Arrived on Tuesday. Edinburgh looked lustrous in the early evening light. I’m staying near The Meadows this year, and the view of Arthur’s Seat with the town in front is glorious. You should go up there and have a look, if you’re not too busy having a nervous breakdown about your show or which shows to go and see (just 2500 Fringe shows to choose from – aaaaargh).
I haven’t ‘landed’ yet. On Wednesday I went to my venue, hoping to get in quick to do my tech (that’s when you sort out how all the technical stuff works for your show, mainly lights and sound, non-thesps). I’m at the Laughing Horse Free Festival this year: this has many many advantages, not the least of which is I don’t have to pay a big wadge of money to some capitalist bastards in order to perform. However, what they gain in left-wing credentials, they lose in welcoming committee. When I arrived at The Hive, my venue, most conveniently situated in Niddry Street, a mere fairy’s breath away from the Royal Mile, there was not a soul about, the building was utterly shut and there was NO SIGN AT ALL that this would be a venue at all, let alone the most exciting venue on the Fringe. No posters, banners, nothing. On the steps opposite sat a handful of sad-looking young actors, forlorn, mystified and confused. I have performed at The Fringe 10 times. I wasn’t standing for this! So, there being no doorbell, I kicked the door (a lot) in order to be let in, (but also, in a parallel unrealistic part of my brain, at my frustration at there not being a red carpet and a champagne reception for my arrival). From within the bowels of the building, an enquiring person appeared at the door: it had a greasy heavy metal T-shirt on, so it had to be a techie. As the door creaked open, suddenly, Life began. Out came a smiling Alex Petty, the man himself, head honcho of Laughing Horse, who has proved The Most Organised Man in Showbusiness in the run-up to my Fringe (bless him for those informative emails) and a squad of volunteers, ready to poster the place to bits. Phew.
I was in at the birth of the creation of a venue.
Three hours later, I’d been a primadonna all over the place, and everyone – my techie, venue techie, other companies waiting to do their techs -was heartily sick of me. But I had something approximating to a lighting design and we knew how to turn the sound on. Then I went out postering, trudging around all the Laughing Horse Free Festival venues where at least I knew it was legitimate to poster, and where a code of conduct amongst Free Festival companies means that my (lovely, glossy, striking) posters won’t be papered over. I flung a few posters elsewhere, but my goodness, I was footsore quickly. Oh no, I remember now, I’m SO much older and creakier than when I had my prime years at The Fringe. I had the unlimited energy of a superhero in my twenties and thirties. No more. The reason it’s mainly young people at The Edinburgh Fringe is that if you’re not performing, you’re flyering, or you’re postering or you’re just walking about everywhere because it’s cheap and beautiful, or you’re partying, or pulling, or generally burning away like a crazy flame. Last night, I went to bed at 11pm with a book of short stories and a cocoa.
But then I did do my first show yesterday. Never a pleasure, that first show in Edinburgh. So many things to go wrong. Five people in the audience. Poor Lauren, my techie, trying to operate sound and lights at the same time when she’d never done that before. When I did an energetic bit of acting in the show and writhed around on the floor, my nose made contact with a stage that smelt of sick (well, the venue IS normally a nightclub). We were late starting, so the guy on after me was annoyed (first thing I did when I came offstage was grovel at his feet). And yet, and yet….one of those 5 audience members complimented me, firmly and emphatically. While I was up there, I stayed on it, not letting the missed cues, tiny crowd and smell of sick bug me, doing the show as I knew it needed doing, trying to trust that it would have the same effect as always. My tech, Lauren has got over the nightmare first gig and it’ll all be uphill from now on.
I got in, I got on and I did good (ish). Maybe I have landed after all….
Come and See Lady in Bed at LaughingHorse@TheHive, 15 Niddry Street at 4.55pm (don’t be late or that guy after me will admonish me and he’s BIG)