Sian Davies: Deconstructing the Fringe Poster

Fringe Debuts!

Welcome to our Fringe Debuts series, where comedians taking their first show to Edinburgh Fringe will give you a little taster of what to expect, an insight into their world, or really super weird musings on something equally bizarre — to be honest, we just let them run with it. If you’re readying yourself for a giant lol injection in August, now’s your chance to find something NEW to add to your list.

Sian Davies is performing About Time, a show about growing up and finding your place. Here, she provides a peek into the mystical world of the Fringe poster and the process of capturing the perfect shot to encapsulate the show. (All images by Andy Hollingworth.)

Fringe posters are big business. Long used to lure unsuspecting passers by with subtle imagery that will seep into their subconscious and program them into buying a ticket. A poster should be a shop window for your show, a hint, an idea, leaving a trail of breadcrumbs for your audience to follow right to the threshold of your performance. Or is it just an advert with your face on?

On the surface, my poster isn’t really related to my show. The themes of the show are travel, class and family. The show poster has me sitting in a Kubrick style chair, in a madmen-esque suit, styled as a 60’s chat show host. The process in getting to this poster was a long but deliberate one. Various ideas came and went and the concept still wasn’t settled when Andy Hollingworth began shooting. We had some rough ideas and creative licence to go with the flow, that was all it took.

We started the shoot in my house, it's in the process of being renovated so some rooms are pretty ramshackle. I decided to wear a suit I had bought from Next Kids (boys aged 14 years), for no other reason than I wanted to look smart. It turned out that juxtaposition of the sharp suit in the slum was a great starting point.

The artex in the picture is so grubby, but still there is beauty in that. This picture has shades of Cathy Come Home and every poverty porn photo journalism piece of living in slums from the last century. The filth really catches on that texture, it holds years worth of grime in what once was a prized fantail of beauty. It's a metaphor or something. We're all stuck in it. But often there is light through the window.

For me, this symbolises the journey I made from one part of the world to another, and one part of my life to another. By letting that light in, there is a future.

Our shoot took us into the centre of Liverpool, my home town. We had arranged to take pictures on the terrace of a bar with the iconic Liver Birds in the background.The weather that day was horrendous, I spent most of the time huddled in a doorway under my coat whilst Andy set the shot up. It wasn’t what either of us had planned, but we persevered.

The iconic Liverpool liver birds grace the skyline of the city. One male, one female, fixed in their roles. The female faces towards the sea, awaiting the safe return of her partner. The male looks inland, dreaming of home and family. We can all be like that sometimes. Fixed. Repeating. Finding security in the similarity.

We tried to capture the symbolism, around identity, leaving and coming home, the longing. Then that seagull swooped in and stole the shot.

This next picture was taken amongst the streets of Liverpool in the shadows of former banks and shipping company headquarters. It was a busy Saturday afternoon and we had to dodge traffic and pedestrians to get the shot. I was striding up and down whilst Andy shouted out instructions on how to walk better. Again, it's about the light and the shadow, about traveling from one thing to another, the unknown. The picture shows that beautifully.

Long strides

Or baby steps

Circle back if you need to

Face the darkness

Face your demons

Clothe them and feed them

For they are yours alone

This is another shot taken in the Artex room (which is now smoothed over nicely and my bedroom). Andy told me to hold a mirror, look away then look back. It was bright, I was squinting, I didn’t really get it to be honest. But the picture tells every story I wanted to tell. Looking outwards towards the future, seeing yourself reflected back in it. The face seems almost like a wiser version of my own. I’m looking back in at a younger me, before my adventures begin, I look happy, settled and proud. I’m telling myself we will be alright. This shot encapsulates my show more than any other, but it wasn’t right for the poster image.

The shot we used for the poster was a beautiful accident. We came down from that rooftop, shivering and blue, trying to warm up a bit in the bar below. We found a chair and had a little play. The cigarette was Andy's idea. A lot of people have asked me about the symbolism of that, what am I hinting at? What does it mean? Is the show about smoking? In short no, I don’t even mention smoking in the show. I guess that gives it an authenticity, thinking about that 60s chat show host, smoking was the norm. During 2010 when my show is set, I was a smoker, so it feels poignant to have it in shot but not really mention it. Art imitating life. Again, looking back to a time and place and the feelings it stirred. The cigarette also allowed us to play with the smoke, this was added in by the poster designer, Haiminh Le. That billow of gentle toxicity brought out the light and shadow, the real texture of the piece. There is a feeling that if the cigarette is moved to the other hand, the whole image would be different. It’s a snap shot that can’t be replicated. A moment in time.

The other element is the clock. I wanted a time piece in shot as a nod to the name and context of the show. We played around with an old pocket watch of my Dads but it wasn’t quite right. We took some pictures of me under the clock in my living room and that is the clock used on the poster (Ikea £10.99). Having it set at the time of the show is a nice finishing touch that really brings the poster together.

The show is called About Time, which could be taken in many ways. Firstly, it is literally about time, a particular time and place in my life. It is also about giving yourself time, the time you need to live, heal and develop as a person. It could also be construed that it is about time I did this show, it feels long overdue. I’ve been performing since the end of 2016, so to be doing a debut hour in 2022 is about right. However I came to comedy late, at 39 I’m aware that in another life I could be parenting some of my debuting peers. The life experience I have is what makes my show unique, I’m coming at it from a different angle. I’ve already lived a substantial life and learnt some big lessons, it's about time I shared what I know with the world. My show poster shows someone capable, confident and wise. Someone you can rely on to take you on a journey and that is exactly what I wanted.

Or maybe it’s just cool as fuck and I wanted to look cool as fuck.

Sian Davies: About Time runs from Aug 3-28th, 5:40pm, at Gilded Balloon Teviot. Tickets here

Sian is on Twitter at @morriseysquiff and @sian_davies_comedy

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