Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah! Edinburgh Fringe 2010 is all over for me. Done and dusted. Je ne regrette rien, I did it my way, there’s no business like showbusiness. The fat lady sang, I walked the line, I’m not looking back. I came, I saw, I conquered…(Enough clichés – Ed)
I stayed out till 3am last night, slept badly and consequently now, on the train home, feel like half human, half discarded husk. Miraculously, my last show, on Sunday, was my best, with the biggest house and, as far as I am able to judge, my tightest performance (I don’t mean drunk, do not presume you know me). Perhaps I was inspired by the presence of my director, Laura Eades (now performing her own utterly unique show, Patchwork, just for the last week: a late-night treat), by the other mates there, or by the international producer (la-di-da). It’s good to end on a nice one.
My show-watching reduced towards the end, and I got more stuck into other activities (not all involving pubs). All in all, I managed to see about 14 shows over 3 weeks and it was a good spread over all genres. The most atrocious piece I saw was nominated for a Fringe First (out of step with the arbiters of taste….again). It was a horrible mish-mash of every contemporary theatre-trick in the book (puppetry, projected images, dances with bits of material etc). Worst of all was that the acting was weak, the script poor and it appeared to have been directed by someone with not just a vision, but several visions, all of which they tried to cram into one play. Yet again, and somewhat conventionally, I observe that there is no substitute for good performers, a well-wrought text and direction which serves both.
I selected shows mainly because friends were associated with them but other reasons were:
1. Massive success on the Fringe last year (and I can’t bear missing out on a phenomenon)
2. I happened to be walking past a venue, at a loose end, when something was starting
3. I was sheltering from the rain
4. My best friend recommended it (she also took me to my cruddiest show, see above, but I’ll forgive her in time)
5. I ducked in to escape a noxious ex-boyfriend (God, he’s put on weight!)
My favourite show was ‘No Child’, a tour de force performed by Nilaja Sun, a beautiful, passionate actor who plays out her experience of teaching ‘Our Country’s Good’ to a class of kids in the Bronx, ‘becoming’ all of the young people, as well as other teachers, the janitor etc. I play all the characters in my play, but felt this woman had taken that schtick to a whole new level. I felt physically moved when watching it: my stomach started to churn, and my heart actually hurt, even as I was laughing with joy. It’s an absolute killer.
Other shows I enjoyed a lot, in no particular order:
1. The Friendship Experiment – two Scouse actors in a startling, hilarious feat of physical, and yet oh so verbal, theatre
2. Beach Hutt Mutts – charming, sunny storytelling by two blokes who know their craft
3. Next! – very funny and insightful actor’s experience of auditions
4. Wolf – spooky physical theatre
5. Frisky and Mannish – heart-warming and uplifting pure entertainment for pop music fans
Informal ‘performances’ appreciated:
1. Two young boys selling stick insects on Meadow Walk (capitalism’s not dead! – oh no, that’s a bad thing…)
2. Sundry drunks decorating pavements attended by police or paramedics IN THE DAYTIME. Impressive self-sabotage.
3. A fiddler on a tightrope strung between two trees (not a drinker, clearly)
4. The white Rasta proprietor of the Pavilion Cafe who took three years to bag and sell me a Danish pastry. Remember Neil from The Young Ones? Half that speed.
5. ‘The Most Pierced Woman in the World’, chatting to bystanders with a face full of ironmongery and lurid make-up, wearing a bride’s dress and a hat your aged aunt might like, made of fabric roses. Alluring, yet repulsive.
6. The nineteen different hen parties at the bar/cafe/club Revolution where I went with my cousins from Fife (mistake) on Saturday night. Why are pink felt Stetsons, angel’s wings and gladiator sandals fit for breaking rocks in a quarry considered cute and naughty? I have been known to toy with vulgarity myself, but these wenches make me look a veritable Coco Chanel.
Perhaps the best part of the Fringe this year was meeting some old friends (by accident or design), both creatives and civilians, and I would like to honour them here:
1. Aidan, my host and one of my oldest friends – thank you for giving me a bed in your elegant flat and putting up with my misconceived ramblings.
2. Kath Burlinson, sharer of above flat, best mate, artist-extraordinaire and supporter of me when up, down, in or out.
3. John Hegley – wit, visionary, sage.
4. Roy Hutchins – an excellent two and a half hour lunch, the best feedback I had on my show, and wonderful stories, both sweet and sour.
5. Cast of Wolf – sexy bunch, much fun
6. Andy Linden – ever the gent. Kind, funny honey-bun, and protector against rain and wind on The Loft Bar roof.
7. Karen Koren – warm and voluptuous as ever. Great to see you and be issued with pass to above.
8. Phil Whelans of Pros from Dover, formerly my colleague in impro troupe Spontaneous Combustion (Edinburgh Fringe 1990-93) – you still got it, bro.
9. Trixi, Linda, Sean, Chris, David, Lucy, Janet, Linda L, Sue, Neil – all you gorgeous non-luvvies who saw the show and fed, watered, and were kind to a decrepit old actress. Never stop.
I’m sending the boys round to:
1. The pigs that broke glass on my stage every day and never cleaned it up (so I had to, lest I cut myself to ribbons – never thought I’d side with Health and Safety Nazis, but on this matter, I so do)
2. The company who made the noisy air-conditioning at the back of my venue (if you didn’t sit in the first few rows, you needed an ear trumpet)
3. Every mag and paper, online or otherwise, who ignored my show. How can a piece that’s had at least 8 uniformly great reviews in the past and which audiences routinely praise be so lost to sight? (C’mon, I’m allowed a whinge, surely…) (No. – Ed)
What did I glean as an artist from the Fringe Experience?
1.That I need to be much more careful about a venue next time. I don’t want a ‘par can-tan’ ever again from oversized lights on a small stage. I shall be the investing in a train up to Edinburgh to check over a space beforehand in the future, and not being so punk-rock about it all (just turning up and trusting that a vomit-covered nightclub would be perfect….doh).
2. With regard to my show’s impact, I was like a homeless disabled junkie leper up against Reagan, two Bushes, two Clintons and an Obama all at once on the Presidential Campaign that is the marketing drive on the Fringe. So many acts with money behind them! Next time, I need a bit more to spend than the two fluff-covered Maltesers I had in my moth-eaten purse.
3. If you do the show, and you’re proud of it, and you give it all you can, then you are a man, my son….sorry, er, went into sanctimonious poem there. You know what I’m saying…
4. Loads of ideas for my next show. Just hanging out at the Edinburgh Fringe, never mind seeing other shows, stirs up the imagination and gets things moving, like prunes on a stuck intestine. I’ve absorbed the ferment of theatrical creativity by a process of osmosis, just by showing up. No matter how bladdy difficult being a theatre-maker is, I will not stop, at least not until I’m being fed through drips in an oxygen tent (ooh, there’s an idea for a piece…). It’s addictive, art. Thanks for reminding me that it’s a good addiction, Fringers (well, less harmful than some of my others).
I’m spent now. Home beckons. If you want me in the next week or so, I shall be lying down. Thanks to whatsonstage.com for letting me write these blogs. Enjoyed writing them (a lot). No more…body in meltdown…head fuzzy…let me g……
(Alison Goldie was pronounced DOA at Kings Cross Station. Whilst checking her over, the words ‘break a leg’ were uttered and she suddenly revived and demanded that we powder her nose as she had a show to do, no matter how small the audience…Ambulance Crew)