Steffan Alun: Everything You Feel In Edinburgh Is A Lie

Round two from our stand-up columnist Steffan Alun. This week he writes about how the performance space effects comedy routines (or, should effect comedy routines) and how everything is different in Edinburgh.

By the end of the run, I hope I'll feel like a superhero in that room, able to work around even the tiniest problems.

Stand-up comedy is an amazingly varied job. One day I might be performing to two hundred people in a huge club in Birmingham, the next day an audience of twenty in a little arts centre in a West Country village I'd previously never heard of. There are countless different sorts of gigs, which presents lots of satisfying challenges.

The more experienced a comedian becomes, the better they can spot potential issues in a room - those little details that might make it harder to perform brilliantly. It's a bit like a hazard perception test. And it feels like you become the Sherlock Holmes of weird gigs.

As you take in a room, you'll find a list forming in your mind:

  • Some of the seats are to the side of the stage. Anyone who sits there won't be able to see my facial expressions clearly.
  • There are sofas in the back. Audience members will prioritise these because sofas are lovely. They will struggle to pay attention owing to excessive comfort.
  • The banner to the side of the stage is quite distracting.
  • The right-hand side of the stage isn't lit brighly enough.

And then you apply the tricks you've learnt to solve these problems. You make sure to turn your head to face the people at the sides from time to time, to address the weird banner at the start, to avoid stepping out of the light, and to dump all your stuff on the sofas so nobody sits there.

But here at the Fringe it's a whole new experience. I've already played five shows in a row in the same room so I'm very familiar with the potential issues in my venue - a pillar that could obscure vision, four chairs that don't feel like they're part of the audience, the fact that the hand driers in the toilets are really loud.

And we've already solved those issues. We make sure there are no chairs behind the pillar, we block off the four chairs in the back, and someone - presumably another act - has broken the hand driers.

A bit extreme, but it's made the shows easier.

I wonder what effect this new experience will have on the shows. By the end of the run, I hope I'll feel like a superhero in that room, able to work around even the tiniest problems.

Either that, or I'll feel like I'm in Groundhog Day, trapped in the same gig day after day until September finally arrives.