More Fringe!

I just checked the dates again and, goddamn it, if 4 days hasn’t already gone past again. I thought I was going to be really good with my blogging. Well, actually, that’s not true, I’m amazed I’m finding anytime to blog at all, but I mean, when I finished the last post I had sworn to write another post pretty quickly afterwards and hadn’t realised so many days had gone past already.

Excuse me one second I just have to check where I left you. Ok, Sunday. It was Sunday. 4 more days! 4 more days!


Actually, I’m going to give you a little background from Sunday evening – after a delicious snooze, I headed out to see an Irish friend in ‘So You Think You’re Funny’, which is a stand-up comedy competition. It was good fun – the emcee found out I was Australian and then he found out I was in a show and so then he let me plug it (twice), which made me feel ever-so-special. My friend was also very funny (though she didn’t win, unfortunately) and it was a lovely night. I caught up with her afterwards as well, which was crazy and lovely and nice. Ah, Cork. Sure, boy, you can’t get away from it.

So, Monday dawned and my Irish friend and her husband both turned up at my show along with, randomly enough, a family with two little boys. When I say ‘little’, I mean a 12 year old and a 10 year old. So, not really my target audience. And I have to say, I was a little worried. Not only that they may not enjoy it, or may not stay focused the whole way through, but that their parents would get annoyed at me for showing their children a dirty magazine and talking about penises (not that I would just do that to random boys, you understand, it’s in my show. I swear. And it all has a context. An important plot-driven context! Oh, lordy, why do all my blog posts about #EdFringe seem to skate too close to jokes about child abuse? IT IS NOT FUNNY).

Anyway, the show actually went very well – the mother loved the show, laughed a lot and I delivered a lot of my lines to the two boys, which entertained them as well as their mother. At one point I gave my popcorn (another prop) to one of the boys and we did a whole back and forth through my speech (I eat popcorn during it), where he’d come up and give me more popcorn and then take it back to his seat. It was all very hilarious and sweet. That evening I saw… I think 3 or 4 more shows? It all rolls into one, to be honest with you. You can go check my Twitter feed and see what I posted about that day – I’ve been blathering about how much I like all the artists that I like on Twitter so they can use me in their promotional material and retweet me and make me feel special (I’m all about feeling special). And, you know, so they can fill up that empty place in their souls that apparently all artists have, if we are to believe popular culture. At the end of #EdFringe I’m going to write you up a list of all the things that I saw during the month and its going to impress and amaze you and also be a record for the ages.

I also wore my beautiful 1970s Maria von Trapp dress and made my friend run through the streets with me with our arms out-stretched whilst singing about hills and music. It was ever so much fun.


Well Tuesday was pretty much the same as Monday. Are you sensing a pattern at all? We got up at a reasonable hour, headed out, handed out as many flyers as possible (on a side note, we are almost halfway through our 3 boxes of flyers ALREADY. And it’s not even been a week or flyering yet! Either I have to be more discerning with my flyers, or word of mouth needs to start getting around via reviews – WHERE ARE THE REVIEWS – or I’m going to have to print more flyers. Luckily, I still have a pile of flyers left over from Brighton, so I can just change the info on those and hand them out if needs be. If anyone remembers me complaining about the fact that my producer told me I needed 10000 flyers and I didn’t think I would speak to that many people, well, consider that I have personally handed out around 2500 flyers and tried to give them to even more people than that) and then I did the show.

Oh and it was tough show. I don’t think its very fashionable to say that. Looking at everyone’s #EdFringe feeds up here on Twitter it does not seem to be a good idea to bad mouth the audience. Everyone’s audiences are always warm, attentive and very, very happy to be there. VERY HAPPY. In no way did we have to lock the doors to keep them watching the performance. Not at all. We swear. Nobody fell asleep. They didn’t even yawn. They sat in rapt attention the entire time. They laughed at EVERY JOKE. BECAUSE WE ARE SUCH EXCELLENT PERFORMERS AND THIS PLAY IS EXCELLENT AND PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE BUY A TICKET SO I CAN AFFORD TO BUY FOOD WHEN I RETURN TO MY USUAL ABODE.

Oh, artists. Amusement.

But, well, you should know by now that I tell you all the things that you don’t want to hear and that I’m not supposed to say (the wax lady took too much hair off my pubes! My inner thighs chafed so much yesterday I started bleeding! My inability to find a boyfriend leads to a deep and shameful sense of emptiness that, as a feminist, I am deeply unhappy about and leads me to make more and more jokes about it and talk about it ad nauseum to try and stop the rising sense of panic and anxiety!) so, let me just say – oh, it was a tough audience. So tough. So so so so tough. Apparently four ladies, two of them on their own, two of them together, is the hardest audience to win over. For one thing, they seem very self-conscious about laughing.

Anyways, I got through the show and a couple of the ladies afterwards thanked me and told me they had really enjoyed it, asked questions about where I had gotten the inspiration etc. It was very nice, though I wasn’t certain if they were just trying to make me feel better because they had been so bored throughout. But, the thing I do have to remember is that not everyone laughs as uproariously as I do in the theatre. And I think a show where the audience is not in the dark, where everyone can see everyone else, is that little bit harder. Maybe I’m making excuses. Maybe I’m just crap. I’m not sure. I don’t think I’m crap. I actually, genuinely don’t think I’m crap (as a side note, my evil thoughts – the ones that have caused me so much trouble over the years – tend to jump in at this point and tell me that, actually, actually, I have now reached an unacceptable level of self-confidence, one which allows me to feel good about myself most of the time and considers most things I say and do important, or at least, not-terrible. This unacceptable level of self-confidence, my evil thoughts tell me, is blinding me to the fact that I am ACTUALLY THE WORST PERFORMER WITH THE WORST SHOW OF THE ENTIRE EDINBURGH FRINGE. If only you hadn’t had therapy, whisper the evil thoughts, then you would be able to understand the truth. This is why I don’t let my evil thoughts onto Twitter, as it would ruin my entire social media campaign for the show).

If nothing else, #EdFringe is an excellent way of getting used to every possible audience and every possible audience reaction. As a performer, I did that a few years ago when I was in a theatre education group, but I’ve never really done it with something that I’ve written and created before. Something that means a lot to me. I think it’s probably pretty healthy. If you can get through #EdFringe still thinking you are a worthwhile performer with a worthwhile show I don’t think there is much else the world can throw at you to shake your confidence.

That night we headed out for drinks after our day of theatre and had a grand old time talking and laughing and building plastic cup towers. I wore my Maria von Trapp dress again and we came up with a show idea for next year’s fringe – one-woman Sound of Music. And I am only half-joking. I think that could possibly be AMAZING. I mean, I’d need to learn how to use a loop pedal, I think, to really make it excellent, but these are small details.



All that said about how healthy it is for a performer to go to tough shows, when I got to the venue on Wednesday and it seemed like there were only going to be 4 people in the audience I started to panic. Again. No, I thought to myself. No, no, no, no, no. I do not want to do another hour show to only 4 people. I do not want to do it. I do not, I do not, I do not. Even though I know I can do it and the world will not collapse if I do do it, I still do not want to do it.

Luckily, my producer and director were on hand. They told me to calm down, get some water, take a moment. They also reminded me that there was absolutely nothing riding on the show. So, if I decided I really, truly didn’t want to do the show, then I didn’t have to. No-one had bought tickets, no venue or investor had money in the show. I could simply walk away. That was a nice thought. A very, very nice thought. So, I took my water, I headed to my corridor, and I waited. I calmed down. My producer gave me the thumbs up for the start of the show and I headed out onto stage. Suddenly, from nowhere, there were 40 people in my audience. I had no idea where or how or why they had all arrived. But there they all were. Waiting for me to start. Oh good Lord.

They were wonderful. Apparently, we (my producer or myself) had given one girl (one!) a flyer the day before and she had taken it back to her ENTIRE ENGLISH LANGUAGE CLASS and said, ‘hey! This looks good!’ And all of them had said, ‘Yes! It does look good!’ and they had ALL COME EN MASSE. So, the lesson here, people, is that English language classes are an untapped GOLDMINE of Edinburgh Fringe audiences. Even if one of them paid me with Jersey money. A one pound ‘note’! Like this:

My director, who is Swedish, said to my producer, who is English – ‘Its got your Queen on it! They must accept it here!’ To which I replied, ‘My Australian money has their queen on it and they certainly don’t accept it here’. Anyways, I finished the show feeling fabulous. And also like THE BEST PERFORMER WITH THE BEST SHOW IN THE ENTIRETY OF THE EDINBURGH FRINGE. I topped off the feeling with an Aperol Spritz in the sun with my producer, director and director’s friend. Oh, joy. 

I pushed on through seeing 3 shows yesterday, two of which were excellent, one of which I almost fell asleep in for a good 40 minutes of. I’m not going to say what it was, because I know how much work goes into these shows and how hard it is up here anyway and the last thing anyone wants is some snide comment on some blog somewhere just to really throw salt in the wound of the masses of debt and the empty houses (not that I’m saying these people are going to get that, but just in case). By the end of the third show (finished at 10:25pm) I was pretty exhausted. I invest pretty heavily in every show I see. I don’t mean monetarily (though I do that too), but emotionally. If it’s funny, I cackle. If it’s icky, I scrunch up my face and tense my muscles. If it’s sad, I bawl. If it’s scary, I jump out of my seat and scream (no, really, I did it last night. But, in my defence, they threw a snake head at me! What was I supposed to do??) But, after the emotional drama of attempting to get people to see my show, doing my show and then adding approximately 3 – 4 shows a day on top of that, all of which have characters and stories I need to care about and invest in, well, it all leaves you feeling a little drained. My director and I decided on an early night & went home to watch Erin Brockovich on Netflix. We got through 20 minutes before calling quits. So rock and roll.


That was today! We had a delightful sleep in (8 hours sleep? What is this?) before heading down to the half-price hut again to do some flyering. There was a lovely long line of people waiting for half-price tickets who I attacked with my counter offer of a ‘pay-what-you-want’ show! Oh, yes, were they ever interested! Comedy! Love! FREE-NESS! I gave out many flyers. As I was flyering one couple, the lady in front turned around and I realised it was my audience member from a day or two ago (the tough crowd) – she told me how wonderful she thought the show had been. Then she told the people I was flyering how wonderful it was. Then she said she had been telling everyone she knew about it too. Oh, I wanted to wrap her up and take her with me. Just put her in a corner of my room and have her say nice things to me whenever I was feeling a little sad.

The audience was a good 9 people (including a reviewer), which would have pleased me a day or two ago, but now everything will be compared to THE DAY THE ENTIRE ENGLISH LANGUAGE CLASS CAME TO SEE MY SHOW, so all will be found wanting. My audience today were all very attentive, but laughed not so much. Or, laughed a lot in some places and not at all in others. And I suppose you can’t please all of the people all of the time. What you really need to make sure is that you have enough of the people in at one time so that you can please some of them sometimes and then please the others the other times and then it seems like your pleasing everyone all the time because there is just constant chuckling all the way through. It wasn’t the worst show, it wasn’t the best show (it certainly wasn’t the day before’s show – why do reviewers always come on the days after the excellent days?) but it did leave me feeling… I don’t know. Two of my audience members spent a lot of time fighting back yawns, fighting their drooping eyelids (which only seemed fair enough considering my similar reaction to the unnamed show the day before – PERFORMANCE KARMA). Which is fine, but… Well, it was the evil thoughts again. They jumped in and starting playing havoc with my brain. What exactly was I trying to achieve here? In #EdFringe? With this show? What was the point of this show? This production? Was it to make money? That wasn’t happening. Was it to entertain people? It didn’t always seem to be doing that. Was there a message? Not that I could really think of. Was this show going to launch my career in the arts? Well, no, because no-one important was really coming to see it. So, what exactly was the point? And if it wasn’t really entertaining people and if there was no reason to really put it on, was the only reason that I was here was for my own vanity? To feel good about myself even if everything else in my life/career was going to shit (ok, that’s not fair – ah, ‘less than stellar’). The good shows – the ones you feel amazing after – is that because you’ve given the audience a good time, or…. because they’ve given YOU a good time? Was this show for me or them?

I don’t rightly know what my answer to that question is. It certainly upset and worried me enough to ruin my afternoon, however. Well, not ruin it so much as, just… turn it introspective. I needed the afternoon off anyway to do some preparation for tomorrow (I’m performing on the Royal Mile – wish me luck) and also because I could not, could not, invest in any more characters or storylines or performers this afternoon. I had to be quiet. I had to not use my brain or my heart. I needed to eat peanut butter fudge biscuits and stare at Twitter and be a slob. It was delightful. I ripped up a bag of white paper (snow) for 20 minutes and felt ridiculously satisfied.

Anyway, please don’t worry about me. I’m not upset or depressed (really, I’m not). I’m just… confused. This is apparently what I want to do with my life. It’s what I’ve fought for since I was a little girl. And, I think, being here, amongst so many performers, so much theatre, so many different styles and shows (many of them excellent, exciting pieces of work), I’m becoming more and more aware of the fact that I’m not really entirely sure why I wanted it so badly for so long. Because I don’t actually know what I’m contributing. I don’t know why it should be my voice over somebody else’s. I don’t know why the stories I’m telling are of more worth or value. Another performer told me today that we do it ‘because we love it’. And that we shouldn’t expect to get anything more out of it than someone else with a ‘normal’ job that they love (say, accounting), gets out of their job. However, I beg to differ. I don’t think people ‘love’ accounting in the way that we ‘love’ performing. More and more I think that very few people actually ‘love’ their jobs in the way that we performers are told we need to ‘love’ our jobs. And that cuts both ways, of course, not many accountants have to deal with the lows and insecurity that an artist has to deal with. But, the point is… What is the point? The point is, people choose their jobs for all sorts of reasons. And is choosing your job for love not just an incredibly selfish thing to do? Are other people as selfish as we are? Do they choose their jobs for other selfish reasons? Money or prestige or power? Do they choose them because of the way they make them feel on the good days? Perhaps they do. Maybe there are very few people out there who actually choose their jobs for the good they can achieve in them. Perhaps everyone chooses their job for some selfish reason and I should just get over it. But, over the past week or so I really have been left with the feeling that I am fighting extremely hard for something that I’m not entirely sure is deserved or warranted – not because I’m not a decent performer (I’m a decent performer, I’m a decent writer), but because I don’t know how I could possibly contribute in a way that a hundred billion other performers are doing just as well, if not better than I am. But, if that’s the case, where is the place or industry or niche that I can contribute to in a meaningful way? Where is the gap that is just crying out to be filled by a person such as myself?

I don’t know. I just don’t know.



Filed under Edinburgh, Theatre

2 responses to “More Fringe!

  1. Clare Howlett

    Jen, the point is that people want to listen. They want to see, hear, be entertained. And not everyone wants to be the entertainer ( I got pulled up to sing with Clare Bowditch and died. I LOVE being an involved and (overly) enthusiastic audience member: I emphatically did not love being on stage! You don’t have to be the best. You don’t have to change people’s lives (although both of those are nice). In a great audience, there is also, sometimes, the magic moment when you are overwhelmed by the collective. Can’t have that without the singular focus – the performer. It’s not rocket science, you won’t (probably) win a peace prize. It doesn’t have to have purpose beyond the very fine moment that it is.
    Miss you.

    • Thanks for the lovely comment Clare. Definitely food for thought. Edinburgh does strange things to your head. I don’t think they are necessarily bad things and its good to think about it all – just probably not best to try and think about it all when you are trying to perform or trying to get an audience in! I’m going to store up all the thoughts and feelings and sort them out in September when I have a bit of time 🙂 Miss you too. Will be lovely to catch up at the end of the year.

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