The Truman Show director seems to be having some great new ideas of how to mock me this year. Having woken up much too early, I tried to go back to bed for a mid-morning snooze. But any attempts to return to the arms of Morpheus would be thwarted by a procession of pipers and drummers who progressed up the road outside my bedroom window for at least half an hour. Fuelled by religious hatred (I didn’t look out, but I assume that’s the kind of drummers they were) they were bashing and playing as loudly as they could, one band after another, all playing different tunes so that to add to the thumping drum was awful and discordant clashes. It was even too loud for us to be able to watch anything on our computer. I wondered if this parade had been organised by the person who had rented us the flat as a special piece of entertainment. It was the only thing that made any sense of the amount of money we’ve been charged to live here. “I know it’s expensive, but a thousand marching bands don’t come cheap.”
“I didn’t really want a thousand marching bands. I’d prefer to sleep.”
“Och aye, don’t be ridiculous. I can’t rent you my flat and not put on a thousand marching bands on a Saturday morning. You’d think me very rude.”
I was in a bit of a daze for the rest of the day. I went out to do a bit of leafletting to see if I could boost my Saturday audiences, but found myself a bit too shy and embarrassed to do it properly. A woman asked me to tell her about my show, but I just told her that it was all explained on the leaflet. I’d rather do the softly softly, but suspect that if you’re prepared to chat to people you have a better chance of persuading a few of them into your venue. I bumped into the ever youthful Trevor Lock at the Udderbelly who was charming some potential audience members. He is having a great Fringe, enjoying performing to packed crowds at a free venue. I think that that is certainly the way forward for most acts now and wonder how long the supposed “Big Four” will be able to continue charging over a tenner for acts that are not on TV. Increasingly the audience is gravitating towards seeing the free shows and then splashing out on someone whose name they recognise. I have long thought that the expansion of the Fringe is going to go too far and that the bubble will burst and things will contract again. It hasn’t happened yet, but I sense that a few middle-range acts are feeling the same as I am and that it is no longer (if it ever was) worth spending large amounts of money to come here, when audience numbers are finite and shows are seemingly infinite and press coverage is falling away (most newspapers ignore the Fringe now or maybe have one comedy review a day - even the Metro has next to no coverage). It might be a good thing for the future with acts using the Fringe as a place to work out new shows and develop as comedians, rather than hoping to raise their profile or get a TV deal. If I did come back (and I am sure I will one day, though am increasingly likely to take next year off) then I will gravitate towards the Free Fringe or the Stand venues. I suspect others will feel the same. We shall see.
I needed to sleep more but instead had to stagger over to the Book Festival to take part in Letters Live, reading out some letters from the fabulous “Letters of Note”. Bridget Christie, Lucy Porter and John Lloyd were also amongst the people performing and again it was enormously cheering to see some friendly faces. And the event was lovely to. Some funny and some moving missives from the days when people used to put pen to paper. I read a letter by Mark Twain to a snake oil salesman and a memo from Matt Stone from South Park detailing the cuts he was prepared to make to South Park the Movie. It all went well and nice to have access to the Author’s Yurt, where there is good and drink left out for anyone from the festival including a whole bottle of malt whisky. You’d never get comedians being trusted with such luxuries. And I will be popping by every day to stuff my face and have a pint of hard liquor.
I was very tired as I headed for my own show, but had a coffee and some biscuits and then in a genius move, a thick breakfast smoothie from a frozen yoghurt shop. This deadly combo of sugar and caffeine really did the job and gave me the energy to do my show. If I do this every night then I may be back to my January weight. It was a predictably tricky Saturday night crowd, not too keen to laugh. But I pushed on through and we’ll call it a late victory.
As I walked back to the flat I met a couple who had seen the show, who I had a good chat to (and maybe I talked at). They were artists and said they’d liked the show and that having read my blog were glad to see I was in good spirits. But I never let my mood affect the show (and I am really enjoying that part of my day - it’s a good and interesting hour in my humble opinion). We discussed whether it was a good idea for me to talk about things in such detail in a public place, they having posited that not many “artists” would do the same. I said I was probably stupid to do so, but they disagreed and said they appreciated the insight. They are wrong, the idiots. But not as big an idiot as me for putting that online.
They were a bright and pleasant couple and I appreciated their comments. I think my fatigue is mainly to blame for the negativity I’ve been experiencing (plus the fact that I am on course for the biggest end of Fringe bill out of everyone working here - I knew I’d win something here one day). I am enormously proud of both shows and think they’re amongst my best, which is why it’s slightly frustrating that numbers are a little lower than hoped. But it seems that many are experiencing similar and we’re not yet halfway through. I may be close to snapping out of it. But as you’ll know from my foolishly honest blog I have invested a lot into this year’s Fringe. And not just money.
Anyway I felt pretty positive by the end of the day. And if there are no pipers and drummers outside my window tomorrow maybe I can sleep in and rebuild my energy. It’s going to be all right, I think. And both shows continue to get nice reviews in print and on Twitter etc. The Scotsman review finally made it to the paper too!