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Catriona Knox

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Five Hundred Royal Blue Balloons and the Edinburgh Fringe

Posted: 25/07/2012 10:35

It's exactly one week before I open my one-woman show, Hellcat, at the Edinburgh Fringe. I should be focussing on the important stuff - honing my material, polishing my jokes and deciding how many pairs of wellington boots to take (somewhere between one and thirty). Because I'm a character comedian, I should also be taking this opportunity to really get to know my different characters - shoot the breeze with them, find out what makes them tick, offer to buy them all a drink and a hummus falafel then share an awkward journey home on the night bus with them (I like to think of them as real people otherwise, after a month, I begin to feel like I'm suffering from multiple personality disorder.)

But instead of doing all this, I'm obsessing about balloons. I've got a box of five hundred royal blue balloons sitting on my sofa and it's really bothering me.

Here's the thing. In March I had a brilliant idea for my show. It was terrific. It was going to wow everybody and be hilarious - and the fact that it was going to involve five hundred royal blue balloons didn't put me off at all. In fact, it put me on.

Like a naïve faun on her first day in the forest, I immediately sponged half my entire Edinburgh budget on balloons. I bought the best balloons on the internet, bar none. They were premium balloons. They were the Jubilee and the Olympics of balloons, all rolled in to one. They were the Sir Paul McCartney of balloons. They even sent them to me recorded delivery, which you probably know is Royal Mail's way of telling you it loves you.

So far, so good. Then, during my many previews in London, I started trying out the routine.
And it sucked. I mean, it really sucked. It died on its sorry arse. It was bollocks - crazy bollocks - it didn't even make sense, it was like a dream sequence from a Darren Aronofsky movie re-shot by a child who'd accidentally sat on a camera. Audiences stared at me with an ego-flattening mixture of boredom and contempt.

And yet I pushed on - time after time, trying to make it work, refusing to take the clear 'no bloody way' I was regularly getting as an answer. But things didn't change - the routine just didn't work. The five hundred balloons in the room became the elephant in the room of my Edinburgh show. I was screwed.

Now I'm faced with the perennial Edinburgh dilemma - what to do when you've invested time, love and money into something that doesn't work for your show? These balloons! I don't know why but there's something about their rubbery, dormant, expensive presence that puts me in a funk. In London it's all 'rounds in the pub', organic tofu and ten tickets a week on the Euromillions. In Edinburgh anything more expensive than a bag of chips with salt'n'sauce makes me physically sick; it's an expensive business and you have to look after the pennies. But at the same time, I can't deny that my balloon idea is, in reality, about as likely to succeed as a pig in lycra shorts at the Olympics.

Maybe I should be thinking of the myriad possibilities for their use outside the show. I could make myself a balloon suit, like the Michelin man. I could fill them all with gin and burst them over my head when I'm sad. I could eat them. Recently I've taken to blowing them up as a form of procrastination and something about omitting all that CO2 from my lungs certainly has helped me feel a bit calmer in the run-up. But the puke-inducing truth is that they really are a waste of money.
And the moral of the story? If you don't like wasting money, don't do the Edinburgh Festival.

 
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