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Dear West End Producer: ‘How do you put on your own work if you don’t have any money?’

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One of the best ways to get yourself seen is by putting on your own work. Not only does it display great initiative and creativity, it also shows that you’re not sitting by the phone waiting for Nicky Hytner to call. It’s also one of the best ways of filling the artistic ‘gap’ when not performing. But financially, there can be obstacles.

First, I would suggest contacting investors. These can be individuals or businesses with a passion for the arts and theatre who put money aside every year to invest in shows. A simple Google search will give you some ideas, but it’s also useful to have a look on existing producers’ websites, and see which investors they use.

On that note, you should reach out to theatre producers you feel your project may be of interest to. Most people in the industry are happy to help, as they’ve been in the same position themselves. They may not respond straight away due to busy schedules, so don’t bombard them with emails. However, if you ever see them staggering towards a bar then you should intervene quickly and order them a glass of wine – this will result in them giving you attention for at least two minutes, which is enough time to sell your idea.

You can save a lot of money by doing publicity yourself. It’s fairly straightforward to produce a press release (find examples online). Social media is very easy to control yourself: try to make the contact fun and interesting, and include as many tasteful ‘nudes’ as possible (sex sells – even hairy nipples, dear).

In terms of the venue, some theatres will do a split of box office, so there’s no huge deposit to pay. These are the ones you should target. In London, begin with the smaller fringe venues, and see what offers they make. Remember that theatres plan months in advance, so if you aim to put on a show or showcase next year, you need to start making enquiries now.

There are also some free fringe festivals – the Camden Fringe, and even the Edinburgh Free Fringe. These make the festival circuit more affordable. Of course there are also costs such as accommodation, but they’re minimal compared with what they might otherwise be.

Rehearsal spaces are expensive – in London they start at about £180 for six hours. I recommend rehearsing at home or in a friend’s garage – anywhere. Ask family, friends and ex-partners if they have any spaces you can use. And contact your old drama schools. They often give free rehearsal spaces to former students.

You may also hear of festivals that actively look for new work as part of a showcase. Only recently, the excellent Theatre in the Fields put on its yearly festival in Hertfordshire, which included a brilliant variety of work.

Finally, if all else fails, why not just hijack a theatre halfway through an existing show? Just run on stage during the first half, take control of the production desk, push the actors offstage and start your own show. Simple! It’s never been done before, and would guarantee amazing publicity, dear.


Send questions to your dear agony aunt via Twitter @westendproducer. Read more of West End Producer’s weekly advice columns every Wednesday at thestage.co.uk/author/westendproducer

Against all odds: the secrets of how a fringe show makes it to the stage

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