Sam Freeman

Storytelling | Theatre | Arts Marketing

A Scratch Night

I’ve always had a bit of a weird relationship with theatre I think. When I was first getting into it I wanted, like many, to be an actor, to claim the limelight and let it wrap around me smothering my insecurities. Unfortunately it didn’t quite work like that, turned out that I couldn’t learn lines at all which, unfortunately, led me to accidentally change the plot of a show (“No I Killed Him” instead of “But He Killed Him”)entirely improvise a characters lines (at the Stephen Joseph Theatre no less) to cut a monologue down from a 5 min scene  to a two line moment and hack down Greek tragedy to make it easier and shorter to learn. It was okay though, I accepted this and did writing and directing and then moved into marketing and producing, quite comfortable that there were considerably better people equipped for acting rather than a skinny, ill looking man who mumbles, can’t keep a straight face and shakes horrifically when he’s holding a broadsheet newspaper on stage.

This carried on for a long time until the last 2 years where I’ve been doing standup and improv. The improv came first and was, at the time, to get me out meeting people – since then I’ve got to do a few shows which has been great and while I don’t feel great at it, I do (when I’m not ill with migraines and bad-tempered) enjoy it. Equally the stand up has been happening and I’ve been feeling like I’ve been finding my feet for a while if not necessarily my voice.

I had a good conversation with comedian Paul Smith over a pint and he suggested that he saw me a “show comedian” rather than a “club comedian” which is a really interesting concept (and a starting point for loads of heated argument I’m sure). So I did a scratch night. So it was weird to be doing a crossover type show, one that has improv, theatre, comedy and storytelling in it – and to be doing it in a theatre. It was a scratch night and I was doing 14 mins of the idea in front of 60(ish) people. All material that hadn’t been seen before (apart from one joke) – 98% brand new and will a slightly different tone & persona.

I think it went okay, but the weird bit was how I felt afterwards – a little confused inside. It’s strange, I’ve never really felt like I fitted in particularly well with actors and artists, and after the show I felt a little bit like an imposter, amongst some genuinely strong work. I’ve got a real insecurity about my work I think – I suspect because in my head I imagine that everyone thinks it’s shit but is nice to my face – mostly because having worked in theatre for a while I know that 99% of the time people are very polite.

However there is still that 1%. There was also a slightly crushing moment after the show when someone came up to me to offer feedback and described the opening minute as good but the rest, and I quote, as “disappointingly average”. They said that they sat back disappointed. Wow. I mean, just, wow. The thing was they were so nice about it and genuinely wanted to help. A friend (Mike O) said they were clearly “a bit of a dick”, but, in retrospect, I think they had a good point badly explained. He said that the material felt like material and the opening felt like me and there was a divide between the two – which is about comfort within the material and knowing what’s next – and hiding the gaps, making everything seem like a thought in the moment. There was a part where there was a noticeable drop, the hit rate passed off and it needed more balance between the personal (stuff about me) and the political.

Where next? I’m not sure. I’d love to know your thoughts, please comment below, or tweet me @mrfreeman1984 or even send me a facebook message. Should I just set a date to do a scratch of the full show and hire a venue or wait? or WHAT? Anyway, thanks for reading, do say hi (and join my mailing list by clicking here).




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