On reflection, 2009 turned out to be quite a landmark year for me.
I had performed at the Festival Fringe in Edinburgh before but I had an ambition - to return with a one man play, a play that could in some way highlight my passion for theatre and working live.
I don't think any of the team who put Morecambe together could have predicted the success of the play as it unfurled in what was in many ways unfathomable. A sell out run is a big ambition in the biggest arts festival in the world but to be followed by a West End opening, two Olivier Award nominations and one Olivier Award win, was way beyond our wildest dreams.
Obviously the majority of the play's success was simply the subject matter. I have never disillusioned myself into thinking it was ever anything else. The love for Eric Morecambe is quite rightly immense countrywide and I'm sure that, had the play been about anyone else, it probably wouldn't have sold out and would never have lead to the whirlwind of reviews, awards and public response that it achieved.
Choosing subject matter is seemingly one of the key factors that must be considered carefully if one is hoping to attain commercial success after Edinburgh.
I have to admit though, during the early stages of Morecambe I never once thought about a commercial goal. In fact its fair to say that once Tim Whitnall's final draft had landed on my lap, my one concern was 'how can I achieve this techinically as an actor?' Studying Eric's mannerisms, his voice and breathing technique, the hundreds of sound cues, the props, song lyrics let alone the 60 pages of beautifully penned monologue to learn occupied my mind from the word go.
During rehearsals I suffered from migraines through 'taking on too much information' my GP informed me. In hindsight this may have actually helped as I was so focused on painting a technically correct picture that the pressure of portraying the legend seemed secondary.
The worry about the pressure of potentially 'filling the shoes' only began on the day I arrived in Edinburgh. The play had the biggest selling advanced ticket sales that year and the publicity machine had already started to hype its arrival prior to its premier, and, although this was incredibly daunting for me, it became extremely apparent that Edfringe was exactly the right arena to showcase such a piece.
I guess there were many reasons as to why Morecambe achieved great things in Edinburgh and beyond but I'm just grateful for them.
I now have some very good friends in the Morecambe family and my ongoing love of Eric is only complimented by the encouragement and support that they have shown me over these last few years.
We are taking a shiny new production of Morecambe on tour next year and I will be graced with the presence of Gary Morecambe ( Eric's son) at some of the larger venues for Q & A's post performance which I'm hugely excited and incredibly flattered about.
The play Morecambe has almost certainly changed my life and career for the better and although I realise it was a team effort, I really have huge thanks and respect for Edinburgh Fringe Festival and Assembly for staging it. Something truly magical happens in an equally magical city in August every year and I've always loved the uniqueness of Edinburgh, the excitement of seeing new work is encouraging to say the least, the standard of work, the vast array of talent and genres, even the Scotch mist seems wizard-like, cloaking the Scott monument on Princes Street. I just love it.
2013 provides a return to the Edinburgh fringe for me after touring Morecambe extensively and taking some time to focus on a television career as an actor.
Without wanting to overtly plug of course ... ahem ! No Direction, an exciting new play that I've had the pleasure of directing is on its way to Edinburgh this August. It's a 'two hander' starring Albert Welling (also the writer) and Ronnie Toms. It really requires the audience to question themselves a little and makes fun of itself in the process. Can we repeat the success of Morecambe? Well, our hands are loaded with chips, we're approaching the biggest cultural gaming table in the world and the wheel is about to spin .... Viva Edfringe !
No Direction by Albert Welling and directed by Bob Golding runs at The Edinburgh Fringe Festival at Assembly George Square from August 1 to August 25 - www.assemblyfestival.com