The Crush Bar's 100th issue, theatremaker Annie Lowry Thomas, and three shows to see...
This newsletter's first century in numbers - and how you can help it reach issue 200. Plus: an invite to After Party, three shows to see, and more...
Hello, and welcome to The Crush Bar, a weekly newsletter about theatre written by me, Fergus Morgan.
I’m back in your inboxes after a week off, with a very special edition: the hundredth issue of this newsletter. That’s right, I’ve made it to a century of Crush Bars! I thought I would mark the milestone by doing a bit of a statistical breakdown of The Crush Bar’s first hundred issues - the artists featured, the shows spotlighted, the subscribers gained, etc.
Also, there is a chat with theatremaker Annie Lowry Thomas, whose show After Party is running in Glasgow on Thursday and Friday, plus shout-outs for three other shows - two at Brighton Fringe and one at Camden People’s Theatre.
I will be back in your inboxes next Friday - but that will be the last issue before I take a summer holiday from publishing The Crush Bar, ahead of the Edinburgh Fringe in August.
You can support this newsletter in a few ways. Firstly, you can share it with anyone that might be interested. Secondly, you can use it for promo purposes: click here for more info on that. And thirdly, you can subscribe – or, if you already subscribe, you can become a paid supporter for the cost of a cup-and-a-half of coffee a month - using the button below.
That’s all for now. See you at the bottom.
The Crush Bar’s first 100 issues - in numbers.
This – give or take a few admin-related updates – is the 100th issue of The Crush Bar. That’s right. Since January 2021, I have sent out a century of newsletters.
I wanted to mark the milestone somehow – to look backwards at the first 100 issues of The Crush Bar and forward to the next 100 – and I thought a neat way of doing so would be to break everything down into some statistics that will give a sense of how far this newsletter has come and how far it has to go. So, without further ado, The Crush Bar’s first 100 issues – in numbers…
Artists featured: 77
Grace Gallagher, artistic director of clowning company Ugly Bucket Theatre, was the first artist to feature in this newsletter on January 1 2021. Theatremaker Annie Lowry Thomas is the latest: you can read my chat with her below. In between the two, 75 other artists have been profiled in these pages.
It is too tough to quantify those artists by profession because so many of them are multi-hyphenates, working in multiple creative roles, but there have been producers, performers, playwrights, actors, artists, storytellers, directors, designers, dramaturgs, devisers, composers, choreographers, movement directors, artistic directors, and more.
There have been – roughly, anyway – 43 women (56%), 29 men (38%), and five artists that identify as non-binary (6%). Twenty-one of those artists have been from the global majority (28%). I won’t get caught up on those stats here – but suffice to say I am proud of some and less proud of others.
Shows spotlighted: 158
This is an extremely rough figure because quite a few of the artist profiles this newsletter has published have been in connection with shows, too – but in the various “shows to see” sections I started in January 2021, I have shouted about 155 different shows. 61 of those have been – or should have been – at VAULT Festival, 61 were at the Edinburgh Fringe, and 36 elsewhere.
Formats tried: 4-ish
If you have been a subscriber to The Crush Bar for a while, then you will have seen it change shape over its first 100 issues. When I started this newsletter in January 2021, it published in-depth profiles of artists fortnightly. That changed into a quick Q&A during the severely reduced Edinburgh Fringe of 2021, then into a shorter profile-plus-Q&A format in September 2021. That format lasted quite a while – interspersed with VAULT Festival and Edinburgh Fringe shows-to-see specials – until March this year, when I added a short essay into the mix, plus a weekly shows-to-see sections.
What can I say? The newsletter has evolved depending on the topics and shows I want to cover and the time I have to dedicate to it. It will likely evolve again when those circumstances change. That is the beauty of it, though. I try to be consistent, but The Crush Bar is ultimately what I – and you, reader, I suppose – want it to be.
Subscribers gained: 1632
I announced I would be doing this newsletter in December 2020. 280 people had signed up by the time I sent out the first issue and 390 by the tenth. The 19th issue was the first to be sent out to over 500 subscribers and the 61st issue the first to be sent out to 1000. I reached 1500 subscribers a few issues ago, and the figure - *checks* - now stands at 1632. That is 1632 people who want to read about fringe theatre, the people that make it, and the issues that affect it. Plus my mum.
Money earned per issue: £50-ish
Perhaps it is not wise to reveal this, but I think financial transparency is important. I am a professional journalist and I write about theatre for money. It is not the only reason I do it – trust me, no-one gets into theatre journalism for the cash – but it is obviously a major factor. I always wanted this newsletter to be both a space in which I can shout about the shows and artists I admire, and another income stream in my weird portfolio career that encompasses all sorts of other stuff, too.
Over the course of this newsletter’s lifespan so far, I have tried to modestly monetise it in two ways – by occasionally including promotional content and by asking people to sign up as paid subscribers. The former has – over two VAULT Festivals, one Edinburgh Fringe, two Brighton Fringes and the weeks in-between – brought in a decent chunk of money. The paid subscription stream has, once Stripe has taken its cut, brought in a bit more. If you add those two numbers together and divided the answer by 100 to work out the average money I have earned per issue, it is about £50.
Considering each one takes about a working day to put together – ones you take into account the planning, the interviewing, the writing, the editing and the publication – that works out at just over £6/hour, which is not great, is it? And, so, we arrive where you always knew this bit was going to…
Future issues: who knows?
I’d like to keep writing this newsletter for months and years to come. I’d like to keep writing about fringe theatre, profiling theatremakers, and shouting about their shows. In order to do that, though, I need to up that £6/hour figure to somewhere more sustainable – and you can help with that.
Of the 1632 subscribers to this newsletter, currently only 15 legends have supported it through a paid subscription. Based on a very rough calculation, I would need 49 more of you to sign up as paid subscribers for just £5/month for me to make £10/hour writing this newsletter - and not rely on promotional bits to keep it going.
Becoming a paid subscriber does not get you any more content, I’m afraid – I am committed to keeping this newsletter free to read, so my profiles of emerging theatremakers reach as far as possible – but I am reliably informed that it does give you a warm feeling of satisfaction that you are supporting theatre journalism.
I will end this bit with a quick request, then. If you have been reading and enjoying this newsletter for a while, please consider becoming a paid subscriber using the button below – and help me ensure it is still here for another 100 issues. Thanks.
Meet Glasgow-based theatremaker Annie Lowry Thomas, who is inviting you to a party – in two senses of the word.
Thomas’ solo show After Party, which runs at Tramway in Glasgow on Thursday and Friday, sees her draw a parallel between a political party and a party party, and ask what happens after both have run out of steam. It was inspired, she says, by her own experiences with both politics and parties.
“The initial idea for the show came back in 2018, when, if you were on the left, there was a little bit of hope that things might get better,” Thomas says. “I’d also been talking to my dad about how joyous Labour’s win in 1997 felt for such a short span of time, and I’d also been thinking about the many, many parties I’d been to in Glasgow over the years where I’ve stayed too long, and things have got weird.”
Thomas was interested in the way that both political parties and party parties rise and fall – in the way they both bubble up with hope and energy, then fizzle out into tiredness and trauma. She decided to make an autobiographical show about her observations. Or rather, throw a party about them, with the Downing Street Partygate scandal that broke throughout last year providing her with the perfect ending.
“The show is basically the audience joining me for a party – but it is a party that has been going on way too long,” she explains. “There’s a DJ, too, but he never speaks, like all DJs. And we do lots of different stuff. We restage the party my dad threw in 1997. We talk about seminal political moments for millennials. We play Shag Marry Kill with politicians. We try to work out what a new party might look like. We have a leadership election. There are parties within parties within parties, basically.”
Thomas grew up in Sheffield. Her family were political – “My mum was a hardcore activist, and my dad is an armchair activist with opinions about everything,” she says – and, as Thomas developed her love of performance through youth theatre groups, she found herself drawn to artists whose work was political, too. She cites Gob Squad, Jeremy Deller, Liz Kingsman and Ontroerend Goed as influences. “And Forced Entertainment, obviously, because they are based in Sheffield,” she adds.
Thomas went on to study at Glasgow University, and stayed in Scotland after graduating, completing an MA in Theatre Practices, working several jobs, and making a name for herself as a theatremaker through her shows Portait Of The Artist As A Young Woman at Glasgow International Festival in 2018, Performore! At Present Futures Festival in 2019, and earlier iterations of After Party at Camden People’s Theatre’s Spring festival in 2021 and online during the Covid-19 lockdowns.
She also co-founded production company Hacks with fellow theatremaker Conner Milliken – “We realised we were always applying for the same jobs and placements, so we just decided to start working together, basically as a way of producing each other’s work and the work of our peers,” Thomas explains – and currently works as artistic producer at Scottish Youth Theatre, too.
“In the future, I’d love to do an Edinburgh Fringe run with After Party in 2024, and potentially take it on a UK tour, too,” Thomas says. “I’d really love to take it back to Sheffield, as I think it would really resonate there. And, beyond that, Conner and I would love to keep working as Hacks – and to be paid a bit better to do that.”
After Party is at Tramway in Glasgow on May 25 and 26. You can find more information and book tickets here.
Two shows to see at Brighton Fringe - and one in London.
During lockdown, writer and performer Joe Leather got a job as a refuse collector – a bin man – while simultaneously dreaming of a career as a drag queen. His ridiculous real-life experiences – he was cursed by a witch for not letting her recycle a dead pheasant, for example – inspired one-man show Wasteman, which has already run to acclaim at Camden Fringe and VAULT Festival, and arrives at Brighton Fringe for two performances next week, ahead of a full run at the Edinburgh Fringe in August. You can get tickets via the button below.
Led by Olivier Award-nominated actor and artistic director Kelly Hunter, Flute Theatre makes innovative productions of Shakespeare plays for autistic individuals and their families – and works internationally with refugees and those displaced by war to do so. Pericles, the company’s latest show, was developed during lockdown, and finally premiered in Romania last year. It is now performing two versions of the show at Brighton Fringe, one of which has been specially adapted for small audiences of autistic individuals. You can get tickets to both via the button below.
Maggie Smith and Kenneth Williams – two of Britain’s most beloved performers – were great friends, who went on a joint journey to master their theatrical craft. Hour-long solo show A Shining Intimacy sees artist Tom Marshman examine their relationship – and reflect on his own with the late artist Clare Thornton – through a combination of projections and performance. It ran to acclaim in Bristol and toured last year – Backstage Bristol called it “a gentle and thought-provoking show about how we connect with each other” – and now arrives at Camden People’s Theatre for three performances. It opened last night, but you can get tickets for its two remaining performances via the button below.
This is promotional content.
Thanks for reading
That is it for this week. If you want to get in touch about anything raised in this issue - or anything at all, really - just reply to this email. Or you can find me on Twitter, where I am @FergusMorgan.
A quick reminder of the various ways you can support The Crush Bar. You can share it. You can use it for promotional purposes. And you can subscribe. There are currently 1632 subscribers. If you would like to join them, you can do so via the button below.
See you next week.