I don’t really know where to begin. Last night I opened my show in
Edinburgh. I was terribly nervous all day. Ran my show during the day
and fucked it up a a lot, which just added to the fear and then I went
over a few bits and pieces, played out the worst case scenarios in my
head, forced myself to eat something, looked through the program
seeing all the celebrities who are here and making myself feel
inferior and more worried that I don’t have what it takes.
I rolled into town around 4pm, my show being at 6.20pm and handed out
some guide books for the PBH Free Fringe and then followed up by
plugging my show. People were pretty receptive, it was encouraging. A
few of the shows were packed- Big Howard Little Howard had apparently
had a line up going down the street and they had to crowbar people
into the room- this, I thought, was a good thing, there are clearly
people in the same building as me who have a draw.
I see my aunty Margret and uncle Malcolm just beforehand, they’ve come
up from Stockton to see my show, this has added to my nervousness- I
want there to be people there so that they don’t feel bad for me
playing to just a handful of folks. And I see Martin and Vanessa- I’m
delighted that they’ve shown up. They get it. More than anyone else
they get it. They’ve toured, they’ve had great successes, failures,
made bags of cash and gone into the red. They’ve played to packed
houses in beautiful theatres and in shitholes in the middle of
nowhere. It’s good to see their faces, I have allies in the audience.
Earlier in the day there had been a steady stream of Hibs fans
marching to their ground for the opening game of the season, right
next to where I’m staying. There’s an intensity about having that many
people, clad in green, heading to one spot. It felt as though they
were a chorus echoing my fears and doubts, an oblique metaphor for
what was bubbling inside me. I was never quite sure if they were for
me or against me.
But now, I’m corralling people into my venue, herding them like a
gentle sheepdog, a friendly pup who’s just learning the trade. And
there seem to be a number of people going to my show- there’s at least
fifteen or twenty gathered outside the Banqueting Hall. I squeeze past
them and put some music on. Aunty Margret is at the front of the queue
now, she asks if she can come in. Yes, yes, come on in. She asks where
she can sit. Anywhere. The front row? Of course, of course you can sit
in the front row. I’m so happy she’s here.
And I quickly run to the toilet, squeezing past people. It’s Saturday,
there are two other venues in this building and it’s a pub/club with
cheap drinks. It’s a lively spot. I walk through telling people that
my show is starting in a few minutes. I squeeze in to my space. It’s
filling up. This is crazy, this is totally unexpected, what are all
these people doing here? What could they possibly want?
There are four people who I’d met at the Pleasance a few days earlier
who tried to come on Friday, before the Fringe had started, they came
back again tonight. And there were a couple who I met in the street
who said they were going to my show. I asked them how they found out
about it- they just said they’d read the description in the guide and
then they told me not to look so surprised.
Okay, it’s full. I’m trying to squeeze more people in, there are heads
poking in the archway (there’s no door here). I get a few extra seats
and sit them right up next to the stage- which is really just a
rickety six by four block of wood.
We’re a full house. Amazing. Fifty or sixty people crammed into this
subterranean cavern. I start the show without a mic, but quite quickly
realise that it’s essential I use one. The spillage of sound coming
from the outside is distracting. Everything is distracting. I’m having
an out-of-body experience.
The show is manic, breathless, I’m going way too fast. I’m just about
keeping it all together in my head. There are some girls near the
front, behind Margret and Malcolm, just in front of Martin and
Vanessa, they’re basically just having a conversation. I politely
explain to them that this is a storytelling show and requires a great
deal of focus on my part and on that of the audience. I invite them to
not talk or just leave. The young girl apologizes in a way that isn’t
really an apology and then her and her friend leave. There’s a pause
just after they’ve gone and then the audience cheer- they want to hear
my fucking story.
A few times I have no idea where I am. I muddle through. I stop and
sip some water- which I never do. I forget where I am and talk about
forgetting where I am. I crack on with the show and somehow make it to
the end. I do a bucket speech and stand my the door. It’s mostly
coins, there are a couple of tenners and a few fivers. One lady, as
she’s leaving says, “Just some advice- don’t talk about politics-”
she’s reprimanding me it feels. But I don’t talk about politics. I
tell Martin and Vanessa this, “But you don’t talk about politics,”
they say. Yeah. I know. Weird.
All in all I pull in about 60 pounds. I’m very happy with that.
I buy a round for the five of us. I tip the staff a fiver. It all
feels very good. I’m exhausted. The show was all over the place, the
room was weird, I’m not even sure there was enough light on my face. I
missed bits, I changed the order of others, I fluffed a few words. But
I did my first fucking show in Edinburgh. My first show. And now I do
Bring it on.