Seven weeks before curtain up and we’ve sold five tickets. Five!
The show is on for two nights. Two are coming on the Thursday and three have paid a tenner to be there on the Friday. Concerned? A little bit.
After months of writing, finding a director, booking a venue, creating social media accounts and rehearsing, you expect it to sell out as soon as you hit ‘post’ on Facebook. Greater Manchester Fringe tell me it doesn’t work that way. “Fifty per cent of people pay on the door and most tickets are sold 24-48 hours before the show.” Still it’s nerve-racking, but ‘it was always thus‘ apparently.
After being fortunate enough to have six plays produced by other people in Ireland and England over the past four years, this is the first time I have flown solo, putting on my own work. My hour-long play, Blackpool, What A Shit Place To Die, is a one-man show starring Oldham actor Mark Newsome.
I first became aware of Mark when he was performing in Manchester last year. It was the Pensive Federation showcase at 53Two theatre and one of my short plays was on the same bill. His presence and sheer bloody talent was obvious and captivating. The performance stayed with me. In fact, I spent six months thinking about it before I sent an email asking if he fancied working together ‘on something’. That ‘something’ turned out to be the play making its debut at the Fringe in July.
After several meetings in Oldham’s Parliament Square Cafe, it became clear the play was going to be a semi-autobiographical account of the highs and lows of Mark’s 28 years so far.
Mark is autistic, gay and has had issues with depression, drink and drugs. But he’s also dead funny. Waitresses-staring-at-you funny. His story is incredibly moving and I did worry if I could do it justice.
I decided the best way to capture it was to interview him. I’ve been a journalist for 20 years and I thought the play has to be his story told in his words and not mine. So that’s what we did.
I recorded our cafe chats and spent hours listening back picking out his words above the noise of crying, laughing and the clattering of coffee cups. For three months I wrote, re-wrote, rehearsed, re-wrote and finally – half a year later – typed the best two words in the English language. The End. Now all I have to do is generate the audience that Mark’s talent and story deserve.
If you fancy it, it’s on at the Three Minute Theatre, Oldham Street in Manchester’s Northern Quarter on July 19 and July 20 (8pm). You’ll have to be quick, though – the tickets are flying out of the door…
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