Walking the streets of Edinburgh empty-handed will be tricky this month. Flyers for shows are thrust at you at every corner by the army of students hired for this thankless summer job – or even the performers themselves.
Many of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival’s shows are staged at the expense of performers and theatre outfits that may run up thousands in debt, hoping that the right people will see them in action. Casting agents, commissioning editors and producers are all there.
Competition is fierce and the schmoozing is intense. People look over your shoulder for someone more influential to talk with. The “outside world” ceases to exist.
Comics can be seen wandering, lost in personal concerns, or in clusters offloading anxieties and having a good old whinge.
Performers pore over the dailies. “Middle East, Middle East and not a bloody word about my show!” Festival fever takes grip. “Are you pulling the punters in? Who’s up for an award? Who was it at Waverly Bridge at 4 a.m. wondering if it’s worth carrying on?”
Critics mill about. A bad review can really spoil your breakfast.
Bars in Edinburgh never seem to close; some shows don’t start until the wee hours of the morning. You can easily find yourself in a bustling bar at 5 a.m. supping a beer, deciding where next to go. Turn up at the Penny Black pub when it opens at 6 a.m., however, and it is surely time to spare a thought for your liver.
This year, having pawned my grandmother’s belongings, I have a good spot: 7 p.m. at the Pleasance Courtyard from 3 to 28 August with one night off. That’s not just a plug for my show but the mantra in my head since February. Having finally memorised the rewrites of my set, I am beside myself with excitement as I make my way to the madness that is the Edinburgh Fringe.
The build-up has been intense. .
Journalists often ask: “Is it harder for female comics?” Dunno, never been a male one. Another favourite is: “How does your Muslim background affect your stand-up?” What Muslim background? Honestly, infidels.
Stand-up can only be rehearsed in front of a live audience. So at a last-minute preview last week my father turned up with what seemed to be half of London’s Iranian community. The comic I shared the bill with said: “I am endlessly impressed by your rent-a-crowd abilities”. He gave up medicine to become a stand-up. (I believe it was cough medicine.)
Back in February, the idea of getting married two weeks after the festival seemed rational. Now I see I had taken leave of my senses. I would like to apologise to my family for my tantrums, the like of which they had not seen since my teenage years. Never plan a wedding and Edinburgh show at the same time, your loved-ones deserve better.
Fiancé and I have rented a nice flat in the prettiest part of Edinburgh, much nicer than our rabbit hutch in south London.
He is a performer too, in two shows as well as playing in a punk band. He doesn’t do tantrums though. Calmer genes, I guess and, bizarrely, he doesn’t worry about flowers and bridesmaid’s shoes.
We both jog and will take full advantage of glorious Arthur’s Seat, a dormant volcano in the middle of the city surrounded by little hills. It is an oasis of calm and feels a million miles away from the bustle of the festival.
My dad once said: “If you get a bad review, ignore it, and if you get a good review ignore it”. Sound advice. The only way I can think of adhering to it though is by not picking up a paper for a month.
As for the show itself, well, I’m very happy with it. The best thing was dad coming to see it and saying: “Wow, you’ve finally worked hard”. Phew. Whatever happens at the festival, I know I’ll enjoy performing my show every night for a month and if I don’t get my table decorations sorted while I’m up there, who cares? I’ll still be doing the job I always dreamed of and marrying the man I still dream about.