Finally got out to see some shows today, both at the free Fringe, which I hope will be future of this festival. First up we went to the back room of Dario’s restaurant on the Lothian Road to see Joanna Griffin in Clown Slut. Joanna plays Emily (and Hitler and Maria Rasputin and many more characters) in “I Killed Rasputin”, but has also written this one woman play about her love of dancing (making it an interesting companion piece to my own stand-up show about my hatred of dance). Joanna had impressed me immediately at the audition for my play, with a quirky and funny read of Emily and first impressions were correct. This is a terrific show about coming of age and the awkwardness of being a fresher at college, which resonated with me (and I am guessing most people) as I remember very well that time of feeling like everyone else was cool and sorted and I was the only one floundering around and lonely and doing dumbs stuff when drunk. It’s a celebration of individuality and women and of not conforming and is performed with energy and charm and lots of laughs. As much as I feel that my own two shows have been slightly overlooked this year despite being some of my most interesting and complex work (in my opinion, but I have thought about them more than anyone else) and as much as it hurts to have five months of hard work dismissed (not by everyone) as worthy of only two stars, it is easy to forget how many people in this city have put their all into work that only a very few people will ever see. Joanna had a small but happy crowd of people for this early afternoon show. It’s a lottery as to which performers get plucked out and heralded and as I was trying to say yesterday (with a couple of beers inside me) there is an honour to doing something great that exists only in the moment. I am extraordinarily lucky to have the audience I have, even if this year it turns out not to be enough to cover my arse. Shows like “Clown Slut” are what this festival are all about. If you are lucky enough to chance across it then you will be left feeling like you’re discovered a gem, as families enjoy their lunch in the restaurant behind a small curtain.
In the afternoon we went to see Nathaniel Metcalfe. I hadn’t been sure about seeing another show, as I was tired and worried about my own energy levels, but I am glad that my wife persuaded me to see this. I don’t think I’ve seen Nathaniel before, but this was a fun show, with some bits that made me properly guffaw, quite an achievement given how weary I was feeling. There was some great deconstruction of jokes and ideas, something I am particularly fond of and a nice running story about an Alan Davies lookalike (weirdly for me as I had spent some time discussing my own lookalikes with Alan on his recent Dave show). Most impressive though was the solid and happy performance given to a small audience. Metcalfe was seemingly unphased but also put everyone at their ease so quickly that it was not an issue. I feel regret that I am only going to see a handful of shows this year, as I had really hoped that my late start might mean I could take in loads of stuff. But I have either been too tired or too busy doing other work. If we have learned nothing else from this year (and I think I have learned a lot) then it is surely that it’s time to stop and smell the roses.
After this show we had booked on to a tour to see underground Edinburgh. I mistakenly thought I had signed up to see Mary King's Close, a medieval street still preserved under the present day city, but in actual fact we were going to see the vaults under South Bridge Street, which were once used as shops and then the dens of thieves and bodysnatchers and moonshiners. This was still interesting enough to me as I seem to have an affinity with anything that is under the ground (whether archaeological or in cave form), but it wasn’t that different from visiting many of Edinburgh’s Fringe venues (it’s quite surprising that no one has commandeered these catacombs for venues (or for overpriced accommodation). The fact that it was never properly rainproofed and is filled with the horse manure and human faeces of long-dead Scotchmen should not be enough to put people off.
My diet has gone a bit to pot this week and I wolfed a large pack of Minstrels this evening in a failed attempt to chase away the blues. How do I never remember that this doesn’t work? Or do I remember and secretly want to make myself more depressed? I will not allow myself to put all this weight back on, but a day or two of indulgence is perhaps called for. Only 70 people in tonight, which I find slightly bamboozling given the higher numbers of previous years, but the late start and the free Fringe are perhaps responsible for this ill-timed slump in sales. I am now just praying that the stand up show will break even, when I had assumed it would help to ease the inevitable Rasputin debt.
But even though I wouldn’t mind a couple of nights where 500 people come and all hate the show, this was an appreciative audience who really got the show. I hadn’t had the energy or the desire to dance on to stage (as I usually do), but these uncool and loyal pricks lifted me and it was one of the better shows (if a little more tinged with melancholy, which does seem to fit the manic depressive mood). There is a bit of a stunt in the show (spoiler alert) and every performance holds a slight risk of physical injury or death - a risk I am happy to take in order to make a small number of people laugh and one that seems doubly symbolic this year. Tonight I nearly mistimed it and came very close to damaging myself. But luckily I was unharmed this time. It seems almost inevitable with the Fringe I am having that I won’t get away unscathed. But fittingly, given the subtle themes of the show (too subtle for most critics it seems) the reaction the stunt gets makes the danger of disability or death worthwhile. Who says today’s comedians aren’t prepared to take risks?
I am genuinely feeling quite positive and happy about the future, even though I know some of you find these blogs negative. I am making some important realisations about what I have to do next in my life. I don’t have the answers yet, but seeing this as my last Fringe for a while if not for good, is a step forwards. I can put my all into these six final shows, knowing that I am doing good work and am looking forward to having a quiet September where I get some perspective and work out where my priorities lie.
One day these motherfuckers are going to realise how great I am. Or I am going to realise how shit I am. One way or the other it will work out fine.