What’s the show name and what’s it about?
Joz Norris: Blink The show is on one level a sort of arty, philosophical, theatrical exploration of ego, vanity, connection, control and embarrassment made thanks to an Arts Council grant with an incredible creative team consisting of Ben Target, Miranda Holms, Alex Hardy, Robert Wells, Grace Gibson, Roisin O'Mahony and Chiara Goldsmith. On the other level it's a big, dumb, brash showbiz magic show aiming to eclipse David Copperfield as the greatest magician of all time and brainwash its audience, replete with fart gags and body horror. Hopefully both levels compliment one another well.
Number of years previously visited the Fringe (as a performer and as a visitor) what do you think is the main difference compared with other Festivals or general gigging?
I've taken shows to the Fringe, either as a solo show-maker or as an actor in other people's shows, every year since 2012, until the enforced hiatus of 2020 and 2021 (I missed out on the mini-Fringe of 2021). I'd say the big difference about the Edinburgh Fringe is that it serves as an almost-unique platform for people to present exactly the kind of work they want to make, on their terms. Although it's becoming increasingly commercial and trade-fair-esque, it's still fundamentally a place where you don't need to squash your creativity into a specific form in order to be accepted, you can be as strange or inventive as you like in showing the world how you see things. There is an audience for everything at the Fringe, and people come with open minds ready to be transported.
Given the costs of putting on a show, was there any hesitation in doing it?
I was incredibly lucky this year to get Arts Council England funding for a 2-week research and development period back in January, which meant a lot of the start-up costs of making a show as ambitious as this were already covered - paying for the rehearsal time and collaborators' involvement in actually building and making the show, purchasing props and costumes and tech equipment and so on. If it weren't for that, I couldn't have afforded to make this particular show.
The Fringe is still very expensive when it comes to accommodation, marketing costs and so on, but because most of my creative costs had already been covered by ACE, I was more able to commit to the show and cover those production costs because I believed in what we were doing and had had the luxury of those 2 weeks to put the work in and really know that what we were making was worth it.
Which venue and how big is the capacity, was that a straightforward decision, do you think you've pushed yourself or been over-cautious and was the up-front cost an issue in your decision?
It's in Pleasance Jack Dome, which is the perfect venue for it - it has all the technical capabilities to be able to pull off all the technical things we needed to do, and it has a slightly showbiz-y, theatrical vibe to it that serves the show's "magic show" theme well. It's the biggest venue I've ever played at the Fringe, other than a very difficult year where I played a 100-seater. This year we're playing a 75-seater, and I had to remind myself that we'd worked hard enough to make something valuable in order to convince myself we'd be able to sell that many tickets per day. And it's ended up paying off as we've been selling out! The Pleasance, despite all the rumours about the Big 4 venues being too expensive or exploitative or whatever, have been incredibly supportive and welcoming. They put initiatives in place this year that removed deposits and guarantees for shows in venues with capacity less than 100, to make it easier for newer acts or self-producing acts. I spent years thinking if I ever went to a venue like Pleasance it would cause me to make a huge loss, but it's not been the case, they've been very financially supportive and kind and put deals in place that work in the mutual interests of both the venue and the artist.
Was deciding on ticket price a 'gut-feel', researched or off the cuff decision?
I researched other shows that were similarly ambitious and theatrical - I do think there's enough production value in our show to justify a £12 ticket when you consider a lot of shows at the Fringe that are just solo stand-up are more expensive. I did keep the prices away from the top end of the suggested bracket for the venue size, because I didn't want people to feel it was unaffordable, and I deliberately set the weekday ticket price at £9.50 so it was possible to come for less than a tenner on some days, because I think that's a significant psychological incentive for people.
What's your main promotional strategy, are you likely to use more 'old-school' methods (flyers/dragging people off the street) and is there much focus on social media promotion?
I'm not that hot on social media, but try to post images, reviews and other things there, although I'm very aware it makes me into a bit of a hustle-y promo machine. I've got flyers and posters and tried to do a lot of podcast appearances pre-Fringe to build up awareness. I'm a big believer in actually producing a product of value to encourage people to come, so if people hear you being funny on a podcast they're much more likely to engage with your work than if they just see a flyer. I also think the absolute paramount promotional strategy is to have a great show, and to always be as good as you can possibly be in the context of the audience you have each day, and to believe in what you've made. That, more than anything else, is what makes people talk about your work and recommend it to others.
One act (other than yourself) that you'd recommend to everyone
John-Luke Roberts. I love John-Luke Roberts' new show, it's astonishing. It's so beautiful and so stupid at the same time.
Who are you most looking forward to see?
John Kearns. He's my favourite comedian and he always makes me fall in love with the art form all over again.
How far either side of your show do you block out to focus e.g, can you have a 3 course meal then turn up 5 minutes later and do your show? Is the second your show's done it's out of your mind and you're off to see someone else perform?
I start to get into costume and focus and go over my props and things about an hour and twenty before the show, and afterwards I try to sit with Ben and Miranda, who made the show with me and put it on with me every day, and chat and share thoughts on the show and laugh and be silly over a drink for an hour or so, to make sure I come back down to the ground and remember that the most important thing isn't how well or badly the show went, it's sharing a nice moment with people you love.
Joz's show Blink is on daily at 20:20 in the Pleasance Dome and you can find out more on Twitter or at www.joznorris.co.uk