On the Fringe of Success?

It’s the eve of the Edinburgh Fringe, the biggest arts festival in the world. I write this from a hotel room in Kendal, as the journey to Edinburgh from Nottingham, with 2 young kids, 2 gold fish, a roof box and a suitcase of dreams was a stretch too far to complete in one go. (By the way, we did drop the gold fish off 5 minutes into the journey. They’re holidaying with the grandparents.)

This journey is the culmination of a year of planning, writing, rehearsing, previewing and shelling out shit loads of cash to stay in the smallest, habitable flat you can possibly find for a family of 4, and quite frankly, I’m rather excited!

Edinburgh holds a special place in my heart, notably because I’ve spent quite a few of my summers there over the last 10 years. My eldest daughter knocked her front tooth out in the Pleasance Courtyard in 2013, at the age of 3. Four years of toothless smiles on photos followed, staring back at us like some weird Edinburgh souvenir. And my husband, Scott, cut his comedy festival teeth that year doing the Big Value Show for Just the Tonic.

The first time you visit the festival as a punter, you realise very quickly what a special place it is. So much to see, in fact, TOO much to see. We can easily spend a whole day on Prince’s Street watching the street performers, soaking up the atmosphere, and sometimes soaking up the puddles into our shoes too. But the weather doesn’t put you off. Everyone and everything carries on regardless, come rain or shine. In fact, they say you can see four seasons in one day in Edinburgh, and I think that is quite true.

As the wife of a comic, (WAC for short. All the glamour and showbiz of a WAG, but a bit more Primani than Armani), I am in the privileged position of seeing the other side of the coin. The “behind the scenes – back stage pass” to the blood, sweat and tears that goes into each labour of love that is an Edinburgh show. When Scott said he was bringing another show to Edinburgh, I wasn’t surprised. It had been 3 years since his last show (About a Roy), so I knew this comedy Mecca would be calling to him soon. This comedy rite of passage. We discussed Scott going on his own, and the fact that it would be FAR more cost effective, but I knew he’d miss the kids, as well as my ability to keep his feet firmly on the ground, so a family excursion was once more on the cards.

Me and the kids (well the eldest at least, the youngest hasn’t got a Scooby what’s going on!) were so excited at the prospect of going to the Fringe again! When I tell people who haven’t been before, how much there is for kids to see and do, they are always pleasantly surprised. Edinburgh is a fantastic hive of activity and entertainment. We never get bored, and when we want some time out from the hustle and bustle, a picnic (to keep costs down of course) and a visit to the park are the perfect escape.

But even with the excitement of all that is to come, and the prospect of a fantastic family holiday, I know that for Scott and other performers, the Fringe isn’t quite the same. Firstly comes the months of crafting new jokes, new material nights and then the previews. The honing of hours of writing, fine tuning the stories and their delivery, and trying to find that bit of pathos that might bag a good review – “Edinburgh needs a story, darling!” Then there is the stamina that is needed to perform 26 shows, pretty much on the trot. The flyering (is that a verb?) The extra performances to get yourself out there. The mingling and networking, because you never know who you might meet. The social media presence – being on your Twitter A game! No wonder Scott seems a bit edgy as we drive up the M6.

As much as I love the Fringe, I feel very protective of what it might do to Scott. I don’t want the beast to chew him up and spit him out. “Hey guys, let’s just enjoy it, yeah. It’s just a festival, okay?”. I keep seeing lots of comics recommending shows they think people should go and see via Twitter, and lots of self-depricating cynicism, “hey we’ll all hate each other by week 3!”. But I think it’s great that comics are backing each other, and I think it’s totally necessary. It’s a way of saying, let’s do this, I’ve got your back. A virtual group hug. A cyber pat on the back. That camaraderie is invaluable to comics. Of all the art forms, I still think stand up is one of the bravest things a performer can do. With comedy, the feedback from the audience is so immediate. Not like when someone performs a song, and the social norm and etiquette is to clap at the end, whether you liked it or not. If you don’t laugh throughout an hour of comedy, each moment of tumble weed silence, can be like kryptonite to the comedy mojo of a comedian. I also know how important the reviews are to comics, although I really wish they weren’t. No matter how well things are going, somehow your success at the Fringe is the bread and butter of what’s to come. Critics are the OFSTED of the comedy world. No matter how good I think Scott’s show is (I’ve listened to a recording of it, haven’t seen it yet), or how positive the responses he has had during his previews, I know a shitty review could floor him like a dodgy pint and kebab. So, we had the talk. Between Lancaster and Kendal on the M6. The one where I say no matter what happens, we think you’re the bollox (with an “x”!) You’ve written a show that you enjoy performing, and that is true to you. You have had some great feedback. If all else fails, we love you, and are proud of you.

So Edinburgh, bring it on. We love your unpredictable weather; your tacky Christmas souvenir shops that we always have to buy from….in August; your beautiful green spaces; your extortionate holiday let prices and your wonderful festival with the most talented and wonderful performers I have ever seen. Edinburgh, we love you. But if you dare screw my husband over, I’ll, I’ll …….be back next year. Same time? Same place?

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