First London bookings

Nabil Shaban recalls making Graeae’s first London venues bookings on the company’s return from their successful North America tour:

‘The moment we get back from Yank land with all this great publicity material, suddenly the BBC was interested in us, suddenly The Observer was interested in us, The Guardian and all these national newspapers and magazines and so on. And my friend at Theatre of Lies – who were obviously part of the fringe alternative theatre network – they advised me… I said, ‘Have you got a list of theatres I could go to and approach?’ and they gave me [a list of venues].  And on that list were the Oval and the Soho Poly and Jacksons Lane and so on.

So I just rang them up and tried to sell them the idea over the phone, and the funniest one was the Oval right, because you know, up to that point, no-one had ever given us any money, and also I’d come from a thing where generally you pay a theatre to have a show, do you know what I mean? So, I ring up the Oval and probably talking to Kate [Crutchley] – I can’t remember who it was, but I think it was her – and got her interested in the show. Sometimes they ask for a script, well it doesn’t read well on paper, you have to see it, and I was always reluctant to send a script to anybody because I was pretty sure it would put them off. So I tried to put her off the idea of reading the script, and in the end she said, ‘Ok, it sounds like something we’d like to have on,’ and we settled on a date, that was great, and then she said, ‘Now, would a hundred pounds do?’ I went ‘A hundred pounds?’ I was ‘Shit, we haven’t got a hundred pounds to pay her to put on the show,’ and, ‘Ahhhh…. well…’ and she said, ‘Ok, two hundred.’ I said, ‘Two hundred?’ And she said, ‘Well, we can’t go anymore than that’. And then I twigged! She was offering me the hundred quid and then when she put it up to two hundred I said, ‘Ah, yeah, that sounds very reasonable to me.’ So at last we had some money to pay for expenses and stuff like that. But as I say, I was completely unused to the idea that people might pay us to put on the show.

And then I rang up the Soho Poly and it was the bloke who was the Literary Manager there, a good Marxist called… Bill Ash, and he sounded really interested in it all and again he was offering us money to put it on and I was only asking for one day and he said, ‘Would a week do?’ and I said, ‘A week?! Ahh, well I dunno if that really is possible because the actors that we’ve got may not be available for the whole week, but perhaps I can persuade them to be’. And I think we did succeed. And that was a big break because the Soho Poly Theatre – and I didn’t know this at the time – was like one of the most important Fringe venues which attracted the National media, so The Guardian, The Observer, Times Educational and Literary supplements, all that lot, all went regularly to review shows. And we got a fantastic review in The Guardian and then The Observer came, saw it, and decided that they wanted to do a big feature on Graeae in their colour supplement… and that colour supplement was then responsible for Arena documentary deciding to make an entire programme on Graeae. ‘

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