Fringe Factions: The Freshers vs The Sophomores
Chris Stokes and Rob Beckett have both been to the Fringe before, but now they’re taking the plunge and bringing up their first solo shows.
“I’ve been up to Edinburgh before,” says Stokes, “so I sort of know what to expect, but this time I’m the only person whose shoulders it rests on.”
Stokes describes his show as: “Me giving an account of myself…of my own anxieties and neuroses.” His publicity focuses on his geek-dom, but he questions how unique that really makes him. “Everybody’s a geek. It’s a catch-all term – sometimes it’s an insult, sometimes it’s a badge of honour. It’s a bit of an odd term.”
Beckett won the Amused Moose competition last year and was consequently offered his own show at the Adelaide Comedy Festival. “A woman in the audience asked if I had an hour. I said ‘Yep’. I didn’t.”
He describes the resulting show “as a bit all over the place” but says he learnt a lot of lessons from it. “I feel like I’m ready to have my own hour now.” His Fringe show, Rob Beckett’s Summer Holiday, is about his family’s attitudes towards his career. “My working class family won’t call comedy a job. The show’s about them and their expectations.” He observes that there are very few working-class comedians on the circuit: “Maybe because you never thought you’d have the opportunities. All my aunts, uncles etc are plumbers, builders, taxi drivers, lorry drivers. I started talking about it, and people seem to find it interesting.”
Is it hard when you’re bringing up your first show to avoid the spectre of the Comedy Award judges? “If you’re chasing that then you’re not really making the show any good,” says Stokes “It’s the wrong frame of mind to go to Edinburgh in.”
“When I applied to the Free Fringe last year,” says Cariad Lloyd, “my venue wasn’t built yet. I thought no-one would see the show.” Yet Lloyd was nominated for best newcomer at the Edinburgh Comedy Awards, and this year she’s back, with The Freewheelin’ Cariad Lloyd at the Pleasance Courtyard. A couple of favourites from last year’s show make reappearances in a new line-up of character comedy. “I feel like I wanted to do a solid character show before any kind of massively avant-garde narrative.”
Doug Segal faces a similar challenge. After a smash-hit debut, he's now “unbelievably excited” about coming back, with a show he describes as “a guy doing amazing miracles on stage, and being funny, and showing the audience how it’s done. Everyone learns a trick when they come to the show, and this year’s is really cool.”
Both Lloyd and Segal produced free shows last year, and both describe it as a ‘hard decision’ to move to a paid venue. But the lure came down to what you could control: “My mixer desk at the Free Festival had one channel,” says Segal. “What was it mixing?!”
From a one-channel mixer desk to a fully interactive technology show and his own app, it’s been a hell of a year for Segal, who recently won Best Cabaret at the Brighton Fringe.
“I booked a gig the same night, thinking I’d never get it. Then they called me on the night and said ‘You need someone here tonight.’ It was my Bono moment, because the only person I knew in Brighton was 80s supermodel Annabel Giles. So a supermodel picked up my award!”
So does the success of awards and applause put extra pressure for a successful sophomore year? Lloyd’s not convinced. “Whether it’s year one, two, three, or whatever, you’re always going to feel the pressure to produce a good show.”