up, we pinned the white sheet to the ceiling to act as our projector screen, and pestered an unamused bartender to help me understand the sound desk I was about to try and control. With a minute to go before we kicked off and the audience forming, we looked ready to go, but it became immediately obvious all was not well.
As far as I can tell, Chalky’s sound system is specifically set up for satanic rituals held by the severely hearing impaired, who can feel the vibrations of their unholy cacophonies only by pumping up a distorted bass to gut-rumbling proportions. That cacophony became the soundtrack to our show while I – naive and fearful – twiddled as many knobs as could be twiddled in a sound booth that was now hidden from the audience by our hanging white sheet. Knob twiddling was fruitless and the white noise bellowed sickeningly whenever our bright synths were supposed to play. Meanwhile, I was unable to see the stage behind said hanging white sheet, and thus the performance cues for sound effects. Teasetter Hannah fingered the air with desperate futility, waiting for a doorbell to sound; I ran back and forth behind the sound desk, tripping and banging and generally galumphing as I tried to see what was happening, waving frantically at the oblivious performers to give me some clues.
The white sheet began to fall. One pin after another, threatening to reveal me (who has from the first instant backed out of any kind of audience-facing rôle). Teasetter Pat managed to re-pin it several times in character, but it never lasted long. Still hidden by most of the sheet, I started to practice a small wave to the audience before sinking down into the booth – thinking this would add to the show if the whole sheet collapsed – but it was never needed. Which is a pity, actually. As if picking up on the stress of the moment, and deciding to make quick its escape, my computer crashed during one of our most projector-heavy sketches….to laughter from our bemused audience.
Chaos added to the surreal craziness of the show, which ramps up anyway as the characters disintegrate, and just made it more enjoyable. Two-thirds of the way through, in an audience interaction segment, someone accidentally brought up what has become an in-joke among us Teasetters (it’s about Steve Guttenberg and it wouldn’t make sense if I explained it). The performers giggled and gave up on any semblance of slickness, resolving to enjoy the madness, and the show benefitted from their relaxed attitude.
It was probably our best show, to be honest. From it we learned to play to the chaos and forget professionalism where possible. Operation Perfect Teaset was never intended to be theatre – largely because I and my co-writer Gaz Farnell know nothing about the medium, with our only experience being in comedy. I prefer the disheveled, thrown-together feel that goes with most circuit sketch comedy over polished theatre anyway, so I’m glad to embrace it.
We’re playing Chalky’s again on Monday 24th August at 20:50 and this time we’re bringing a speaker and a projection screen! Come see us! Please! It’s free! Imagine! Think.
Operation Perfect Teaset performs daily (Except Tuesday)
Silk (Venue 444) – 28a King’s Stables Rd at 12:05pm