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Measuring My Success

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Well it's been two weeks since my exhausting 24-show run at Edinburgh Fringe Festival ended and I have thrown myself right back into my day job. My days at the moment seem to be spent working and sleeping, though I am able to fit in the occasional meal or two. My body still feels weighted down by the heavy jetlag and inevitable performance come down but like any foggy thick funk there is a lovely glittery silver lining. The long awaited and much appreciated catch-up with friends.

Even though I don't really have the energy for it, I have gladly made time for my dearest friends who not only want to hear all about my adventures but whom I have missed.

It was at one of these catch ups that a question was asked that stuck in my mind. A friend just casually asked, "Was the show a success?" And for, probably the first time ever, I was left a wee bit speechless. I wasn't offended, nor was the question asked in a callus manner but more the question left me without an answer to give and a lot to think about.

If I am honest I have never really seen my one man show, Confessions of a Grindr Addict, as a success nor is it a failure, not by any means. It just is what it is, just a simple show that I wrote to test my skills and it took off from there.

It was on the walk home that I began to think about the show, its journey, my own personal achievements, and success itself. A hell of a lot to think about on just a 20-minute walk home. I began to consider the factors by which I should be measuring my success and admittedly had a small pang of fear that maybe the show and I weren't doing as well as I had thought.

First and most obviously I looked at measuring success in monetary forms. Had I made budget? Was I spending my revenue wisely? Was I getting a profitable return on my investment? Did I even know what any of that meant? I had to lean on a light post to calm down as I realized that as far as money went I was doing ok. I had drawn up a budget for each tour, as well as one big master budget and all the outgoings were matching what was coming in. Long-term goals were clearly planned out and I had confidence in my experience and myself and felt certain that I was making solid and profitable gains. Plus, theatre is my ultimate passion, so really what else was I going to spend my money on.

With money firmly ticked off the list I turned my attention to critical success. Did the critics, reviewers and the people in the know enjoy and respect the piece? It had been really well received in Australia. Its debut in 2011 at the Sydney Fringe was met with acclaim from many people that I admire and respect and the runs in Melbourne and Newcastle were also met with praise. Edinburgh however was very different. The show divided reviewers, some enjoyed it and others found it one of the weaker performances at the Fringe. It was the first time that I had had this kind of reaction towards the show. It did leave me with mixed feelings and I did question whether the show was meeting expectations.

Don't get me wrong, not everyone has to like it but the reaction from some reviewers did leave me feeling shaken. Though the mix of positive and negative reviews reminded me that theatre is a subjective art form and it is the different reactions and feelings towards a show that makes the theatre experience an exciting and stimulating one.

I started considered the final measure of my success, the audience. As a performer you constantly are wondering if the audience is engaged with what you are doing, if they are enjoying the words, the intonations. I personally like to look out and see how many faces I don't know, how many out in the darkened seats aren't family or friends but individuals who have simply found the idea of your show intriguing and want to know more. The audience's reactions to Confessions of a Grindr Addict have been as mixed as the reviewers. Some have uncontrollably laughed through out the show, others have reacted by audible calling out what my character should or shouldn't do, some that have waited after the show for my picture or to buy me a drink and I have even had one young guy asked for my autograph. And yes I have even had a few audience members walk out, choosing to simply leave than endure the performance any longer.

Now, once again, not everyone is going to enjoy the show and I don't expect everyone too, people should always be honest in how they react to theatre. The reaction of the audience does play a factor in why the show was created in the first place. Theatre is written to tell a story, to make people think and make them react, whether that reaction be a favourable one or not.

As I arrived home and put the key in the door I couldn't help but smile at myself. I had done little to answer my questions or to find a measure for my success, if anything I had gone around in circles and given myself more to think about. Collapsing on the couch, I sank into the cushions and considered the question one last time, "was the show a success?" Yes I quietly answered.

The show has changed my life; given me the confidence to take more chances and has provided me with the kick in the butt, a kick that will make me get up off the couch, get out there and make the theatre I want to see and tell the stories I want to hear. And as far as measuring my success goes, well all I need do is simply raise a glass to myself and to my achievements and start planning the next grand adventure.

Confessions of a Grindr Addict will be continuing to tour in 2012, taking part in the Melbourne Fringe Festival from the 2nd-6th of October.