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DarkChat - Reviewing the Edinburgh Fringe since 2008


A little Slapdash?

Darkchat have acquired various favourites over the years. Jeff Achtem (Mr Bunk) has become one of our must see performers, winning the Best Entertainment award for "Sticks, Stones, Broken Bones" in 2010, repeating that success last year for "Swamp Juice".


We chatted to Jeff ahead of his new Fringe shpw 'Slapdash Galaxy 3D'



Was "Slapdash Galaxy" an easy show to create?


Making the shows is quite a long process.  I spend 3-4 months alone in a studio setting, making and playing and

devising some first ideas.  From that a plot sort of emerges and then I put together a bare bones structure to everything.  It'S quite easy to create smaller 'bits' of 3-5 minutes compared to creating a 55 min structure, but I suppose that seems quite obvious to say.  Little laughs, and little bits of 'ooooo' come from playing around ... but getting that longer structure, that makes it a 'show' and not just a series of puppet sketches, that takes a while.  Usually I need to play the show in front of an audience for 30 performances or so, tweaking after each one, to get the show feeling alive.  



How does it differ from your previous shows?


Slapdash Galaxy tells the story of two brothers, who travel on a quest across the galaxy.  Unlike my previous shows, 'Swamp Juice' and 'Sticks Stones Broken Bones' , I wanted to give a bit more context to the story, so right from the start I speak to the audience and give them some indication of who is what, and where we are.  That's been a big break from my 'do no speak coherent dialogue'  rule that I usually abide by.



What has surprised you most during your preview shows?


Audience reactions are always quite different. With each performance.  And it can often throw you a bit, because of course I am listening to each little reaction and murmur from the audience.  I've never come to understand how each audience can be so different.  I suppose that is the essence of live theatre.  We are not paying to watch a movie, or pre-recorded material.



When was your 1st Edinburgh festival?


I first came to Edinburgh in 2001/ 02 / 03 and go busy doing street shows and busking on the Royal Mile.  It was a lovely introduction into this mad event, and certainly changed my outlook at what was possible on stage.  



Why did you come?


I was invited by Underbelly to come 4 years ago with my first stage show, 'Sticks Stones Broken Bones' and at the time I was just hoping to make some new connections and meet some cool people.  The show was a big hit, and I managed to get lots of bookings around the world, which is a good way to pay off the bills.



What did you expect?


I had heard lots of horror stories about small and large theatre companies that come to Edinburgh full of dreams, and just tank and loose a ton of money and never come back.  I think that's a pity, and I think there is some blame that can come back on the companies themselves when things go horribly wrong.  You need to be very frugal with your budget, but it is so important to not skimp on other things.  Marketing, graphic design, time slots and venue are all essential to setting your show apart from the million other on offer.  This business of descending on the Royal Mile with a crate of flyers, hoping to sell a few tickets just seems like it should be plan D or E, and not plan A.



How did the reality differ from your expectations?


The reality was that buzz works.  At Edinburgh there are lots of wandering souls,  hungry for interesting and entertaining shows.  Helping them sift through the sheer volume was a good lesson.



What is the best thing about the festival?


That buzz still works.  I have a modest marketing budget, and it is only there to compliment the word of mouth.  Then, with the two together, is creates a situation where one guy like me, without any powerhouse support from deep pocketed producers, can make a splash on an international stage. That's a huge resource for a creative professional.



What is the worst thing about the festival?


Hard to say.  I've just come to understand, to my mind, what I think Edinburgh is.  And I'm trying to find my place inside that storm.  It's changing, and always will.  



What has changed over the years?


There seem to be far fewer international and non-English language productions, than I remember from 10 years ago. I think this is a real shame, and I worry that it shifts the cultural influences in a limiting way.




Roughly how many shows do you see each festival?


I see about 20 - 30 shows in the festival.  Usually I wait for a week to go by, and then listen for the buzz.  Go buzz go.!



What was your favourite Edinburgh show to watch?


My best memories are not of a show, but of the old Aurora Nova venue, that was programmed down at St. Stephen's church.  It was so good, and as a younger performer I would just lap up all the shows they had on offer. Great physical theatre, dance and odd ball comedy.



Where are your favourite places to eat and drink?


Kathmandu Cafe on Nicholson is a favorite. Great soup.






Slapdash Galaxy: 3D is at The Underbelly, Bristo Square until 26th August at 16:15

Check here for more information

or here for our review of a preview show

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