Backstage with...The Blue Man, Brighton

The Blue Man in Brighton is an independently run cafe bar, that hosts a variety of Fringe shows throughout the festival. This year they will be programming across two venues, showing the work of Suzy Bennett, Aidan Goatley and Daphna Baram amongst others. We caught up with venue director, Jess Woodfall to find out more.

Backstage with...The Blue Man, Brighton

When (and why) did The Blue Man get involved with Brighton Fringe?

We got involved in 2013 because we love comedy and performances and once I realised how easy it was to register our venue, it seemed like a good thing to do!

What's it like putting on a show in a small venue? Is the atmosphere hectic before performing - and do you enjoy that?

It's great fun, but yes it can be hectic in the sense that we need to get people in and out to turn the basement around before the next show.

Do you think there's a certain type of show that's a natural fit with a cafe/bar venue?

Stand up comedy, live music and theatre pieces with minimal set up. We tend to just have comedy and music, there's not too much that can go wrong.

How do you begin to prepare for the shows each year?

We've got a dedicated page on our website, we ask performers to get their posters and flyers in to us late March / early April, radio interviews plus this year we're having a launch party at Village for both venues.

What do you think the main considerations are when performing in a cafe/bar? Does it require skills that a larger theatre might not?

Perhaps. I'm not a performer so I'm guessing a bit here but I think you need to be able to relate to a smaller audience that are right in front of you. There's no backstage so you need to be confident walking through the crowd. Our actual bar is upstairs but there is a little noise bleed so you need to be flexible and ensure that you're able to speak up or turn the mic up yourself if needs be.

What are you most excited for at this year's Fringe?

If you mean at The Blue Man then I'm really happy so many great people are returning from last year. This year, Sameena Zehra has helped me curate our shows and we've got some seriously talented and funny people performing. If you mean the rest of the Fringe then the fact that it is getting bigger each year is really exciting. There are so many awesome venues involved but unfortunately I'm here almost all the time so I don't get to see any other shows!

And finally, do you have any advice for young performers who might be looking to take their show to a small Fringe venue?

Small intimate venues are great places to gain experience. Be flexible and work with the venue to ensure you are both organised well before Fringe starts. Make sure you have some sort of contract or agreement in place so there are no surprises. Visit the venue; you'd be amazed how many performers don't! And most of all, enjoy yourself and ask for feedback from other performers if it's your first time round. Their advice and experience is incredibly valuable.

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