Tag Archives: theatre

Reading Deprivation

To fill up my spare hours and to save me from going crazy with the organisation of yet another country move (this is the 4th country move I’ve done in 6 years. Or the 6th city move in 6 years. I think I might need help), I am currently working my way through a book called ‘The Artist’s Way.’ It’s a book that’s meant to help ‘blocked creatives’ (I really, really, really have to work hard at not sneering at that phrase) get past whatever is getting in the way of them making work. There’s all sorts of activities that you do, but the most important are the ‘morning pages’ and the weekly artist’s date. The morning pages are three full pages of writing that you do in the morning time – you get out whatever crap is in your head, or stressing you out and write it down and try to work through it. It’s like a free-form, flow of consciousness diary, I guess. The artist’s date is just doing something every week that is just for you, whatever takes your fancy. So far, I have had an excursion to a falling-down 19th century sanatorium, bought silly stamps at the craft stall, painted ceramics and… this week’s has not yet happened.

I bought the book in Bandon, Ireland (5 moves ago) and started it then, but never made any headway. I think I read the first chapter. This time, I’m being really diligent. It helps that I’m not employed, I guess. Every Wednesday, I read my chapter and then I copy the weekly activities into a little exercise book that I decorated. And when I do my activity, I get a little owl stamp that says ‘Sehr Schön’ on it. I figured it would appeal to the obsessive compulsive child that I am, deep down in my heart. So far, it’s worked very well.

Anyway. The big activity for this week is called ‘Reading Deprivation’. When I first read the phrase, I thought it meant it was going to address the fact that I had been depriving myself of reading and we were going to fix it and I was going to read all the things.

read-all-the-things

ALL THE THINGS! Found here

Of course, it’s the opposite. You’re supposed to deprive yourself of reading all the things. In fact, you are banned, BANNED, from reading anything. ANYTHING.

As I read (ha!) through what I was supposed to do, a genuine feeling of dread crept up on me. How exactly was I supposed to do this? How was I supposed to get all the things done that I needed to get done without reading? The first thing I do every morning (and this is… sad, I grant you) is reach for my computer and check email and check Facebook. I’d like to blame the habit on being in a different country from my family and many friends, but, let’s be honest here. I’d probably do it if I’d never left Australia too.

I had lots of questions about the reading deprivation. Was I allowed to read signs? Recipes? Information on the back of drug packets? Every time I needed to look something up, did I need to get Alex to read it on my behalf and then tell me the salient points? What if he read it wrong? Could I read things that I, myself, had written? Or was I only allowed to write texts and emails and send them into the world with whatever predictive text had decided I wanted to say? Is everyone who ever sent an amusingly suggestive text with a strange predictive text word substitution all doing this reading deprivation activity?? The book did not answer these, or really any, of my questions. In fact, the book is quite vague on most of the details. The author tells us that she’s often called crazy for this particular exercise, there’s always someone who says they can’t do what she’s told them to do. And then they all end up doing it. But, but, but… HOW do they end up doing it? Not everyone is unemployed! How do teachers get away with not reading things for an entire work? Are you allowed to read things if you’re being paid to read them? Where does the ‘no reading’ ban end? What happens if I briefly glance over the toiletries in the shower and my brain accidentally comprehends the word ‘shampoo’? Did I read it? Is the exercise over then? Do I have to start again? Should I just walk through the world with my eyes closed for a week?

I’m beginning to think she left it deliberately vague so that you can make your own mind up about what really is essential reading and what you can do without. That’s my decision, anyway. So, I’ve come up with a few of my own rules. For example, the book was originally written in 1992 and the version I have was re-printed in 2002. So, well before communications were radically altered through social media and text message. So, in the end, I decided that I was allowed to continue reading basic communication texts – things that might have been, back in the day, a phone call – because otherwise life would get really difficult. I’ve also allowed myself to read things online for basic information. For example, Alex and I want to go kayaking tomorrow. I had to research where the kayak rental was. That involved reading websites and I decided that was ok.

You may have also noticed that I’m still updating Facebook. Well, I’m allowed to write. So, I figure, posting on Facebook is ok and responding to people commenting on my post is ok, but scrolling mindlessly through my News Feed is a definite no-no.

Even with these, fairly generous, rules in place, the no reading thing has been difficult and frustrating. It’s also been eye-opening. The amount of hours I spend on the computer just waiting for something to distract me, not even entertain me, just distract me, is kind of terrifying. I’ve gotten into a habit of having the computer open at all times, so that whenever I’m reading or watching something and there’s a reference I don’t get, or there’s a song that I recognise but can’t remember why, I immediately get on the computer to look it up. Sure, it doesn’t seem like that big a deal. But, stopping doing it as made me realise how easily distracted I actually am. Sitting down and really focusing on something and committing to not being distracted is actually hard work. That’s why I love reading on the UBahn, or going to the cinema – it’s easier to not be distracted from a movie or a book when I’m not at home, with easy access to the internet. Somewhere down the line, I turned into those dogs from Up and didn’t even notice and also willingly participated in the transformation.

squirrel

Squirrel found here

It’s made me think about lots of things. And not all of them are anti-internet. Like, how did I get information before the internet? I was still a kid, so a lot of the time I just asked my Dad and he knew. I looked up things in our massive Oxford English Dictionary, which was fine for words and things, but not so much for people. I looked things up in my Dad’s old high school Encyclopaedia, but as it was from the 60s, most of the time I did it for laughs and to see people still referring to Russia as the U.S.S.R. There was a reference section of our high school library, where some librarian had carefully cut out newspaper or magazine articles and arranged them alphabetically by subject in horizontal files: Peron, Eva; Peron, Juan. I wonder what happened to all those files. That I now have access to the answer to almost any question I could possibly have is pretty amazing. That I mostly use it to find out what others films a familiar looking actor was in is possibly a waste. That I look up the information and then immediately forget it is probably unsurprising. That not being able to look up the answer to every random question that goes through my brain over the past few days hasn’t resulted in my brain exploding or the end of the world is also telling.

I’ve also discovered I have SO MUCH free time. I know I am currently unemployed, which certainly helps the free time. But, seriously. I can’t think of enough things to do during the day. I’ve actually written myself a list called, ‘Things I Like Doing’ so that if I get bored, I don’t panic and decide there is nothing else to do ever, ever, I’ll be bored forever. I’ve been saying a lot over the past few months that I ‘don’t know what I like anymore’. But part of it was that I just wasn’t bothering to think of things that I liked anymore. I’d come home from work tired and instead of going to the effort of thinking of something I might like to do, I would immediately open the computer and ‘zone out’ for an hour. Hour and a half. Two hours. It was boring. It was frustrating. It was numbing. But as long as things kept changing online there was at least distraction. There was at least something to do. I didn’t have to think too hard and come up with something I might actually like to spend my time doing.

My anxiety levels have also been through the roof over the past two years. I mean, I know, I’ve always been an anxious person. But, there’s been a steady increase over the last little while. And I think part of it has been this underlying feeling that I should always be ‘doing something.’ And, again, online, it is actually possible to always be doing ‘something’. It may or may not be worthwhile ‘something’, but it is, at least, a ‘something’. It might be watching a cat push a dog into a pool (that would be awesome, though, wouldn’t it?) or it might be an 8 page profile of Angela Merkel. But there’s always ‘something’ to do. I find myself going, ‘I’ll just read this and then I’m finished.’ ‘I’ll just watch this and then I’m finished.’ But it never ends, there’s always more clicks, there’s always more suggestions. What exactly did the cat video add to my life? It gave me a cheap laugh, I suppose and we do sometimes need cheap laughs. But if it ends in an hour long cycle of cheap laughs, it’s probably gone on too long. In the last two days, I have, twice, made myself a cup of tea, opened the doors of my balcony and stared at the sky for a good 45 minutes to an hour. I used to love doing things like that. But, I just kind of forgot about it. Because it seemed boring. Because it wasn’t ‘something’. Because it wasn’t as quickly diverting as jumping online.

The whole point of the ‘reading deprivation’ exercise is to stop filling yourself up with things that other people have written or created and start making space to write your own things. I didn’t think it would work. I didn’t think it would work that quickly. But, seriously. When you’ve suddenly got an entire empty afternoon stretching out in front of you and no ability to spend it staring at other people’s lives on Facebook, or even, getting out a new novel and devouring it hour after hour – why not write something? It doesn’t even have to be a good something. It just has to be a something. Because, no matter how relaxing it is to stare at the clouds for an hour, eventually you’re going to get bored. You’re going to get lonely. You’re going to start feeling some things and you’re going to want to deal with those things.

I do hate people who get all ‘holier than thou’, especially when it comes to the internet and mobile phones (ah, the irony of a video, telling you to look up from your mobile, packaged as clickbait), but the last few days have been a goddamn revelation. I knew I spent too much time online and I knew I hated it. But suddenly banning myself from being unproductively online has made me realise just how much time I spend there, how much I don’t enjoy it and all the things I could possibly be doing if I wasn’t on the goddamn internet. I’m not saying I want to go back to the days when I wasn’t able to find out what ‘AIDS’ was by looking in my dad’s 1960s schoolboy encyclopaedia. But, I’m also saying that I want to make sure that the things I do online are done with purpose, have an end point and are an asset to my broader life, instead of an endless cycle of sponsored clicks.

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Filed under Introspection, learning, Random, Theatre, Unemployment

The Theatre Detox

In the past 8 months, I have seen a total of 3 plays. 2 of which I only went to because friends invited me (and I wanted to see the friend, not the play). 1 of which could be more accurately described as a work-in-progress physical-theatre piece, but, hey, ‘play’, is easier.

At the end of the Edinburgh Fringe last year, I was so physically, mentally and emotionally wrung out by ‘The Theatre’ (big, booming English dramatic voice), that I vowed to give up on it entirely. It was a gut reaction and it shocked me in it’s intensity and also in it’s feeling of truth. People didn’t really take me seriously. I had been saying I wanted to be an actor since I was 12 years old. I had been doing amateur theatre since I was 8. My involvement in theatre seemed to be the defining aspect of my personality. But, I said it vehemently over and over, to anyone who would listen, at any time of the day: ‘I don’t think I want to do this anymore.’ On the night after opening, I told my brother, who had, of course, agreed to perform in my show, unpaid, and give up 6 weeks of his time rehearsing and performing. I think I was wearing a towel. I could have made that up. The main point is, it was awkward.

I hated the theatre with all the passion and vindictiveness of a scorned lover. I felt physically gouged by the utter indifference I had managed to elicit from ‘The Industry’ (sarcastic, drawling American voice). I ranted about the artificiality and superficiality of ‘The Business’ and about the trumped up charlatans who ran it or succeeded in it. I lectured about an industry obsessed with youth and beauty and gimmicks and the ‘next-big-thing’; an industry that wanted shock and awe and cheap outrage at the expense of things that were beautiful or delicate or intelligent. I stored up examples of an industry that was irrelevant and so far up it’s own arse it couldn’t see how little it mattered to the rest of humanity. An industry that thought it was dissecting philosophy and religion, but was actually peddling cheap entertainment, that was no longer all that cheap and certainly not that entertaining (hey, I have Netflix now). I rolled my eyes at artists who moaned on social media about not get a living wage. I fumed at my computer and did my best conservative voter imitation and demanded that these freeloaders get a real job and then see what the hell it was like. With a few notable exceptions for some truly decent friends, I hated on absolutely anyone and everyone that had a modicum of success in the ‘Theatre Industry’ over the past 8 months. And that includes your 12 year old niece who just played Dorothy in her primary school’s abridged version of ‘The Wizard of Oz’, where Toto is played by one of the kids from the Infants School wearing a headband with two floppy socks for dog ears.

All in all, it felt safer to avoid theatre for a little while. I didn’t want to become part of a news story which included phrases like ‘unprovoked angry ranting at a mostly elderly matinee audience’, ‘escorted outside’ and ‘public disorder charge’. Besides, I had been hurt by theatre’s complete indifference to me. It felt good to prove to myself exactly how insignificant I was. It felt good to hurt myself more, the way it sometimes feels good to push a bruise and feel that old ache renew itself. I gave up, and nobody cared. Nobody even noticed. I was absolutely nothing.

Being nothing was harder than I expected. Giving up on the defining aspect of your personality (see above paragraph) turns out not to be that easy. What does one do with one’s time now that one doesn’t not need to read the latest script or see the latest director’s latest masterpiece for the good of your theatrical education? What does one think about if it’s not the crafting of your current production? What does one hope for if it’s not for the success of your next project? What does one dream about if it’s not eventually getting a fully-funded tour to actual audiences in actual venues of some kind of project that you’re somehow part of?

Old devils kept tempting me. Friends would tell me I should set something up, put on a show, apply for a thing. Being in Berlin was both a blessing and a curse. No-one in ‘The Industry’ knew me in Berlin and I didn’t know them, so it was easy to avoid everything. I went into hibernation. But, at the same time, theatre was how I made friends. Everywhere I went in the world, it was theatre where I felt most comfortable. Sitting in my lovely Berlin apartment feeling lonely I would want to do a thing with a person. But I wouldn’t know what that thing could be, if it wasn’t theatre, and I didn’t know who that person was, if it wasn’t a theatre person.

Visiting a friend in West Berlin a little while ago, I glimpsed the beautiful art deco facade of the Schaubühne Theatre, all lit up, and I felt (along side of the heavy helping of sour grapes), an older, warmer glow of excitement and anticipation. I went to the theatre’s website to see if they had plays with English subtitles. They did. I found a show about women and history, that was in German and English, not on for a couple of months. I thought I could probably calm myself down sufficiently over the course of a couple of months to see a play.

A. and I sent to see that play last week. I wish I could tell you it was a complete turn around and I’m once again a theatre convert (and OF COURSE artists should have living wages!) but, no, it’s more complicated than that. It was, in so many ways, the worst things about contemporary theatre. A hasty, cobbled together script with nothing to say; gimmicky direction hamstrung by it’s obsession with the latest theatre fad (live filming of the action on stage! Watch theatre through a screen – you’ll feel so much more comfortable!); and set and costume that completely upstaged the actors (the lead actress really did have a very nice hat on). I left the theatre shaking with rage and ranted the whole way home. Don’t feel sorry for A. – he seemed to enjoy it (the ranting, that is, not the play. Lucky for him, his opinion aligned with mine, though perhaps less vehemently).

I am left with two tentative conclusions from this so-called ‘Theatre Detox’ and it’s subsequent breaking:

1) I think I am over the blackest part of my rage at theatre ‘in general’ and am ready to save the worst of my vengeance for specific examples of heinous theatre crimes. That’s not to say I forgive theatre. No, I still find the majority of productions on offer these days boring, derivative and full of themselves. But, I seem to be able to hope again, that somewhere out there, is a production that is genuinely great and wonderful.

2) The living I earn will never be related to theatre. But, in all honesty, I don’t know if I can give it up entirely. I don’t want to do am-dram, and a person of my age doesn’t have the energy for fringe unless they’re getting at least some kind of funding, so I don’t know exactly what I am left with. Something small. The opposite of ambitious. But, I don’t know what that looks like. I don’t know what the point of it is. I don’t know why I have this compulsion. I don’t like it. It feels self-obsessed and self-absorbed and attention-seeking. And, yet, I don’t seem to be able to kick the habit.

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Filed under Berlin, Edinburgh, Theatre

I will write, I will write, I will write….

I’m forcing myself to write today. There are lots of reasons not to write. I’ve been at work all day. I’ve just finished my German course. I’m writing in a café with a new person who I hardly know and it seems strange to sit here, ignoring her and instead delving ever deeper into what I think and how I feel.

Part of me wants to know why I have to write, exactly. I don’t really have a reason, except that I’d gotten into the habit. A. thinks it is good for me. I think there’s part of me that believes that too. It’s like eating your greens. You know there are good general reasons for eating vegetables, but if you were challenged to explain them you’d be at a bit of a loss (they keep regular? Stop you going blind? Make your hair curly? I can’t remember). At the moment, though, writing feels kind of torturous. And slightly embarrassing. It is slightly embarrassing that I keep a blog. If only I kept a diary. Diaries are honest. Diaries are sincere. Diaries are so much more serious for the fact that they contain mysterious unknowns. That people writing them don’t want you to see them – that must mean they’re good! Blogs are inherently performative. The minute you publish something online you are, on some level, begging for people’s interest and approval. Your writing changes according to the online audience you envision for yourself. I don’t know why I haven’t started a diary. I keep telling A. I’m only writing for myself from now on, no expectations, no unobtainable dreams, no pressure. But it’s a lie, because here I am, forcibly choking down my embarrassment, and not writing, but blogging. Clearly there’s still something of the performer about me that I can’t shake.

I don’t really have a set topic. I was going to write about homesickness. I was going to write about the strange way I feel homesick for the UK (desperately, desperately) but not for Australia. A. and I have started discussing the possibility of staying longer in Germany (more than a year) and whilst some days this is exciting (maybe we’ll build a mezzanine level guest bed in the living room! Maybe we’ll get a cat!) on other days I start to think of myself as some kind of sad economic exile on the level of the Irish during the potato famine (my self-pity really knows no bounds sometimes). ‘Even if I could get back to London, I could never afford to live there permanently. I could never afford a house where I would want to live. I could never afford to raise a family.’ Australia isn’t much better, I think, while mentally filling the gaps between my thoughts with sad fiddle music and Irish pipes. ‘Berlin is cheap,’ I tell myself, ‘you could make a life here.’ And that’s when the panic grips and I can’t sleep and even when I eventually do fall sleep all of my sleep is anxiety sleep featuring anxiety dreams in which I spend my time attempting to cover up murders committed by my close friends and family.

In some ways I feel like I’m currently in hibernation. Or, maybe it’s more like I’m in hiding. I feel like I’m still in recovery from some massive punches this year has landed. First, I got kicked out of the UK (so I knew that was coming from the moment I started on my 2-year-no-extension-visa, but that doesn’t mean it still didn’t hurt). Second, I suffered through… whatever the Edinburgh Fringe was this year. I’m still not entirely certain what that breakdown was. I do know that most of the stress and unhappiness I experienced was of my own devising. It’s not like the theatre industry collectively voted me off the island. I’m not well-known enough to even get on the ballot. I turned their collective indifference into a multi-spiked emotional torture ball and proceeded to beat myself with it day and night for not being good enough to warrant being noticed. The fact that I will willingly, obsessively, and compulsively persecute myself so enthusiastically because of particular dreams or goals worries me. That I would so completely believe in my own worthlessness because of other people’s indifference worries me. Which is why I am currently backing away slowly and quietly and going into hibernation for a while. Being in Berlin is good for this. I can completely wipe the slate clean. I can reinvent myself without anyone asking me what the hell I think I’m doing or who the hell do I think I am (‘I don’t know, I don’t know, can’t you tell me?’). It’s like being a recovering junkie – moving to some remote area so I don’t have to be around the people that will tempt me back into my old destructive ways. No bad fringe theatre! No workshops or ‘unmissable opportunities’ or competitions or auditions or commissions or whatever over crap. Just quietness.

I don’t know what I’ll do from here, or what I’ll do when I ‘come out of hiding’. I don’t know if I’ll ever come out of hiding. It feels safe here, in the quiet. Maybe I would like a cat. Maybe I would like a mezzanine level guest bed. To be honest, I’m beginning to think that the only interesting way to live your life these days is to be completely normal and everyday. You don’t travel around Ireland with a fridge and blog about it and then get a book deal and TV series. You get an ordinary job that involves filing and numbers. You have an ordinary family and you call your kids Mary and John. You have a completely expected life and you don’t tell anybody anything about ever, not even in Facebook status updates. That’s how to be special these days. Oh, imagine the things they’d imagine about you.

But, that’s just not possible for me, is it? Because, look at me here, blogging, and thinking I’m special.

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Filed under Germany, Introspection

Disillusion

One of the things I’m supposed to be doing whilst I’m in Berlin is to write my Edinburgh Fringe script. I meant to do this over Christmas, then I meant to do it in January, then I meant to do it in February and eventually I decided I would put it off until May, when I wouldn’t be working and I’d have loads of free time to write it.

But now that I’m here I still don’t want to write it and I’m using every excuse that I can think of to not do it.

I’ve kind of put myself in a bind as I’ve already registered for the fringe (which is a lot of money), got a venue etc. I certainly can still pull out and I can just go up there and review (which sounds delightful now that I say it out loud), but there’s this self-destructive part of me that still wants to go up there and perform.

I think there are a lot of things that are playing into my reluctance to write this show. I mean, there is always a certain amount of struggle at the start of a script and it can take me months (or years) to find the right entry-point into a particular piece of writing. That said, I’m not particularly dedicated at looking for those entry-points – I try a variety of things for a few days or a week or so and if it doesn’t work I give up. If I then happen to get interested in the subject again I may try again in a few months time. I think one of the main reasons I’m not a more successful artist is that I don’t work hard enough. But, anyway, that is not the point.

The problem with this particular script is that apart from struggling with all the usual, ‘but where is it set? What’s actually happening? At what point does the story start? What’s the tone? But this writing is shit’ etc. questions & criticisms is that I don’t think I actually care anymore.

It’s a feeling that’s been sneaking up on me over the past couple of months, maybe years, I’m not sure, but it’s certainly gained in strength since January this year. I don’t actually care about theatre anymore, about being involved in it professionally. I’m sick of trying so hard and getting so little back. I’m sick of the constant disappointments and the constant feeling that I’m not good enough. I’m sick of not having any money and supporting myself in dead-end jobs that I hate. This is the ‘industry’ that everyone warned me about when I wanted to go into acting but, at the time, I thought I loved it enough to get through anything. Turns out that’s not true. Or, at least, when it feels like I’m getting nowhere, that each project or achievement is separate, that I’m not actually building anything, no career or reputation or future; when it feels like I will never, ever get out of this scrambling around on the bottom-rung of the industry I think, ‘well, sod this for a game of soldiers.’ Or something with harsher language.

Don’t feel too sorry for me, I feel happier at the moment than I have in a long, long time. But in terms of my so-called ‘career’, I have never been less interested and more disillusioned. I hate all the fetishising of ‘creatives’ and ‘creativity’ that happens in our middle-class Western society, I hate people that tell me that if I just follow my dream or what I love everything will turn out fine and I’ll figure out what I want to do, as if by magic. I’ve become like the grumpy Dad in a B-grade ‘Follow Your Dreams’ type Hollywood film, admonishing his daughter, ‘But acting’s not a real job! You have to accept facts some time Dorothy. Part of being a grown-up is accepting that to have a good life there are certain things you will have to do that you may not like.’

And all of this is seeping into my attempts to write. On top of all the usual fears of will it be good enough, will it make sense, there’s in an overarching, bigger feeling which is just sighing and rolling it’s eyes and sneering, ‘Yeah, but you know, who even cares? You’re well past it by this point anyway. If your ‘career’ was going anywhere, it would have started going there by now.’ I sit in front of my computer thinking, ‘Ok, so what is this story about, why should people care about it?’ And my brain comes back with, ‘Dunno. I don’t even care about it.’

I am so sick of all of it. I don’t think I like writing. I don’t think I like acting. I don’t even think I like the theatre that much, either, having seen it from the inside. It’s become a compulsion for me, like the alcoholic who finds himself in the pub when he was meant to be buying milk or the gambler who is parking at the casino when she had been heading home. I went and signed myself up to the Edinburgh Fringe without genuinely thinking about whether or not I wanted to do all the things that come with it, like writing a play and then performing it. Turns out I don’t. I don’t want to do any of those things.

 

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Filed under Theatre

A Practically Perfect 24 Hours

There are a lot of ways to fill 24 hours.

I should know. I’ve had to do a lot of filling of hours over the past few weeks, all of my own accord, with little-to-no assistance from employers or money. One can fill one’s days staring at an empty document on one’s computer titled, ‘Personal Statement’, whilst drinking cold tea. One can fill one’s days watching wish-fulfilment-science-fiction-fantasy TV shows that have a slightly incongruous ‘After School Special’ feel (see: ‘Being Erica‘). One can fill one’s days recovering from a hang-over; or lying in bed, watching Twitter change; or cooking inedible biscuits with whatever you can find in the cupboard (you’d assume that coconut and vanilla really would be a winning combination, so maybe it was the self-raising flour?)

You can spend your days being miserable and unhappy, watching minutes stretch into hours and all because its easier to keep doing what you’re doing than it is to come up with something better to do.

But, from approximately 7:30pm onwards last Friday night, I filled up a practically perfect 24 hours.

It all started at The Albany, which is a lovely little venue I have been to a couple of times in Deptford. Deptford is an interesting place. It is very ‘diverse’ in that polite, not-really-saying-anything liberal speak so popular with bureaucrats and real estate agents. It’s going through a process of gentrification, but it’s well-behind the trendy East (even those bits of the trendy East that are only on the Overground), so its still ‘interesting’. That is, you still meet real people instead of ‘people-doing-a-long-form-durational-live-art-interpretation-of-the-idea-of-a-human-being’ (hipsters, students and artists). Anyway, Deptford is an interesting place. The Albany is also an interesting place. It was one of the first places I saw theatre at in London after I moved – a friend (at the time she was a friend of a friend) was involved in a re-imagined Odyessy, which you experienced as a walking tour through the streets of Deptford. It was excellent – interesting, well-crafted, memorable, I had a great night. I don’t think I’ve been back to The Albany since, but it was such a great night that I keep returning and returning to it in my memory and it feels like I’ve been there a hundred times. I really don’t think I have. Isn’t that weird.

Anyway. I was late, so I was stressed and running. I don’t like to be stressed and running. I don’t mind running on a treadmill. I don’t mind stressing in a stationary position (though I’d really rather do neither), but the two combined is awful. Especially since I had on my new favourite wardrobe creation, which I have dubbed ‘gypsy-hippy-artist-woman’, involving a red headscarf, a lot of swishy black clothing and big round earrings. I look like I’ve either stepped out of the musical ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ or was a 10 year old involved in a very serious game of dress-ups. Suffice it to say I thought I looked amazing. But the running was doing nothing for me.

Of course, the show was running late. This annoyed me. There was nowhere to sit. I had run in a stressed manner when my clothes indicated my mode of movement should be slow, gliding and mysterious. I was sweaty and smelly. I wan on my own so had nothing to do except to pretend to be interested in the free flyers (there is only so many times you can pick up a flyer for an Over 60s social lunch club and raise your eyebrows to the heavens and nod in a way that suggests, ‘Ah, what an interesting project. Sociability! Over 60s! Lunch! What a winning combination! I have never seen such a thing and will immediately pass this on to my many and varied Over 60s friends!’ without beginning to look a little bonkers). Just as I was starting to passively aggressively sigh and stamp my feet (those FOH people had no idea what hit them!) I realised this late start was partially my fault, as the FOH staff were waiting for more audience members to arrive. One of those people was my friend, who I knew wasn’t coming. I had meant to tell them when I picked up my ticket. I hadn’t. The only person holding up this show, therefore, was me. However, I decided to deal with this like the fully grown adult I was and… not tell anyone.

Despite this, the performers decided to get going. Most of my irritation melted away when the first performer, Leo, opened the doors, gave me a big smile and shook my hand. He had salt and pepper wavy hair, a gold earring and was slightly shorter than me. I liked him immediately. Inside, I found the second performer, Patrizia, a with hair so naturally voluminous it added glorious inches to her height. She stood in front of a blackboard and took the name of the ingredient we had bought.

Oh, yes. Did I forget to mention that? Wrapped inside my fake fur coat (which I had taken off because of all the sweating) was a packet of courgettes (zucchinis), hidden from the audience members. Everyone had bought a secret ingredient to contribute to our group meal, which we were all going to cook, and eat, together that evening. That was the premise of the show. It was called, ‘Only Wolves and Lions’ based on a quote from Epicurus, ‘Only wolves and lions eat alone’ (which is an excellent title by the way. That title made me pick up a flyer in Edinburgh. And that flyer brought me to a show in London. So, excellent title guys. Well done). One by one, we presented our food gifts to Patrizia, lay them on the table and sat down.

We ended spending about 4 hours there that night, no ‘interval’ or anything, just cooking, cleaning, chatting and the occasional performance and directed discussion. It was fantastic. A lot of people had come with their friends, but it was quite nice being there and knowing no-one. There was a big discussion about communities in London and whether or not community was something that was being lost and whether or not that was a bad thing, or was that only a middle-class experience, or a youth experience or an immigrant experience etc. etc. etc. Some people got very grumpy, which was interesting in itself, because… well, because I come from a nice Anglo-Saxon family and people aren’t supposed to argue with each other about things. Especially not at parties. You know, no religion or politics?

Anyways, it was about 11:30pm by the time I got going. I retraced my steps, jumping on a bus and hoping to get to Queen’s Road Peckham before the Overground stopped. But, by the time I had gotten off my bus, the only trains left were not going to my station. My only choice was to catch a Night Bus. But there didn’t seem to be any buses going past me in any useful directions. So, because I can’t stand waiting around for things (especially in London where I’ve gotten used to buses and trains only ever being between 3 – 5 mins away), I decided in the end to walk from Queen’s Road Peckham to Denmark Hill, where I could get a more regular bus. For those of you who do not know London, this is what I did:

Queens' Road Peckham to Denmark Hill from Google Maps

Queens’ Road Peckham to Denmark Hill from Google Maps

Which isn’t that long really, but it feels longer at 12:30am. To some people this might be hell. But, to me, night-walking is bliss (And, as a side note, to me, waiting for a bus pointlessly for 25 mins with no book, no seat and drunken people falling around me is hell). So, I walked. I’m not sure what it is about night-walking that I so love. Certainly the fact that the city is quieter, emptier is good. I usually do it post a show or a gig or a party, maybe something that’s been quite stimulating, possibly loud and the chance to walk and clear my head, or think some more is usually welcome. Maybe part of it is feeling special because you’re walking around and seeing things that others are missing because they are inside sleeping, watching the telly or stumbling around outside drunk. Maybe I just have a death wish or enjoy taking risks. Really, I don’t think that it’s that I enjoy the risk part of it, though, because whenever I think seriously about the potential risks I feel very guilty and ashamed that I sashay about places I hardly know just for the joy of seeing street lamps lighting up bitumen. I think its that I block out the risk part of it and just go with my gut feelings, which is that I just really really really like to walk around at night. And, hey, they’ve got to have lit up all the streets for someone, right? What’s the point of burning all that energy if no-one’s around to see the pretty lights glowing orange in the blackness? Exactly .

I tumbled into bed around 1am and slept as soundly as a huge meal and big walk deserve. When I woke up it was beautifully sunny and I decided that I refused to stay indoors any longer pretending to ‘work’ and ‘write’. Instead, I was going out somewhere green and I was going to walk for hours. Because it was Saturday and the weekend, I took my time getting ready. I had a lazy breakfast and tea. I was enraged to discover that the internet was not working when I woke up, but then remembered that I hate looking at the internet and social media first thing when I wake up, but do it anyway (my lame-ass self-destruction). So, instead I picked up a play from the many unread plays strewn about my room and I settled in. It also has an excellent title. The title made me buy the play even though I had never heard of it. The title is, ‘If You Don’t Let Us Dream, We Won’t Let You Sleep.’ It was about Occupy and anarchism and politics and the left’s lack of direction and identity and it was, yeah. It was a good read for a Saturday morning.

I then headed to Clapham Junction to take a train to my chosen green destination: Richmond. I had gone walking by the Thames there with a friend a few weeks back and her knees had given up well before I was ready to (there was a village I could see! Just ahead! Just up ahead! Quaint English village! SO CLOSE! SO CLOSE AND YET SO FAR), so I wanted to head back and do the walk again.

At the train station there was a huge crush of people on my platform. This displeased me. It confused me too. Where was everyone going at midday on a Saturday? Had everyone had the same idea as me? Then I saw that the trains on my platform were going to Richmond and then to Twickenham. Something twinged in the back of my brain. Twickenham. ‘That’s a sporty kind of place, I think’, said the tiny, poorly used and ill-informed part of my brain that deals with sporty things. ‘Perhaps horse racing?’ It guessed. ‘The Twickenham Races? Yes, yes, I’m sure that’s right,’ it said and went back to sleep. The rest of my brain then analysed the facts and decided there weren’t enough women in ridiculous hats and pointy shoes for it to be the races, so my curiosity getting the better of me, I turned to a friendly looking gentleman and asked in my plummiest English, ‘Sorry, this is probably a daft question, but is something happening today?’ He laughed the uncomfortable laugh of a person who has just suddenly and unexpectedly had their life choices and passions brought into question by a stranger’s indifference and ignorance of something they care too deeply about. ‘Oh, its a Rugby match. England vs. Australia.’

‘Oh, yes,’ mumbled the sporty part of my brain, ‘Rugby. I knew it was either Rugby or Racing. Very similar… same letter, you know…’ and then slumped back into a coma.

I eventually managed to squish onto a train with a variety of burly Rugby fans who proceeded to discuss the perpetual existence of Australians wherever it was that you happened to be in the world. Considering this was a game being held against Australians I was a little bit surprised at the burly gentlemen’s surprise at finding more Australians surrounding them, but I kept my comments to myself.

At Richmond, after finally getting free of the Rugby hordes, I sat down to have my lunch by the Thames in front of a very lovely boat cafe/restaurant/bar which is currently the scene of every friend I know’s imaginary wedding. That is to say, its not that they are telling me they want to get married there, its that I look at the boat and I think, goddamn it, SOMEONE should get married there and I want to be there when it happens! And if it takes wildly inappropriate and unasked for matchmaking and wedding planning, well then, that is just what will have to happen!

After lunch, I started the long walk towards my English village. Things were going very well to begin with. The sun was out, there were children gambolling down the pathways and jumping in puddles, there were fluffy dogs running beside their owners. The Thames was ridiculously, comically swollen, so that a ledge I had drunkenly swung my feet over on at a picnic in May causing my friends to worry that I would fall in, now had water spilling over it and onto the grass. There was a difference of at least 2 metres. As I got closer to the promised English village, however, things started to look iffy. The path was overflowing. Not just overflowing, but up to my knees in some sections. Approximately, that is, as there was no way I was wading in just to measure how far up I’d get wet to accurately describe to you guys in this blog.

I had only been walking for 40 minutes and I had wanted to walk for hours and hours. Slightly annoyed, I turned around and headed towards Richmond Park instead. By now the sun was gone and people were scurrying back towards their fancy cars and lovely homes. But I was not to be deterred. I was walking for hours and hours! I walked straight into the park and about 10 minutes later it started to rain. But instead of turning around and heading back I decided to keep walking. I ended up walking from Richmond to Kingston-Upon-Thames, at which point the rain was pounding down and I decided I was beaten. I would go and find some kind of public transport and head home. But at the end of the road, instead of public transport, I found a pub called ‘The Albert’. Remembering there was a rugby match on, I approached cautiously. But the place was only pleasantly full, no TV and instead, a huge roaring fireplace with 4 giant armchairs sitting in front of it. Empty. I approached the barman quickly.

‘Can I just order a tea and sit anywhere?’

‘Yes.’

(almost breathless with excitement) Can I sit in front of the fire?’

(slightly confused) Well, yes, as long as there’s a table free… (gaining more confidence) Of course you can!’

At which point I nearly fainted from happiness. Fainted straight into one of those giant armchairs in front of the fire that is! I sat in my armchair (with pillows) in front of the fire, with my tea and reading another play until myself and all my clothes had dried out and the sun was shining again. I then headed back to Richmond Park and walked all the way around to the Roehampton Gate. I essentially walked over 3/4 of the perimeter of the park:

And though every walking muscle in my body ached, I felt amazing. The view back towards London was beautiful. The light was beautiful. I saw a flock of parrots. I don’t know why. Don’t ask questions. They were just there. It was weird and beautiful anyway.

The light was beautiful

The light was beautiful

The light! The light! Oh man, the light!

The light! The light! Oh man, the light!

 

Eventually I stumbled onto a train back to Clapham Junction, jumped in the shower and got prettied up in my favourite ‘1980s does the 1950s dress’. 

And there you have it, a practically perfect way to spend 24 hours. Not that exciting really. Go to the theatre. Make good food. Eat the food. Walk. Sleep. Read. Eat more food. Walk some more. Have tea in front of a fire. Walk all the other places you haven’t already walked. Have a shower.

Life really is pretty easy when you don’t think too hard about it.

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Filed under 29, London

Everything I Learnt in Edinburgh (Without Really Trying)

I meant to write this post when I was in Edinburgh, but I kind of got swept up in Edinburgh, so I didn’t. And then I meant to write it in September, but then I got lots of work and so I didn’t. And then I thought I wasn’t going to write it at all, but I’ve now been unemployed for a very long time and I’ve decided that instead of sitting around in a state of low-level frustration at my lack of employment, I will combine my writerly forces with my completely empty days and use them for good! For the writing of blog posts!

So, without further ado, things that I learnt in Edinburgh (and haven’t forgotten in the months afterwards).

THINGS I LEARNT ABOUT AUDIENCES

1) Audiences can sit through your show not laughing, not smiling and come up to you afterwards and slip a 10 pound note into your bucket and tell all their friends to come and see it. Audiences will laugh all the way through, congratulate you afterwards, say they thought it was great and then say, ‘oh! Sorry, I don’t have any cash,’ and slip away out the back.

2) Audiences like to have other audience members with them. They don’t like to be on their own. Audiences are pack animals. They like to shelter together. Especially when it comes to laughter. They like to shelter together in each other’s laughter. Just so they know that laughter is the right thing to do at this point in time. That said, different audiences will decide that different things are funny. As far as I know, they don’t confer beforehand, or during. But, somehow they all manage to agree that some things are funny and other things are not. And they seem to do it more or less as a unit on the same day. And the next day, the audience will decide something else.

An audience in its natural habitat: an empty room. Found at: http://www.agemanagementmi.com/services/iv-therapy/

An audience in its natural state. Found at: http://www.agemanagementmi.com/services/iv-therapy/

3) Audiences do not always know how to behave in a show. Especially in a show that seems like it is pretending not to be a show – one that is not in a theatre, that does not have tickets, that does not have lights. They will happily walk in and out, correct you if they don’t like what you’ve said, answer a phone call during your show (as long as, you know, they go to the side of the room, I mean that is perfectly ok, right?) Part of me thinks, ‘hells yeah! If you’re not keeping their attention, then they SHOULD walk out!’ And part of me just thinks, ‘Yes, but could you just be quiet and pay attention please just for a little whiles because I have worked so very very hard and it means so very very much to me and if you could just PRETEND to like me for a little while, that might make me feel better.’

4) When audiences are aware that the performer can see them, they will sometimes be unnecessarily encouraging with their faces. It makes you think that they are, I don’t know, just PRETENDING to like you and you really honestly just wish they would quit it. Except that occasionally, occasionally, audiences will HATE YOU WITH THE FIRE OF ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND SUNS FOR NO KNOWN REASON and because they HATE YOU WITH THE FIRE OF ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND SUNS they will have no problem with glaring at you the whole way through and then you kind of wish again that they could just pretend a little bit that they liked you just a tiny tiny bit. Not as much as your mum, maybe, but as much as… your pet gerbil.

I hate you with the fire of Ten Thousand Suns. Found at: http://dashburst.com/10-cats-grumpier-than-grumpy-cat/

I hate you with the fire of One Hundred Thousand Suns. Found at: http://dashburst.com/10-cats-grumpier-than-grumpy-cat/

5) No matter what happens, you generally only have to deal with any given audience for a specific set amount of time. No matter how bad it gets, you know that, eventually, they are going to leave and they will (hopefully) forget all about you (as you will them). This is the case except in a few, rare instances when you happen to flyer them again, or run into them at a food fair, or sit next to them in another, completely unrelated show in one of those weird, uncomfortable coincidences that life sometimes likes to throw at you. This is especially the case if they are your friends. Or you are performing in Edinburgh at fringe time.

THINGS I LEARNT ABOUT PERFORMING

1) Sometimes there are bad shows. Sometimes there are good shows. Sometimes you will trick yourself into thinking you can see a pattern in the shows and that you will therefore be able to predict what kind of show is coming next (though, often this is said in hindsight: ‘Oh, well, I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN it would be a bad show today, I had TWO GOOD SHOWS in a row! I was DUE for a bad one’). This is never actually true. Sometimes the bad shows are your fault. Sometimes the bad shows are the audience’s fault. Sometimes the bad shows are the venue’s fault. Sometimes the bad shows are the fault of a butterfly flapping it’s wings too hard off the coast of Argentina. (No, seriously) No matter what, you have to keep on going thinking that the next one is going to be better.

This bastard ruined my second Wednesday show! Found at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viceroy_(butterfly)

This bastard ruined my second Wednesday show! Found at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viceroy_(butterfly)

2) You are more likely to forget your words at the end of the run, when you’re on auto-pilot, then at the beginning when you are so freaking focused on the words that you are aware if a single ‘and’ or ‘that’ has gotten away from you. At some point during auto-pilot you’ll realise you’re on auto-pilot and then panic because you don’t remember the next lines and you’re not sure if your auto-pilot knows the next lines and then the panic will cause the whole system to shut down and leave you opening and closing your mouth on stage as uselessly as a goldfish gulping for air whilst lying upside down on the breakfast table. This will seem to you like it is happening FOREVER. In reality, it will be a few seconds.

3) Sometimes it is fun to perform and that’s when it goes quickly. Other times it like you are performing whilst your entire body is encased in wet cement and your brain is made of wet wool and your eyes are stuck shut. These are the performances that take the rest of your life to complete.

4) Stage fright is a thing that will pop up at unexpected times for unknown reasons. Also, stage embarrassment, which involves your entire body getting really really hot and your face getting flushed and you stuttering a lot. Stage Fright happens when you cannot face the thought of standing in front of another crowd, in an empty space and making them listen to you for an hour. Stage Embarrassment happens when you’re in the midst of a performance and you’ve just made a joke about Boris Johnson and a woman from the audience yells out that he is her friend and then you want the world to swallow you whole, or at least, you want to bow and walk off stage, except that that would be even more embarrassing.

THINGS I LEARNT ABOUT FLYERING

1) There are many different types of flyering. There is the ‘easy’ flyer, which is where you stand in a place lots of people are walking past and you hold out your hand with a flyer and a big smile on your face until someone takes one. There is the slightly more energetic flyer, where you stand in a place lots of people are walking past and you attempt to sell your show in one sentence, with a big smile as those people walk past, as well as hand them a flyer. There is the even more energetic flyer, where you do all the above, but follow along beside them for a while, trying to give them further, (hopefully) tantalising details of your show. There is the ‘hard sell’ flyering, where you go to where a bunch of (presumably) interested fringe-goers are milling and you attempt to convince them, through a small conversation, that you are very charming, that you have a very charming show (for a very charming price) and it would be utterly charming if they could, perhaps, come by and see it sometime. Then there is the ‘gimmick’ flyering, where you flyer in costume; or flyer in drag; or flyer silently; or lie down in the ground in front of people; or you talk loudly and obviously (and HILARIOUSLY) to your co-flyerers about how amazing this particular show is and then hand people flyers as they go past; or give people sweets with their flyer; or give people free tickets with their flyer; or give people discounts with their flyer; or threaten people; or propose to people; or act out your play for people; or become a live artwork with your flyers attached to you etc. etc. etc. etc.

'Hello there friends. Could I interest you in a flyer for my show? Its an all-female production of 'Lord of the Flies' and was very favourably reviewed in the Woolloomoolloo Gazette' Found at: http://www.lolbrary.com/post/9074/planking-level-9999/

‘Hello there friends. Could I interest you in a flyer for my show? Its an all-female production of ‘Lord of the Flies’ and was very favourably reviewed in the Woolloomoolloo Gazette. We’re also doing a 2 for 1 Tuesday deal. Thanks ever so much.’ Found at: http://www.lolbrary.com/post/9074/planking-level-9999/

2) I am good at the slightly energetic flyering and the hard sell flyering. Nothing else. Unless I am hung-over. And then I am only good for easy flyering

3) It is very hard to sum up your play in one sentence. In may take you a week. Or possibly two. Or the whole Edinburgh Fringe run.

4) People like to see stars on your flyer. If they don’t know who you are, they like to see stars. Preferably lots of them. In groups of 4 and 5.

'Oh, I do like to see stars on a flyer.' 'That's the night sky.' 'Is it? Sorry, I get confused at festival time.' Found at: http://spaceinfo.com.au/2011/11/06/what%E2%80%99s-up-night-sky-for-november-2011/

‘Oh, I do like to see stars on a flyer.’ ‘That’s the night sky.’ ‘Is it? Sorry, I get confused at festival time.’ Found at: http://spaceinfo.com.au/2011/11/06/what%E2%80%99s-up-night-sky-for-november-2011/

5) Occasionally you get given a flyer and realise an artist you really want to see is here at the fringe and you had no idea. Occasionally, you pick up a flyer from the ground and its such a good image and such a good blurb that you instantly think, ‘Oh, yes! I will SEE that show! I will PAY MONEY to see that show!’

6) However, most audiences hardly notice your flyers, they hardly even look at your flyers. They will scrunch them up after they’ve gotten two steps away from you. Throw them in the bin. Throw them on the ground. Place them in their back pockets. They will take your flyer from you, glance at it and say, ‘Oh! Yes, I read about this one!’ And you’ll say, ‘Really?’ And they’ll say, ‘Yes! The one about Julie Andrews!’ And you’ll say, ‘No, no my show is about love and romance and…’ And they’ll cut you off impatiently and say, ‘Yes, yes, I know, I read about it. Its about Julie Andrews. It sounds very good.’ And harrumph off, thinking that you’ve insulted them by suggesting that they are too stupid to realise that your show about Julie Andrews (that is in no way related to Julie Andrews) is actually about Julie Andrews. Yeah? Yeah. Audiences hardly look at your flyers.

'I'm telling you, my show is in no way about... Wait, would you see a show about  Julie Andrews? You would? Then, yes, you're correct. My show is about Julie Andrews.' Found at: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-543058/The-nun-switchblade-How-Julie-Andrews-bleak-childhood-ruthless--truth-lesbian-clinch.html

‘I’m telling you, my show is in no way about… Wait, would you see a show about Julie Andrews? You would? Then, actually, yes, you’re correct. My show IS about Julie Andrews.’ Found at: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-543058/The-nun-switchblade-How-Julie-Andrews-bleak-childhood-ruthless–truth-lesbian-clinch.html

THINGS I LEARNT ABOUT OTHER ARTISTS

1) People will solemnly swear to you that they will come to your show. They won’t.

2) You will solemnly swear to people that you will come to their show. You won’t.

'I swear on my unborn child's life that I will come to see your one-woman live art pieces inspired by the comedy of Laurel & Hardy' Found at: http://www.themarriagecoaches.net/2012/01/18/praying-for-your-marriage/

‘I swear on my unborn child’s life that I will come to see your one-woman live art piece inspired by the comedy of Laurel & Hardy’ Found at: http://www.themarriagecoaches.net/2012/01/18/praying-for-your-marriage/

3) It is possible to live in a tiny little bubble at the Edinburgh Fringe, hearing only about certain artists and shows. Then, some day near the end of the festival one of your friends will mention a whole bunch of other shows that existed in their bubble and your world will explode because they haven’t heard about any of your artists and you haven’t heard about any of theirs. Its like your living in parallel universes.

4) ‘EVERYONE’S SHOW IS DOING FABULOUSLY! EVERYONE’S SHOW IS JUST FANTASTIC! EVERYONE’S SHOW HAS JUST HAD THE MOST AMAZING REVIEW! EVERYONE’S SHOW HAS JUST HAD THE MOST AMAZING PRODUCER COME AND SEE IT! EVERYONE’S SHOW HAS JUST BEEN BOOKED FOR ANOTHER SEASON! EVERYONE’S SHOW HAS JUST BEEN NOMINATED FOR AN AWARD! EVERYONE’S SHOW MAY NOT BE SELLING OUT, BUT EVERYONE IS VERY VERY VERY HAPPY TO BE HERE AND ALL THE AUDIENCES ARE WONDERFUL AND PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE COME SEE MY SHOW, IT WILL NOT IN ANYWAY BE A WASTE OF MONEY!’

'I HAVE NEVER IN MY LIFE BEING HAPPIER WITH A DECISION THAN I AM WITH THE DECISION TO BE RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW WITH YOU AT THE EDINBURGH FRINGE FESTIVAL' Found at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pinksherbet/6982747619/

‘I HAVE NEVER IN MY LIFE BEING HAPPIER WITH A DECISION THAN I AM WITH THE DECISION TO BE RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW WITH YOU AT THE EDINBURGH FRINGE FESTIVAL’ Found at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pinksherbet/6982747619/

THINGS I LEARNT ABOUT REVIEWS

1) Somewhere out there is the person who is going to be totally on board with your show, love every minute, get every subtle message and give your show a great review. Somewhere out there is the person who will think your idea is stupid from the start, hate every tiny little miniscule second, accidentally-on-purpose miss the final point and write a damning review.

2) Once a review is out in the world, there is little you can do to change it. This is frustrating. Reviewers like to say they are ‘starting a conversation’. Except that the artist as no right of reply. I don’t mean to criticise reviewers (I know a lot of lovely reviewers). But an artist who writes back to their bad review is just ridiculous. You’re just going to have to suck it up, good or bad and keep on keeping on (though anonymously commenting on a review and ‘correcting’ a ‘misinterpretation’… well, I mean, that might be something worth considering…)

3) Though it is hard to believe, shows that you think are terrible are going to get better reviews than you. Those lines of 4 & 5 stars are going to trick you into paying money for something crappy. It will enrage you. You will scream to the gods, ‘Why? WHY? WHY DO YOU SO HATE ME AND SO LOVE THEM? WHAT HAVE I DONE TO DESERVE THIS? AND ON TOP OF ALL THAT, WHY DID YOU TRICK ME INTO WASTING 10 POUNDS ON THAT PIECE OF CRAP THAT I COULD HAVE MORE HAPPILY USED FOR THE NEXT 3 MORNINGS’ WORTH OF CHEESE TWISTS??’ All you can do is remember point 1 and a) suck it up and b) realise that someone is going to be similarly tricked into seeing your show at some point by a row of 4 stars and they’re going to feel pretty much exactly the same as you do now about this show.

God loves them and hates you evidenced by his giving of your cheese twist money to them via good reviews. Stupid God. Found at: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/flaky-cheese-twists-recipe

God loves them and hates you evidenced by his giving of your cheese twist money to them through (inexplicably) good reviews. Stupid God. Found at: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/flaky-cheese-twists-recipe

THINGS I LEARNT ABOUT HEALTH 

1) It is possible to live for a very long time on cheese and bread and not put on weight. As long as you are power-walking across a city several times a day whilst doing so.

2) It is possible to live on only 4 – 5 hours of sleep a night for 4 out of 7 nights a week. It is not nice, but it is possible.

3) Alcohol is not actually very good at the lifting of the spirits and the creation of energy.

4) Depression, anxiety and ‘wanting-to-give-upedness’ is best avoided by enough food, enough sleep and enough friends with whom to have a hot chocolate, a hug and a cry with (when necessary).

THINGS I LEARNT ABOUT EDINBURGH

1) It is beautiful.

2) I want to live there.

3) I’m not allowed to live there and it breaks my heart.

4) Even if I was allowed to live there, apparently the festival doesn’t go on all year round and at Christmas time there is a thing they call ‘winter’. Everyone assures me I wouldn’t like it.

5) Please will someone marry me so that I can live there (I’ll give this winter thing a go).

6) Jacket potatoes are awesome. Vegetarian haggis is awesome. Deep-fried Mars Bars not so much.

7) I’m serious about the marriage thing.

8) Get in touch via the comments.

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Filed under 29, Edinburgh, Theatre

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!

MONDAY

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.

TUESDAY

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.

IF ANY OF YOU STEAL THIS IDEA I WILL HUNT YOU DOWN AND… AND… DEMAND ROYALTIES.

WEDNESDAY

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.

THURSDAY

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.

 

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