We interviewed Rebecca Northam about how their show at the Edinburgh Fringe 2019, 'Blind Date', has started uses rocks instead of flyers!
What is your show about?
Blind Date is a show where, Mimi, the main character has been stood up on a blind date. She selects a willing gentleman from the audience to step in as a replacement, and then a 90 minute performance ensues. We are playing at Canada Hub (Venue 73, at King's Hall) for the whole fringe. Blind Date is a mature production that has been touring for 10 years, and recently celebrated its 800th performance!
It started out as a ten minute 'clown turn', and was quickly developed into a full length version, based on the positive audience response. I suppose the idea for it arrived in a flash, fully formed...so hard to say 'where' it came from...from that magical place that all inspiration arrives from!
In what ways have you made your show more sustainable?
It has always been our preference to use as little set as possible. We encourage any company that books us to pull our set pieces from what they already have in stock. This saves money, energy, and resources in that we do not have a 'build' associated with the production, and we do not travel with, or ship a set. In the 10 years we have been touring, we have rarely had to replace any original prop, and are very careful with care of what we have. The entire show fits in one crate. For the Edinburgh Fringe, we managed to reduce that down to a large piece of checked luggage, and one carry-on - again, because we didn't want to add shipping overseas to our company footprint.
We do not have a program when we self-produce, as people can either google that information OR they can approach us post performance. We always invite the audience to linger in the lobby after the show, so we can come out and meet them, because a conversation is always better than a program full of sponsor ads, in our opinion.
This is our first time bringing Blind Date to any Fringe - although, individually, we've all participated in Fringes for decades. I have a personal loathing of handbills. I always feel I'm approaching a stranger and asking them, "Could you read this, then put it in the garbage for me?" What a WASTE! We decided to experiment with the idea of turning something enduring into a 'handbill' of sorts....We settled on hand-painted rocks, with just enough info on the back that a person could find more info online. We also wanted our rocks to be simple and attractive enough, that people might just want to take them home, or put them on their desk at work. (Which, is starting to happen already!)
We created 'limited edition gold rocks' that are a chance to either enter a draw for four free tickets, plus dinner with the cast, if you photograph the rock, post it, and tag us online....OR....you can redeem the rock at our Venue Bar for a free ticket (both of these options allow us to track the effectiveness of the campaign because we either get tagged on social media, or rocks show up at the bar.) This has been really fun for us, and audience members respond very positively when we explain it to them post show, encouraging them to keep their eyes open while out and about. We like to guerilla feel of this, as well as the notion that our 'hear rocks' are a way of spreading love & joy throughout the city.
Our other handbill strategy is doing something we have always done with Blind Date, and that is the distribution of 'compliments'....again, in keeping with the theme of sharing love, as we go. We print our compliments on standard, recycled paper, and we encourage people to KEEP their compliment either in their purse, or wallet as something to read again, and again - or to pass on to someone they think needs a compliment. Over the years, we've run into people who STILL have a compliment in their wallet! On the Fringe grounds, we've been getting an excellent response to the idea & love behind them, and people seem relieved at how small, positive and portable they are. Our show info is on the back, but the compliment itself is more important.
What were the highlights and difficulties of making the show more sustainable?
We save a ton of money by eliminating building, shipping and printing costs....and we feel pretty chuffed to be doing our part. We buy props in second hand shops, so all items on stage are getting a second life.
Some presenters want "higher production values", and express concern at the simplicity of our set. To be honest though, we only encounter this in very large venues, where the size of the stage requires more than just a couple of door flats, and a sofa to fill the space. When we can, we help arrange for larger venues to donate our set to community groups after we leave.
Tips and tricks: What can artists do to be more eco-friendly?
We have got to let go of the idea that we need a physical program, tons of posters, and handbills. Handbills especially drive me mad.....We are the best people in the world to solve problems in creative ways - we have to challenge ourselves to invent new ways to get the word out!
Is there anyone who inspires you to be more sustainable?
My little sister. She just had a baby, and is really all about being sustainable. I learn a lot from her.
Find out more about Blind Dates