Yesterday was the most fantastic example of the sort of day one only has at the Edinburgh Fringe. It started slowly (no change there, then) and a little frustratingly as I rang round various box offices in a desperate attempt to see some quality stuff before it’s too late (I leave next Tuesday). Most of the shows that have received loads of attention are sold out. If I want to queue for returns for Daniel Kitson, I have to get there at 7.30am. Hmph. Not likely. But I secured a ticket for ‘No Child’ today which sounds right up my alley, so I was somewhat mollified.
Then I toddled off to meet a friend for lunch. On my way to the Mound, I bumped into Alistair McGowan, looking dapper and lovely (in splendid trousers). He was returning from doing William Burdett Coutts’ chat-show. I know him from the stand-up circuit from years ago and he’s always been a truly genuine and warm person, not at all slebby. While we gassed for 10 minutes, two different people asked for his autograph. He was charming to them. When we parted, I gave him a bear hug, in testament to how much I really like the guy, though our meetings are rare and brief. If you see Alistair McGowan limping around with a dislocated shoulder, that’s my bad…(Alistair himself won’t understand that contemporary slang as he didn’t know that ‘sick’ now means ‘good’).
Then I had lunch with my friend, Linda the homeopath. I say ‘friend’; in fact, Linda and I have only hung out together on a week’s holiday in Spain a few years ago, but we’d stayed in touch, so that when we were both going to be at the Fringe, we reconnected. This is a great Fringe phenomenon: old acquaintances turning up in Edinburgh, and because of the heady business of the whole place – emotions being high, theatre being shared – the friendship that may be of no long duration or depth becomes charged and layered. My show, Lady in Bed, tends to stimulate witnesses to tell me some hilarious or hideous stories from their own love-lives and a few times this Edinburgh, I’ve repaired to a pub after the show with friends (or strangers) for a great orgy of story-telling. Linda, like others, did not disappoint with the love-tales.So much material! I feel another play coming on…
Linda and I parted in the (precious) Edinburgh sunshine (with another bone-crushing hug from me – I just can’t DO air-kissing) and I went off to do my show. I’ve given up worrying about getting attention for the creature this Fringe, and now just devote myself to enjoying the performance (and ‘committing’ to it every time, as John Hegley reminded me to do the other day, instead of worrying about reviews or career progression. Thanks, John, needed a bit of that wisdom).
In the audience was a local man who was coming for the second time, this time to bring his brother. I knew he really ‘got’ the show so as we talked over my collecting bucket afterwards (Free Festival, dudes) I suggested a drink and off we trooped to a gorgeous old man’s pub I would never have found without a native. My fan, Ray by name, turned out to be a music anorak of the best kind (he’d really appreciated the soundtrack to my play which covers a number of top tracks from the history of popular music) and we bonded over anecdotes and ravings about everyone from Edith Piaf to Led Zeppellin. Sometimes, when I meet another music-nutter, all we do is trade names of bands or songs in lieu of actual conversation, and so, a conversation might go:
A: Barry White.
B: Oh yeah! Amazing! Dusty Springfield.
A: Incredible. Leonard Cohen.
B: Don’t get me started…Cake’s version of ‘I Will Survive’..
A: Way better than the original…
After a couple of ales with Ray and co., I drifted off again (loving the rolling Edinburgh vibe), wandered down the Royal Mile a bit (you know, that lower stretch going down to Holyrood, you never go there do you? It’s scarey away from the crowds isn’t it, even though you hate them sometimes?) Then I went to see my only show of the day, Beach Hut Mutts, chosen because, as with nearly all the shows I’ve seen this year, it has old mates in it. Roy Hutchins and Tony Haase. What a great show! It’s utterly bonkers, yet with a strong narrative backbone that keeps you locked in. The actors are mature men, no longer the Fringe archetypes they were once, but boy, have they got some energy. They banter away, playing ‘themselves’ in the story, and sort of half-playing a bunch of other characters, evoking the seaside, and an earthquake, and underground caves just by describing them with voice and gesture. They sing songs that are music-hall with a twist. They are unfailingly charming and witty and loveable. Here is a gem of a show, tucked into a basement at the Free Festival, with small audiences and no ‘attention’ from the media, and yet the performers give it their all and entertain us to the marrow of our bones. That’s commitment for you, right there.
How could my (randomly-generated) day get any better? It was raining at midnight so, after some bevvies with The Mutts, I took a taxi home, suddenly having that typical Edinburgh Fringe realisation that I hadn’t had any dinner. My cabby was an instantaneously likeable chap, and when I expressed a need for chips, he pulled up at an excellent chippy and turned off the meter whilst I fetched a bag of salty ones. What a gent! We shared about 8 minutes of Time in that cab and both chortled away about the life, the universe and everything. That was my last ‘friend’ of the day.
Chips stuffed, I sat in bed for a final skim through the Fringe reviews on my laptop. All those shows I will never see. All that print, and barely any of it about me. All that jostling for position and hunger for glory. Sod it, I had a blast yesterday.