Returning to Edinburgh Fringe: A Discussion with In Bed With My Brother
After a very successful first run with 'We Are Ian' at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2016, the trio In Bed With My Brother returned in 2017. Here are their tips on repeat Fringe trips, support schemes and surviving the month
In Bed With My Brother are Kat, Nora and Dora, whose show ‘We Are Ian’ earned them the Charlie Hartill Award for 2016. They’ve returned to the Fringe with a second run of ‘We Are Ian’, this time in a much bigger space at the Pleasance Dome. There’s still time to catch this high energy show, and read more about this talented trio below!
Be nice and enjoy it. It’s not the be all and end all if you’re not selling out, because you can make the most of anything. And a lot of shows don’t. We know someone who had got a mixture of reviews, and was selling out, and then his mate who got consistently amazing reviews was really struggling to sell – it’s a massive lottery.
How did you meet and form In Bed With My Brother?
K: We originally all met when we were studying together at Exeter University. We graduated and wanted to carry on performing, and we’re all really good friends so we decided to start performing together, and make theatre together.
How about this show, where did you get the idea from?
N: We did a show before this one and we got an opportunity with Bike Shed Theatre in Exeter, on their graduate residency programme, which allows a theatre company to make a show – they really liked our previous show, but we were a bit all over the place. Dora and Kat lived with Dora’s mum in Bristol, with Dora’s step-dad Ian. He said, “You should make a show about my life!” The more we thought about it, or perhaps had a couple of drinks, we thought, “Oh actually that is a really good idea!” He’s a really funny guy and had a really interesting life.
Across a few months we had a lot of conversations with him, then off the back of Bike Shed, and the New Diorama Emerging Artist’s Residency, then we got the Charlie Hartill as well – we kept getting platforms to continue developing the show, which was really good. I feel like it took us quite a long time to workshop the show, find out what it was. It wasn’t until February last year that we got the Charlie Hartill, and that gave us rehearsal time and some money.
Was the Fringe the goal?
K: It wasn’t necessarily the goal, to be honest. We were working on the show in Exeter. Our mentor was like, “I don’t think you should go to the Fringe at all.” Only because it’s really easy to get lost at the Fringe – there are a lot of ways you can have a pretty s**t time here. We were really fortunate to find the Charlie Hartill. We applied for it and did a try out, and were just so nervous – we didn’t even realise we had a chance to get it. If we hadn’t have got it, we wouldn’t have been able to afford to come to Edinburgh at all. It wouldn’t have been a thing for us. We’d have just had a show.
D: That would have been really unfortunate, because after doing a few scratches of it, everybody kept saying, “This is an Edinburgh show.” Knowing we made something for this kind of audience or crowd… if we hadn’t been able to perform it here it would have been a bit sad!
At what stage was your show at when you tried out for the Charlie Hartill, and how did the Pleasance help from that point?
K: We didn’t have a show. We had a work in progress.
D: It had to be a work in progress, as a co-production. They wanted to look at it and make sure it would be ready for the Fringe, which was really good for us.
N: We’re from Exeter, and I think we were the first company to get it from outside London, which means we have a lot more room, with cheaper rent, to rehearse down there. We can kind of make work ourselves without having to plead for space. A lot of companies get a lot of support in terms of rehearsal spaces and there’s a lot of money and time to make sure you can work on it. We got a lot of help with the marketing and admin of the Fringe [from Pleasance] though, because when it’s your first time you don’t understand all about getting in the brochure, and publicity shots, the press and all that stuff. Doing it this year we realise, “Oh my god, they did so much stuff for us!”
D: Particularly the admin – so you can just concentrate on the show, which is really important as you can get lost in spreadsheets and tweeting and stuff.
K: It is such a lot of admin. We are self-producing this year and we have been trying to have a balance but it can be difficult. Though it’s all going very well.
N: [Last year] we did previews in London as well which was really useful, because you get that Fringe-y audience before you come up and feel like yeah, you can do this. We had a flyering team, posters designed and things like that – all you have to concentrate on is being creative and doing the show, the two things you want to be doing. Then [this year] we realised you have to have 20 heads on at once…
Did you feel equipped this year to be able to do all those things yourself?
K: Before we were able to bring a show ourselves, we had worked at the Fringe. We were familiar with how some things work, what you should do and what to avoid – in terms of flyering, how to get reviewers in. We sussed it out before we were able to bring a show. With Charlie Hartill and the experience of previous years, you sort of know how the Fringe works...
N: At the same time, every year is different. A different feel. With time slots, we wanted something earlier this year so as not to clash with certain comedians. You are still learning, but I think we are kind of getting more and more Edinburgh savvy.
K: Last year our show was on at 11pm, which is quite late at night and it was great, but because we came back this year we wanted to see if we could get in more arts industry people, and because people start seeing shows at 10 in the morning and don’t necessarily want to stay up so late… But also, because our show is about the Acid House movement, and it’s a bit of a party show, we can’t have it at 11am. We were offered a slot at 2pm and were like, “Hmm… I don’t think that it would work that well then!”
So, there are obviously strategic decisions – going back to flyering, a common thing that’s said is, “Don’t flyer on the mile!” Do you think there are any other Edinburgh ‘rules’ like that?
K: Yeah, flyering on the Mile is literally shouting into an abyss. People are just picking up flyers and putting them in the bin! The key time for flyering for us is in the couple of hours leading up to the show, and near the venue as well. Our team last year were so good, they’d flyer in the hour before the show and have speakers blasting out music, dancing and handing out flyers. It’s definitely better to strike up a conversation. If you are going to just hand out flyers it’s good to have something a bit interesting because as soon as you just walk past and say, “Wanna see a five-star show?” It gets a bit monotonous.
N: It’s also really important to get your venue in. The Pleasance [are good about] getting their staff passes to see shows, and it’s good if you can get them in. If they are working the box office, and someone’s on the fence as they buy tickets, they can say, “I saw it, it’s amazing, go see it.” So, starting local, rather than going straight to Cowgate and saying, “Go see this, it’s ten minutes away.” Start with the people who are going to talk to people every day. Everything’s an opportunity.
Why did you think a second run of the show would be beneficial?
K: We’ve developed the show, so it’s changed since last year. We’re in a bigger venue as well. We came back because there are still more people to see the show, in Edinburgh. We were thinking we wanted to get more people in, more arts industry people in and it’s British Council year, so we wanted to try. After Edinburgh last year we toured, and this year we want to try an international tour as well, carry it on. We had a nice response as well.
N: A couple of venues we went to on the tour told us we should go back. We were very on the fence about it, it’s so exhausting! A couple of venues like the Bike Shed, New Diorama, Pleasance, who offered to be associate artists – lots of advice that we should go back. We thought if they believe in us we should do it. So, it was a mix of our own ambitions and knowing we had some support.
K: It’s keeping your name present as well. We’re sort of in the mix of making a new show. But last year people kept saying, “Oh, it’s ‘We Are Ian!’” No, that’s not our company name, it’s ‘In Bed With My Brother’! So, if we make a new show we want people to know [that]!
On that note, where did the name ‘In Bed With My Brother’ come from?
N: It was because I did an interview when we were in university to direct a drama society show, and in the interview, they ask you who inspires you. For some reason, I couldn’t think of anything, I don’t know why, so I just made up on the spot, “In Bed With My Brother, they’re really good, they were at the Fringe last year!” The guy that was interviewing me was like, “Oh yeah they’re really, really good!” I told these guys that I just made up a name and this guy pretended he’d heard of it, and that was it. We’re waiting for him to clock the name…
What do you think of the community aspect of doing Fringe? Is that part of the appeal of coming to the Fringe for you?
K: We’re part of lots of Edinburgh Fringe groups and stuff on Facebook – which can be a bit weird, because you’re constantly asked to see shows. But it’s a really great place to meet people, build relationships…
N: We’ve got friends even back in Exeter, who we moved in with because we met at the Fringe. It’s just really nice. Because we aren’t London based as well it is nice to have that [community] thing for a while, where everyone is going through the same sort of thing.
D: It’s nice too that we always get familiar faces in the audience.
What advice would you give to those who are thinking of coming for the first time to the Fringe?
K: Be nice and enjoy it. It’s not the be all and end all if you’re not selling out, because you can make the most of anything. And a lot of shows don’t. We know someone who had got a mixture of reviews, and was selling out, and then his mate who got consistently amazing reviews was really struggling to sell – it’s a massive lottery. You really don’t know what will happen. Sometimes shows sell out and you really don’t know why. It can be really difficult. We have a friend who was really struggling to get an audience and he just left, because he was so disheartened. It was really sad, because he is one of the most genius people I have ever met. It can feel at the Fringe that that is your worth – how much audience you have. It can be hard, but you can still make the most of it, meet people, enjoy yourself.
D: I think people forget to see other shows too sometimes, they get a bit in their own head. It is so nice though. It just puts you in such a great mood, rather than just sitting at home doing admin all the time.
N: After a while too you do so many shows that you don’t remember which was good or bad – you move on. You have to just carry on. It’s like, “We did an okay show, what’s the next one?” or “We sold really well last night, but time to move on.”
Any survival tips or advice for others who are considering the Fringe next year? Should people be trying to curb partying, get enough sleep, etc?
K: Yes, but we don’t live by the rules!
D: When we finish the show, everyone is so energised and stuff, we don’t want to go home and be by ourselves.
N: David Prescott from Theatre Royal told us to take our vitamins from two weeks before! Start prepping early.
K: I think the hardest thing is selling your own show. At first, it’s fine but then you get to the 18th day and it’s hard…
D: Our show is so exhausting too, and you have to keep chipper all the time – you have to keep chatting and saying hello to people, etc.
N: We all forget too that you don’t have to just talk about your show all the time. It can be so easy to do when you talk to other performers though.
K: A really good thing actually is to decide why you’re going to the Fringe. Think about whether you’re able to do it and be prepared that it’s not going to be exactly what you think it’s going to be. God, we’re speaking about the Fringe like it’s a horrible lover! It’s not though.
Thank you so much to Kat, Nora and Dora for talking to Spotlight! You can still catch their show ‘We Are Ian’ this month, so get your tickets online now. Otherwise, watch out on Twitter to see what they get up to next.