On producing fringe theatre performances, post lockdown

Richard Lambert who owns LAMBCO productions writes about his experiences post lockdown in producing fringe theatre performances.

As a former freelance lighting designer who has worked all over the world, Richard lived in hotels with 2 x suitcases, then 2 years in New York City, and more recently decided to settle in London. He fell in love with fringe theatre and decided to start producing his own fringe shows.

Richard Lambert
Richard at work

“Producing fringe theatre often feels like you’re gambling,” he writes “– will anyone buy tickets? Will the audience love the show, or will it be a flop?

“My first production was BLUEBIRDS A MUSICAL at Above the Stag Theatre. I lost 600 on this production and in hindsight I now realise that this was pretty good for a first time bash at producing on the Fringe.

“I only produce shows I’d love to see as a live production but that doesn’t necessarily mean a show will sell – particularly when you can’t afford London wide marketing or a “name” in the cast.

“We see so much really strong talent in a fringe theatre show and it’s great when this is noticed and the performer can spring-board into larger productions with longer contracts.”

“During lockdown, working with Peter Bull, we formed the outdoor Garden Theatre. Going into further restrictions and lockdown closed us yet again. After this, in the summer of 2021, Peter and I did a popup venue in Pimlico creating an award winning Summer Festival and since then I’ve produced BOYS IN THE BUFF at the Drayton Arms Theatre. Always being knocked back with Government restrictions, lockdowns and “stay at home” announcements. It’s been so difficult to continue!”

“I like to be adventurous. I co-produced BEWITCHMENT ON BLACK ICE and we put an artificial ice skating rink into a first floor pub theatre. We had a cast of real ice skaters alongside musical theatre performers. It was insane! The critics were harsh but the audience loved it – standing ovations and fantastic atmosphere at the performances.

“This was followed by DO YOU HAVE A SECRET CRUSH which told the true story behind the US TV reality show which caused a homophobic murder shortly after the show was aired.

“I love theatre based on fact and this was pure comedy and hilarious until the murder, when emotions fall off the cliff-edge. It was truly wonderful theatre.

“I’d like to be able to tell you that everything was always a bed of roses but as a producer every day brings a new challenge to over-come.

“I don’t always know what I want to produce next. For example one Sunday, I was relaxing on the sofa and watched the documentary film TICKLED. It was gripping stuff. It was the strange but true story of a company run by a Miss Tina Tickle who groomed young men into participating in “competitive endurance tickling”. The Tickle Empire filmed for a niche but huge worldwide market. She’d shower the contestants with over-generous gifts but then ruin their lives when they said they wanted to leave. Corporate lawyers were engaged to bully the TV presenter who wanted to expose the appalling behaviour behind the Tina Tickle Films. Tina Tickle claimed “endurance tickling will be an Olympic sport” and “it is not gay”. The documentary team received threats of libel action and Stephen Fry personally bank-rolled and risked bankruptcy to ensure the film was made. The film was eventually released at the Sundance Film Festival and distributed by HBO. It was so over the top, stranger than fiction, and in many ways quite frightening. I’d had a glass of wine and decided “this should be a musical”.

“So I put together a team, and the award winning TICKLE was produced at the King’s Head Theatre. It sold really well! We would have been on a UK tour and then taken it to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival – but COVID 19 halted that!

SOHO BOY by LAMBCO coming soon to the Drayton Arms Theatre
SOHO BOY by LAMBCO coming soon to the Drayton Arms Theatre

“One of my heroines is Dame Margot Fonteyn. Not only is she, in my opinion, the greatest ballerina in the World, but surprisingly she also did some gun-running. Yes, it’s true! Her personal life story is remarkable! Her husband embroiled her in coups in Cuba and Panama and she was caught on a boat smuggling arms. She ended up in Jail only to be quietly bundled out by the British establishment and returned to London via New York. I thought this was such an interesting story that it needed to become a play with dance. Claudio Macor wrote her amazing life story and I produced MARGOT, DAME, THE MOST FAMOUS BALLERINA IN THE WORLD. It’s incredible what some people do for love!”

“It’s real stories like this that inspire me to produce and bring them into the public domain.

“London is a rich tapestry of theatre productions covering every conceivable topic. Many young people move to London to enrich their lives in theatre culture and for career choices. It’s not all song and dance though. Alongside the fun there are temptations that can sometimes move from an occasional dabble to addiction.

“SOHO BOY is my next production which is a new musical by Paul Emelion Daly about a young man, SPENCER, moving to London. We’ve cast an amazing young actor who is moving to London for this professional debut. He trained at Italia Conti Arts Centre so there is a lot of life imitating art for Owen. Moving to London can be such a fun experience but there are so many opportunities to experiment in a seedier darker side of life. I feel the show will resonate with many, regardless of anyone’s sexuality – the situations are universal.

Richard’s next production will be SOHO BOY at the Drayton Arms Theatre, opening 24th May before heading to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe

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