I arrive at The Chocolate Bean to interview Nick Brice, producer and director of The Big Bite-Size Soiree and Brighton-based theatre company, The White Room. I arrive at the Chocolate Bean and am delighted to meet a warm, astute, down to earth professional. The Bite Size Soiree has enjoyed phenomenal success at the Edinburgh and Brighton Fringes in the UK, and has been broadcast nationally on UK TV in Sky Arts’ 'Theatre Live' programme. I’m interested to know how this success came about.
In the UK, the theatre show has an innovative 10.30 am timeslot, meaning little competition, and is packaged as the Big Bite-Sized Breakfast, drawing people out of bed to enjoy complimentary croissants, coffee and strawberries whilst they watch award winning short plays performed by a tight ensemble of 4 actors.
Talking with Brice, it’s clear that the winning format of the Bite Size Breakfast was more than a happy accident. He has developed more than just a theatre show; he’s created a cult event, one that brings people together and which has attracted a loyal following; more than 70% of Brighton and Edinburgh Fringe Breakfast audiences came back multiple times to see the 3 different ‘menu’ combinations of shorts on offer each season.
Brice decided he wanted to be an actor after finishing a degree in psychology, but the only course available was 2 years long. This, he says with a smile, taught him that he didn’t have the commitment to be an actor; the thought of two more years waiting tables as a poor student left him cold. Instead he used his psychology degree and love of performance to create a career in corporate consultancy using theatre skills to teach interpersonal and management skills, motivational speaking and performance and education for schools, with some acting on the side. He laughs and tells me ‘I used to watch directors and producers and think, you poor sods’. Many years later, he finds himself doing the same job.
This came about after his short play won runner up in the Short and Sweet play competition in Sydney. With characteristic commitment, he attended the performance. He laughs and says ‘They were surprised to see me there; I flew half the way around the world to see 8 minutes’. The calibre of plays in the event was phenomenal and the experience inspired him to return home and create an event to showcase more of this kind of work. He created a competition for short plays, starting in 2006, which has enjoyed multiple successes and garnered many awards in consecutive Brighton Fringes.
The first show for the Edinburgh fringe was put together in a hurry and was too late for entry to the Edinburgh Fringe, so the show wasn’t even in the program. The actors walked the streets themselves, promoting the show and selling tickets themselves and by the third week, word of mouth had spread and the show was selling out. The rest is history; today Bite Size is legendary for having convinced more than 3,000 people to get out of bed to enjoy an event unlike anything else; a showcase of clever and diverse shorts vetted from the hundreds of submissions White Room receives from around the world.