Everyone's dad exists as a kind of statue, frozen in a certain pose. Mine’s wearing his cream and black mac, standing in the rain watching football or cross country…it doesn’t matter which: it was muddy, and he was there.
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Family is a one-man show, written and performed by me, Ben Norris. It's about love, loss, and motorways. It's about fatherhood and friction. It's about talking and not talking. It's about what it means to be related to somebody. It's about Luton Town Football Club, Watford Gap Service Station, and Kit-Kat Chunkies. It's about me and my dad, and the very different people that we are.
My dad was born in Brixton, moved to Welwyn Garden City, moved to Breachwood Green, moved to Langford, and then moved to Nottingham; always north, and always loosely in line with the M1...which got me thinking.
So I decided to start in Nottingham, where I was born and raised, and where dad still lives, and hitchhike south, travelling backwards in time through his life in order to better get to know the man that eventually became my father; the 'real' Ray Norris, whoever he might be.
This pilgrimage took place in the summer of 2014 (you can read the blog I wrote during the trip here), after which I began to develop the hour-long show.
It fuses: THEATRE, SPOKEN-WORD POETRY, DIGITAL MULTIMEDIA PROJECTIONS, THE ROLLING STONES, CARDBOARD SIGNS, FLEETING MOMENTS OF CONTEMPORARY DANCE, AND LIVE ON-STAGE EATING.
It appeals to: HUMANS, PEOPLE WITH FAMILIES, PEOPLE WITH FEELINGS, CHOCOHOLICS (latter two categories often synonymous), FOOTBALL FANS, NON-FOOTBALL FANS, MOTORISTS, PASSENGERS, FATHERS, SONS, MOTHERS, DAUGHTERS, SPOKEN-WORD/POETRY FANS, NON-SPOKEN-WORD/POETRY FANS.
It is unsuitable for: PEOPLE WITH A FEAR OF HYPHENS.
More info, including how to book tickets, can be found on the show's website.
BEN NORRIS - writer/performer
Ben is an actor, writer, and spoken-word artist. He was the 2013 UK All-Stars Poetry Slam Champion, and in 1998 finished a very close second in the Mapperley Plains Primary School mini-marathon. He is a regular on the spoken-word and festival circuit, with recent appearances at the BBC Proms, Roundhouse, Royal Festival Hall, Latitude, Ronnie Scott’s, Cheltenham Literature Festival, Tongue Fu, and Bang Said The Gun, among many others. He has been commissioned to write and perform poetry for the Southbank Centre and IdeasTap, and his work has been broadcast several times on BBC Radio 3. His writing for the stage has been performed at Leicester Curve, Theatre 503, University of Birmingham, and the Royal Court. Acting credits include work with the National Theatre, National Theatre Wales, and Frantic Assembly. His first poetry pamphlet was published earlier this year by Nasty Little Press, and is now sold out (although you can get a copy by supporting this project!!>>>).
Visit his website to find out more.
POLLY TISDALL - director
Polly is a director, dramaturg, theatre-maker and story-teller. She is currently resident director at Oxford Playhouse and Magdalen College School. Polly was a director on the inaugural Birmingham REP Foundry programme, for whom credits include 'Hidden Histories' and the 'Write Away' new writing programme. Assistant directing credits include 'Never Try This At Home' and 'Bang the Gong!'. Freelance directing credits include 'Lit Fuse', 'Biting Tongues' and 'Jorinda and Joringle'. She also directs folk art theatre company, Rambling Heart. Polly was 2011 Young Storyteller of the Year, and her hour-long show 'The Man in the Moon and the Journey Thither' was shortlisted for a British Award for Storytelling Excellence in 2013.
Visit her website to find out more.
LOUISA DAVIES - producer
Louisa is a freelance creative producer. Formerly Performing Arts Producer at mac birmingham, she now works at the Royal Shakespeare Company. Past work includes developing and touring solo shows with Polarbear, Nick Makoha, A Little Commitment and Sid Peacock.
PAUL McHALE - film-editor/animator
Paul is a director, film maker, editor and camera operator based in Birmingham. His work ranges widely from filming live bands at major festivals, recently Glastonbury and Moseley Folk Festival, to animated work, documentaries and short films.
Visit his website to find out more.
JOE PRICE - lighting designer
Joe is about to graduate from the MA Lighting Design course at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. Lighting Design credits include: 'Animal' (Royal Court/Richard Burton Theatre Company, Gate Theatre); 'The Endless Ocean' (National Theatre Wales/Richard Burton Theatre Company, Gate Theatre); 'I Feel Fine' (Fat Git Theatre Company, New Diorama Theatre). Relight credits include: 'Symphony' (nabokov/Soho Theatre, Edinburgh Fringe & UK Tour); 'Blink' (nabokov/Soho Theatre, UK Tour & Brits off Broadway); 'Wasted' (Paines Plough, UK Tour); 'Miss Julie' (UK Touring Productions, UK Tour).
Visit his website to find out more.
DEBS MACHIN - stage manager/tech ops/production assistant
Debs is about to graduate from the MA Stage Management course at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. Formerly Participation Assistant at Travelling Light Theatre Company, she is currently Production Assistant on 'The Trial' at the Young Vic.
PHOEBE WALLER-BRIDGE - artistic mentor
Phoebe is a multi-award winning writer and actor and co-Artistic director of DryWrite. Her debut play 'Fleabag' won a clutch of awards and a 2014 Olivier Award Nomination. Theatre credits include: 'Fleabag' (Stage Award for Best Solo Performance, Off West End Award for Best Female), 'The One' (Soho Theatre) 'Mydidae' (Trafalgar Studios), 'Hay Fever' (West End), 'Tribes' (Royal Court), 'Rope' (Almeida), '2nd May 1997' (Evening Standard Nomination, Best Newcomer), 'Like a Fishbone' and '66 Books' (Bush Theatre), 'Roaring Trade' (Soho Theatre). TV: Broadchurch, Bad Education, Henry, London Irish, The Cafe, The Night Watch. Film: Man Up, The Iron Lady, Albert Nobbs. Phoebe is currently writing Crashing, an original comedy series for E4.
JACK ALEXANDER - graphic designer
Jack is an early-career actor and graphic designer, about to graduate from the University of Birmingham.
OSCAR FRENCH - research & development producer
Oscar is an emerging creative producer and freelance script reader. Co-producer ('Radioman') and Front of House Manager (The Kings Head Theatre).
INUA ELLAMS - research & development artistic mentor
Inua is an internationally recognised poet, playwright and performance artist.
PAUL "DEAN" THE BEAR - mascot
Paul "Dean" the Bear is a bear, named after the first 2 people to give me a lift on the hitchhike, Paul and Dean. He graduated with honours from an MFA in Post-Rationalist Philosophy at Columbia University, finished 4th in 'Miss Massachusetts' 1976, and is notorious for exaggerating his academic and sartorial achievements.
Last year we completed a Research and Development period supported by Arts Council England, mac birmingham, and Apples & Snakes, during which the hitchhike took place, and a rough draft of the show was written, rehearsed and performed. This was followed by a post-show discussion for audience feedback, and then a few beers.
"A more capable storyteller would be hard to find" THE TAB
"Accessible and arresting - crucially never at the cost of complexity and depth - 'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Family' combines poignancy and comedy, the colloquial and the poetic" APPLES & SNAKES
"A convincing voice for a generation with a lot of cards stacked against it" LONDON JAZZ NEWS
The response to the show was very positive; the audience said some lovely things, made some very constructive comments, and we were all generally very excited about the future of the show. What future? This future... *100 segue points*
The plan now is to:
- write the finished show
- edit the projection footage according to the newly finished script
- commission animations of me travelling round a big map getting in and out of cars, etc., to help the audience navigate the geographical journey of the hitchhike, to be projected during the show
- rehearse the show at mac birmingham
- perform 2 London Previews at Camden People's Theatre on 30th and 31st July 2015, and then...
- perform the show at the EDINBURGH FESTIVAL FRINGE, where it will run from 6th - 30th August 2015 in Underbelly Cowgate!
- perform the show a handful of times in September, on a mini-tour. So far confirmed: Market Theatre Ledbury on 9th Sept. and mac birmingham on 12th Sept.
WHY WE NEED YOUR HELP
The cost of taking a show to the Edinburgh Fringe is enormous. Even a one-man show. Because, although there's only be one performer involved, the team behind the show, and the number of people working tirelessly to make this thing happen, is far far greater. And those people need to be justly paid, fed, herded northward and housed!
I was lucky enough to win the 2015 IdeasTap Underbelly Award, through which I've secured funding to cover some of the costs, but by no means all of them; there's still a lot we need to pay for.
Here's a breakdown of all the many and various ways Edinburgh bleeds you dry:
- Venue deposit: £1,000
- Venue split: £1,704.80
- Fringe registration: £295.20
- Joint Venue Brochure Entry: £500
- Accommodation: £2,900
- Transport: £1,000
- Marketing (Design & Print: £840) (Flyering £1,440) (Outdoor advertising £300): £2,580
- PR: £1,600
- Producer's fee: £995
- Stage manager's fee: £1,200
- Lighting Design: £500
- Director's fee: £995
- Film-editor and Animator's fee: £640
- Projection equipment: £760
- Per diems for cast and crew: £600
- Insurance: £180
- PRS: £38.64
- Box office commissions (Underbelly £231.84) (Fringe £309.12): £540.96
- THE GRIM TOTAL: £18,029.60
Here's the support we've received thus far:
- IdeasTap Underbelly Award: £6,000
- IdeasTap cover the JVB entry: £500
- Apples and Snakes grant: £1,000
- Projected ticket sales: £6,440
- THE GLIMMER OF HOPE-TAL: £13,940
THE GAP TO BRIDGE: £4,089.60
So we're hoping to raise at least £4,000 on Kickstarter, hopefully more. This is the absolute minimum we need to realise the project. As it stands, I haven't included in our budget a writing fee, rehearsal fee, or performance fee for me - in Edinburgh, in previews, or on tour - so any extra money we raise will cover that, as well as allow us to be as ambitious as possible with our marketing and advertising campaigns in order to reach as many people as possible, in Edinburgh and beyond! I believe this show engages with an enormously wide range of audiences, many of whom often feel marginalised by mainstream theatre. The more of those people we can engage with, the more cultural return you get for your investment. Seriously.
Life after the Fringe
Because it is an investment. I don't want to make a show that lives and dies in a month, but one that breathes on and continues to sing itself hoarse in as many places and to as many people as possible.
The plan, following the Fringe run and our handful of September dates, is to take The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Family on an extensive UK tour in Spring 2016. And everywhere else that will have us, which could potentially include Adelaide, Australia, if Edinburgh goes really well!
That's the dream. That's what you're buying into. Not a trivial short-lived vanity, but something potentially very meaningful, important, and affecting, something definitely ambitious, with a future, and a legacy. And a lot of commas.
So will you help us hitch a ride?
Risks and challenges
ACHIEVING HIGH PRODUCTION VALUES IN A FRINGE THEATRE PIECE
Fringe theatre has a (probably unfair) reputation for shoddy production values, because everything's done on a shoe-string budget. But doing a show that packs entirely into the back of a van (or, in my case, a hiking rucksack!) doesn't have to mean it's tacky and low-quality. We've gathered together a formidable cabal of creatives, including a fantastic lighting designer and equally fantastic film-editor/animator, all of whom have extensive experience of making things look great without the need for dancing girls and flare guns. It's worth saying at this point, if you want dancing girls and flare guns then I'm sorry, you'll have to wait til my next Edinburgh show at the very earliest.
REACHING AS MANY POTENTIAL AUDIENCE MEMBERS AS POSSIBLE
It's all well and good having a great show, but what if nobody comes to see it? Well, that's where our marketing comes in. We're working with PR guru Chloe Nelkin (http://www.chloenelkinconsulting.com/edinburgh/2015-2/#link-173) to make sure as many press come and review the show as possible. Plus, with your help, we propose enlist an irresistible team of 7 flyer-ers to flyer our show around Edinburgh for several hours every day. This is on top of printing and distributing posters of various sizes across the city, plastering them on any and every available surface. If we raise enough money, we'll even get some of those obscenely massive advertising boards, so my face will haunt you like a looming Orwellian nightmare for the entire month of August. Because who could resist that. Also, again if funds permit, we'd like to take out some adverts in local football matchday programmes, especially for our September tour dates, in order to reach a demographic that traditionally might not engage with the theatre as often as others. I don't want to chirp on about how this show appeals to oft-overlooked societal groups and then take no steps to actually tell those people about it!
REACHING AS MANY POTENTIAL PROGRAMMERS AS POSSIBLE
It's all well and good talking about a legacy, and a tour after Edinburgh, but what if no one comes to see it who has the power to programme the show in 2016? That's why we have Louisa Davies, producer and tour booker extraordinaire. She was Producer, Performing Arts at mac birmingham for 10 years, and has an impressive tack-record of booking in tours for people. Any good reviews we get, courtesy of Chloe and her PR wizardry, will also really help to secure future dates.
It's all well and good having a great show which loads of people want to come and see and which loads of people want to programme for an extensive 2016 tour of The World, but what if you die of exhaustion halfway through the Fringe? Thanks. Well, we've booked comfortable accommodation close to our venue, enlisted said flyer-ers to reduce the chance of me losing my voice through shouting on the Royal Mile every day, and budgeted for per diems for all the permanent cast and crew staying in Edinburgh throughout the festival, so we can eat sensibly and drink copious green tea with honey and lemon to keep us on top form. And if we raise enough money, who knows, maybe that honey could be Manuka...
- (35 days)