I find myself in sunny Edinburgh at the top end of Nicholson Street, where several charity shops are situated. I sidle into one and make straight for the men's section; I want to be subtle. After a few seconds of nonchalant browsing of brown cardigans, I drift over to ladieswear. Glancing around to make sure that nobody is watching, I begin to leaf through hangers of ladies' dresses. I know roughly what I'm looking for, but my inexperience of shopping for women's fashion is showing. Before I know it, the volunteer of the shop is at my side and in a soft Edinburgh brogue asks:
"Is there anything I can help you with, sir?"
I freeze. I've been discovered. She's going to think I'm really weird.
"Er...well, I'm looking for a dress. You see, I'm playing Margaret Thatcher in a show and I need something quite feminine, ideally blue and easy to put on in about two and a half seconds. Oh, and I'm 6'4" so something that fits would be a bonus."
I realise that explaining the situation in the first place was perfectly simple and probably would have saved me having to look like a potential shoplifter. The volunteer is very helpful and picks out a flowery blue number that screams 'Zombie Former Leader of the Nation Reanimated via the Use of Dark Magic, as Portrayed by Inordinately Tall Man'. I hand over the cash (a bargain at £5.50) and head for the theatre.
Props and costumes form a significant part of NewsRevue; over the blank canvas of a black background and black basic outfits, the items we adorn are what give the show its colour and pizzazz. As well as dear old Maggie, our show features a host of celebrities and political figures including Richard O'Brien, Ed Miliband, Bashar al-Assad, the Queen and a Romanian horse (perhaps not a celebrity in its own right, though it deserves to be). Our general purpose is to mock and to shock, in a fifty-minute whirlwind of a performance. Costumes changes are carried out at breakneck speed, so as well as looking the part, everything has to be practical. The budget is tight, so economical solutions are sought out for the creation of certain items. For example, our horse's hooves are made from a poster tube, and we have cows' udders made from marigolds. This adds to the hilarity (especially when we can't get them on in time).
We're officially up and running now and audiences have been very appreciative. I had quite a scare on opening night when I got all the way to the theatre and realised that I'd left most of my costume back at our flat. This would be inconvenient at the best of times, but half an hour before opening at the Edinburgh Fringe and at rush hour made everything just that little bit more nerve-wrangling. My cab driver, Andy, was most helpful, offering consoling sentiments such as, "you've got a big audience, have you?" and "they're all gonna be pretty annoyed having to wait for you, aren't they?" Whilst his efforts to calm my nerves may have been somewhat misplaced, his expertise as a speedy driver meant that I made it there and back with two minutes to spare.
So it has been an interesting beginning to my very first Edinburgh Fringe and I do not doubt that there will be escapades to come. In four weeks' time I will certainly be a wiser individual and my liver will indubitably need a rest, but if there is one thing that I will take away from my experience here, it is that Edinburgh judges no man who seeks to don women's clothing and that its taxi drivers have a wicked sense of humour.