PUNCH started with Edinburgh, in a classic Edinburgh situation: hungover, on a crap leather sofa, in a flat by the Pleasance. It was August 2010, and I was staying with Laura Corcoran and Matthew Jones, there as their better known alter egos, Frisky and Mannish, and performing nightly at the Underbelly. I, on the other hand, was there to carouse for a week, evade my London responsibilities and exploit their hospitality. More importantly, who would pass up an opportunity to share a bed with Matthew Jones? Not me.
The Fringe experience wasn't new for me. My debut as a moorhen in a student musical went down a storm. Later, moving on to bigger and better things, I performed with Frisky & Mannish as a "small child" on the cabaret circuit. And I'd also been a lot of times just to get sloshed in the Pleasance Dome.
So there we were. Matthew and I were sprawled on our respective sofas: he with his steamer, me cradling a bin. I suspended vomiting long enough to say, "you know, we should work on a play together". Matthew dribbled in agreement.
Not really. But it was along those lines. At the time, I'd just finished a run performing in a two hander, The Yalta Game, which played on the London fringe before transferring to the Leicester Curve, and I was imagining something similar for me and Matthew. We came back to London, duly went to Samuel French and began searching for something to perform for a week above a pub.
But then a much more exciting idea presented itself. Why not commission something new? A piece perfectly suited to us that we could craft and workshop from the beginnings. Whilst meeting some brilliant young writers, we came across Steven Bloomer and we hit it off immediately.
It went like this. We were in the Groucho Club in Soho; Matthew put up a bunch of ideas including: "How about Punch and Judy on a package holiday in Spain?". Steven's response: "Well, if it's Punch and Judy, it really has to be set in Haringey." He turned this into PUNCH - a shocking, funny, clever and thought provoking play with a wicked twist (which I've just ruined. Sorry).
We first performed PUNCH as a rehearsed reading in the Old Vic rehearsal room in April 2011. Incredibly, the great and the good of British theatre came, and we ended up performing to the likes of the Royal Court, the Soho Theatre and the Hampstead Theatre. Not bad for an idea hatched while vomiting into a bin.
With both Matthew and Steven's growing reputations in their respective fields, PUNCH was attracting some attention.
This showing was vital to the development of the play, and what came out of it was clear. The perfect place for it to start? The Edinburgh Fringe. Where better for a piece about the nature of comedy, the failing career of a stand up comic and an armory of dubious, controversial and sometimes unpalatable jokes?
And here we are! We made it! Taking a show to Edinburgh is mind-bogglingly expensive, and we could not have done it without our generous benefactors, including Tom Stoppard and Mark Rylance. PUNCH would have got nowhere without this amazing support and belief in the quality of both the play and the team, early on. Undeniably, we have been lucky.
PUNCH has just reached the end of its first week at the Fringe - in a theatre, with an audience, experiencing its first steps into the world. As with anything in Edinburgh, this is only the start of a huge challenge. It's taken two years from the outset and been an extraordinary amount of hard work, but I am so excited to be here and so proud to be working with such an inspiring team. Honestly, I can't quite believe my luck.
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