Archive for the ‘Coalition’ Category

Coalition – how is it paid for?

Posted on June 23rd, 2012 in Coalition | No Comments »

I wasn’t going to include these details in this blog, because talking about money isn’t exactly British, but several people have asked and it gives me an opportunity to give thanks where it is certainly due.

Taking a show to Edinburgh is not exactly cheap. Many stand-up comedians who use the Fringe to light the touchpaper of their hopefully-explosive careers see it as a loss-leader. Their plan (or that of their management) is to spend thousands of pounds more than they could ever hope to recoup through ticket sales – even if every show was sold-out – and then make the money back touring, having built an audience and garnered critical approval during those four intensive weeks. It’s not a bad model, but it doesn’t work for plays in quite the same way.

So, given that our original plan had been to get a theatre such as The Bush or The Soho to put Coalition on for us, when it became obvious that Edinburgh was the place for it, we initially approached friendly producers. A fairly meagre budget would still require us to stump up about £15,000 which is not the kind of cash I tend to keep lying around. Alas, the only producer we approached who showed a genuine interest didn’t have funds available to commit to the project, and being a pair of control-freaks, we weren’t prepared to give up control of the project if the other party wasn’t helping us to fund it.

When we did the deal with The Pleasance, we were still lacking in funding, and although The Pleasance similarly had no funds available to invest, they were able to support the project by providing certain things for free and deferring payment for others. This reduced the cash requirement somewhat, but it still meant a bit of a shoe-string operation – only a tiny budget for set, props, marketing, and so on, even given that our offer to our cast was really only a token payment. Still, in a big space like the Queen Dome and with a generous ticket price, we had some head-room. A good turnout would mean a healthy profit.

At this point, my dear friend ES volunteered a sum of money which, while not ending our financial worries, did significantly ease them. This was then followed by JS, who had been a stalwart of the afore-mentioned Brains Trust, grumbling that we would surely fuck up the whole project if it wasn’t capitalised properly, and who gave us a truly hefty chunk. Our deal with both is that if we make a profit, they will receive back proportionally more than they put in, and if we make a loss, we will share the loss with them proportionally. Now we could relax a little – the remaining funds could be provided by my company and by Robert and we could afford to give this piece the care and attention to detail it deserves.

Spending the extra money does mean that the potential for profit is reduced, but I think I am confident in saying that everyone involved would rather that the piece is given every possible chance, and that we play to full houses, than scrimping and saving and possibly making a bigger profit, but having fewer bums on seats and reviewers grumbling at the tatty look of the thing. If this production is a success it will be in large part due to our generous backers.

39 days to our first performance in Edinburgh…

Coalition – the story so far

Posted on June 17th, 2012 in Coalition | No Comments »

Gosh, this has been quiet hasn’t it?

Well, the chief reason (other than general disorganisation and indolence) has been that the play what I wrote has been gathering momentum on its journey to Edinburgh. I’m going to devote a lot more blogspace to documenting the last stages of this process, so here is the story so far.

September 1990

Tom Salinsky meets Robert Khan at Southampton University and they become friends.

1993 – 2006

Robert and Tom from time-to-time work on various writing projects together. Robert helps to gag-up some corporate entertainment scripts, Robert and Tom write radio and TV sit-com scripts together. Nothing really gets off the ground.

2000 – 2002

Robert and Tom edit the on-line satirical netzine The Brains Trust, which was of such high quality that when it finally closed down, Tom immediately wiped it. Some pages survive on the Wayback Machine.


Robert’s theory is that there is always an audience for political plays – see for example Whipping It Up, Feelgood, Absence of War and so on. He suggests that we collaborate on a piece tentatively entitled Opposition about how the “natural party of government” deals with a decade out of power.

6 May 2010

The General Election returns Robert as Labour councillor for Bunhill Ward in Islington and also obsoletes Opposition.

February 2011

Work begins on Coalition when Robert writes the last page and Tom prepares a scene-by-scene breakdown. The concept is to show how the leader of the Liberal Democrats, by choosing to enter into a coalition with the Tories, has signed the death warrant for his party. The approach will be a roman a clef with fictional characters inhabiting these positions. This work is of such high quality that neither party touches it for another four months.

June 2011

Works begins again in earnest, as we begin to flesh-out characters, write new scenes and develop plot points. We prefer to work by writing alone and exchanging scenes, meeting only to solve story problems and develop big ideas.

September 2011

A first complete draft is completed, albeit still very rough around the edges.

October-November 2012

A version suitable for showing to an “inner circle” of trusted friends and colleagues is prepared. The reaction is generally positive, if not effusive. We decide that it is necessary to put the piece on in front of an audience and so a rehearsed reading is arranged. Tom calls and emails various actor friends, including Thom Tuck of the Penny Dreadfuls who will play the leading part. Copies and invitations to the reading are also sent to various promoters, agents, producers and fringe theatres, none of whom bite.

30 November 2011

The reading, although long, is a great success and there is much talk about what will happen next. Astonishingly, Thom Tuck is interviewed about it for the Independent. We decide to stage another reading at The Leicester Square Theatre in January.

December 2011 – January 2012

More tinkering, rewriting and fine-tuning. Philippa Waller is unable to reprise the role of Angela Hornby, the Liberal Democrat Chief Whip but we are delighted when Diana Quick agrees to take the part.

20-22 January 2012

Despite an afternoon slot and a £5 ticket price, the second reading sells out two out of three performances. Representatives of Assembly, The Pleasance and The Underbelly are there and the focus shifts to Edinburgh, with Thom Tuck still in the lead.

February-March 2012

Negotiations commence with cast, producers, and Edinburgh venues. It isn’t possible to bring all of our existing cast with us, but plays in Edinburgh with a cast of comedians have been very successful in years past, and it’s very convenient to engage the services of performers who are already in Edinburgh with their own show. We are delighted when first Phill Jupitus and then Simon Evans agrees to come on-board and we do a deal with the Pleasance who will present the show in the Queen Dome.

April 2012

We cast the remaining parts, retaining Jessica Regan and Jamie de Courcey from our London cast and engaging Jo Caulfield, Phil Mulryne and Alistair Barrie in the remaining parts. Idil Sukan takes photos of Thom, Phill and Simon and begins work on our publicity. Flick Morris will handle our PR. We begin buying furniture off eBay for the set.

May 2012

We engage a composer and a video company to create the audio-visuals for our play. We also record a series of “tease trails” with Thom Tuck in character. On 31 May 2012, the Fringe Guide is published and we are gratified to see coverage in a number of publications, and even more so to see this translate into advanced ticket sales.

That brings us more-or-less up-to-date. I am leaving for Canberra’s Improvention at the end of this week, but once rehearsals start, I will be keeping a daily Coalition diary. Watch this space…