Lizzie Tollemache talks the creating and touring of Rollicking Entertainment’s production Mr and Mrs Alexander: Sideshows and Psychics
18 April – 6 May
Tues – Sat 7.30pm, Sun 4.30pm
“1888. New Zealand. Mr Alexander bent metal with his mind. Mrs Alexander solved crime with telepathy. Crowds gasped at their heart-stopping finale, The Possum Trap. Meet the most notorious couple in colonial showbiz!”
Or so the flyers said.
It was 2014 and we were in Toronto with a brand new show on a six-city tour. David bent potential audience members into buying tickets, with banter and a flyer. Lizzie solved the company accounts with voiceover gigs, sent back to New Zealand via the modern miracle that is Dropbox. And crowds (thanks heavens) really did gasp at our heart-stopping finale.
So why fly halfway around the world to perform for Canadians who’ve never heard of us, sleep in the basements of strangers and bust our guts for hours every day? It all came back to a promise, whispered amongst travelling performers, of a mythical land. An anti-Edinburgh, where the people actually want your flyer in their face. Where ticket prices are capped at crazy-affordable prices. Where 100% of ticket sales are returned to the artist. A rare and marvellous beast: the financially viable Fringe tour.
So we booked ourselves in for six festivals and went via the States where we performed in a magician’s speakeasy in San Francisco, hung with circus friends in Vegas and researched voodoo psychics in New Orleans.
And then- Canada! Soaring highs with a swag of five star reviews and strangers who liked the show so much that they took us sailing on Lake Ontario (true story). Gut wrenching lows in Calgary when some awful people broke into our gear and stole props because they HAD to know how the mind-reading and the Human Blockhead act worked.
Our strangest part of the tour was in Ottawa, when a full house watched us accidentally hypnotise an audience member. In our show, David puts me into a trance. With an audience volunteer tapping out the rhythm of my heartbeat, I stop my pulse. Later, I bring it back. This time? As well as my heartbeat, it was our audience volunteer who went under. Completely out to it. We have experience with hypnosis but were gobsmacked. Somehow, we’d stumbled upon the world’s most suggestible woman! Dry-mouthed, David brought her back. Everyone thought it was part of the show. We left the theatre white-knuckled, and bought several stiff drinks.
Canada 2014 was our company’s first tour. We travelled, we learned, we laughed, we cried… We broke even! And it was the single biggest turning point for our company- leading to bookings in the UK, Australia, the UAE, around New Zealand… and, finally, Circa!