It's August 2009 and I'm on an Edinburgh street corner, constantly checking the time and starting to hyperventilate. Belle from Beauty and the Beast is in a dumpster in front of me, frantically searching for fairy wings. We go on stage in half an hour and our Tinkerbell will be naked if her costume- accidentally thrown out in a frenzy of cleaning- isn't found. The glamour of the industry I've chosen strikes me as Belle emerges, victorious, holding bent wings and looking less than princessey. We race to our venue and get through the show, the vague smell of fried food emanating from Princess and Fairy.
The Edinburgh Fringe Festival, held annually in August, is a month long extravaganza of theatre, music, dance, circus, burlesque, comedy and everything in between. It is estimated that around 18 000 performers move to the city for the month to rent over-priced accommodation and attempt to lure audiences to their shows. For the last three years, I have been one of these hopefuls, though sometimes it was hard to remember why.
Performing in Edinburgh was the pinnacle of the better part of 3 years of touring comedy shows. The longest running of these was Princess Cabaret, an all-female sketch comedy/cabaret show parodying the Disney Princess stories. I wrote, directed and appeared in this show (which is a sign of both egomania and efficient budgeting) and it was this show that we took to Edinburgh in 2009 and 2010. In 2011, I performed with the aforementioned Belle in a two woman show called Jo & Brydie Play Doctor.
I moved to the UK from Sydney in April this year ostensibly to pursue my comedy career, though actually I was bored with the relaxed lifestyle and amazing weather. As a result, this year I'm doing two shows at the Fringe because apparently my masochism is boundless. The first is familiar territory- I'm in a cabaret duo called Sugar & Vice and we've got a show called All The Men We've Never Slept With. The second is new to me- I'm in a sketch troupe called Bad Bread, with boys. ENGLISH boys. After 4 years of touring with women- sorry, make that "fit birds"- this may be a bit of a shock to the system.
Not that touring with members of your own sex is the easiest of rides. Most of the locals clear out of Edinburgh for the Fringe, leaving their apartments to be sublet by performers. In rental ads, cupboards become bedrooms and in 2009 we found ourselves staying in an apartment meant to hold 3. Maybe 4, if one is a child or can sleep rolled in a ball.
There were 8 of us. 8 women. One bathroom. No clothes dryer. Our apartment became less a place to sleep, eat and live and more a series of surfaces on which to hang wet clothes. A ladder was set up in our living room and covered in damp underwear, resembling nothing so much as poor modern art. It's a testament to how busy we were that we didn't have time to kill each other but the day the toilet broke some people were definitely at risk.
This year I am living in a 9 bedroom, 3 storey house with 12 other people. The property- which features 9 ensuites, communal showers and a hot tub- is affectionately being referred to as "The Bordello". This should tell you a lot about the inmates'...um...housemates' plans for the month. Living with so many performers was perhaps not my wisest move. We moved in a few days ago and so far the plumbing has failed- twice- and yesterday I ate my breakfast our of a saucepan due to the lack of clean bowls.
Between the debauched home life, the two-shows-a-day and the new experience of touring with people who miss press events to watch football matches, this Fringe may be my messiest month yet. I've performed 4 shows so far out of a total 43 and honestly? I'm exhausted already. I'll be keeping you posted here on my descent into ill health and madness.
Wish me luck.
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