The final curtain has been faced, the show has gone on, darkness has descended on that little corner of the universe where, for the past four weeks, we have cast our spell. The Edinburgh Fringe Festival has taken to her divan and closed her eyes in a heavy swoon, for the next 11 months she will sleep deep and dream feverishly of her fresh glories. I feel roughly the same, in need of a chemical peel and a valerian root inspired slumber, I hardly have the capacity to type these words. I mean, I knew it would be hard work, but really, I mean seriously! People do that every year?
The festival has almost been an out of body experience, since we have all been sheared from our families and friends, and not only that but the cast and crew of Boy in a Dress have been staying at the other end of Edinburgh from the majority of festival performers. Our acquaintances were mainly billeted around the meadows, whilst we were down the hill in the remarkably less glamorous port of Leith, which gave the whole experience a much needed touch of everyday mundanity. When one's life revolves around warming up, making up, and dressing up, when the main focus of one's day is fantasy, then those little daily chit-chats in the supermarket about whether to have mackerel or salmon for lunch are somehow useful in helping avoid the bends. I almost found the nondescript neighbourhood and the pre-show march up the hill each day comforting precisely because it was so lacking in razzle-dazzle.
To be frank the members bars, the pep talks and the constant "Me! ME! Me! SEE my show!" atmosphere generated across the city by the invasion of performers soon lost its novelty value.
I'm not much of a drinker, so boozy late nights spent schmoozing the apparently influential are not my idea of a good time. Rather, I like flowers, and I arranged several vases full of them during our stay in Edinburgh - that is how outrageously I behaved during the festival. I honestly don't know how people have the capacity to drink until dawn, drag their carcasses out of bed and onto the stage, perform and then go around again in the same mad circle for a month - that's real talent. Our director Sarah, herself a devout advocate of the tee-total lifestyle, spent many a night surreptitiously emptying the contents of cocktail glasses into potted plants, to save her colleagues from their sodden selves. Sadly I think her campaign was in vain, as her friends all remain deeply committed to the love of hooch, but Lord love her for trying.
Instead of hard drinking, my assistant, Emily, and I spent a lot of time playing golf just outside of the city. I had never played, but Emily is one of those girls who never ceases to surprise you with the tricks up her sleeve, so under her tutelage I've become altogether not too bad on the green. I also spent a pleasant slice of time each week perusing the city's many galleries, enjoying the collections and the change of pace. My co-star Erin is a sometime Madonna impersonator at corporate Christmas parties, a career that apparently has its disadvantages, and so it was with great patience that I had to explain to her that the Da Vinci Madonna in the National Gallery, was in fact an entirely different creature from she of the conical bras. The dear thing was completely convinced that Da Vinci must have been painting from a premonition, so assured was she that the former Mrs Ritchie was the original big M.
Our Lady in fact became something of a trope in our festival experience, our venue being within two minutes of St Mary's Cathedral and we shared the dressing room with Mary Bourke, whose show was called Hail Mary! I like to think that our holy mother was showing us a sign of her succor by manifesting in these ways, but that may be because Emily accidentally socked me across the skull on the golf course with a particularly violent back swing. I have been a little woozy ever since. We saw Ms Bourke everyday of the festival, though we never had the chance to watch her show because it clashed with ours, so we made do with green room small talk, enjoying the hospitality of the venue as expressed through mini chocolate brownies and jugs of cranberry juice, together. Our pre-show chats became a part of the preparatory ceremony, as routine as the frantic scramble out of the rain and into our costumes, or the thunderous building of the set.
I think our get-in and get-out procedure will go down dubiously in the history of The Stand as being one of the most complicated and demented on record. Setting up a raised stage, building a functioning wardrobe and an onstage UV lighting rig in fifteen minutes is no easy task, and the staff at the venue were incredibly accommodating in helping us set up each day. Without their efficient handling of the build, their willingness and dedication we would have been helpless adrift in a pile of useless timber. My heartfelt thanks go out to them for their support this month, without them it literally would not have been possible. Indeed they even managed to save the day with a timely heimlich maneuver when Stephen, our stage manager, mistook one of the wardrobe door handles for a macaroon and was found red in the face, doubled over the sound desk gagging on the offending knob. In more ways than one the staff at The Stand saved us from ourselves this summer, and we are forever grateful.
For fringe artists, the model offered by the venue makes a difference to the very life of a project, as they effectively shared the financial risk as a co-producer. Luckily our show did not lose money at the box office, but if it had there would have been no invoice from the venue, and knowing that sort of pressure was not being exercised on us made the experience much more bearable. Instead of worrying whether or not we would be faced with a bill from The Stand in September, we could instead worry about more necessary things, like rehearsing and performing, promoting and building a future life for the show. In all honesty, without this financial model it is very unlikely that Boy in a Dress would have ever made it to Edinburgh, and so I am most deeply grateful to Tommy and his team, for believing in us and selecting us for the venue's program at the festival. It was a bold move, because The Stand is famous for stand-up comedy and our show is a mixture of philosophy, vaudeville, monologue, striptease and song, it was entirely plausible that the venue's usual audience would have stayed away.
Thankfully that was not the case, the venue made back their investment and the show got amazing exposure, garnering three five-star reviews and nine four-star reviews, which for the debut festival show of an emerging artist, is nothing to be sniffed at.
Moreover, we had audience members writing to us on facebook, via email, and indeed sending cards and flowers, to say how much they had enjoyed it, how it had resonated with them, reminded them of something, made them think. That was our greatest success, drawing people into the story, in which we had invested so much of ourselves, and having them connect to it so passionately, crying and laughing along with us. There are numerous offers on the table in front of us now, an array of potential futures for the show, and by that I am deeply thrilled. I don't yet know where the road ahead will take me, Brighton or Broadway, a TV mini series or a stint as Minnie Mouse at EuroDisney, but I am certain that this has been just about the most rewarding first fringe experience I could have hoped for.
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