Monday, 15 August 2011

Let Me Show You Round My (Fringed) Bloomers

I've just returned from Edinburgh, Darlings. Read about it, oh do...

Probably a willy drawn on it by now
Day 1: Wednesday 3 August, 2011
Ms Bee (my manager) and I arrived late in the afternoon at our palatial residence in Joppa.  Joppa is a terribly posh bit – we lived in style during our Edinburgh visit, at the home of some friends of Ms Bee.  Of course, when one resides with well-to-do friends, one can only marvel at the décor… because one is afraid to touch anything.  Being likewise unable to work any of the appliances, we dined off such provisions as we’d brought with us: Snackajacks, tomatoes and champagne.  We’re well classy, us.

Launch Party. Photo: Ian Fox
A quick change into scorching wig and DitF dress, and we were heading for town – in the wrong direction, but on such a cute little train… we adopted Mrs Smiling’s approach and simply stayed on it until it went the other way.  We got to the Laughing Horse launch party at the Counting House very late: all the food was gone and the show was well under way, packed to the rafters and boiling hot.  We were too late to collect my show flyers from the Renroc Café, so I felt rather foolish trying to explain what I do. ‘I read poems in my pants’ – it sounded like a boarding school nightmare.  However, the evening was still a pleasure: I met, among others, Tricity Vogue, Orowa from the theatre production ‘Counting Syllables’ and the delicious Desiree Burch. I was captivated by Tricity’s shockingly saucy act, but then, people who wear ukeleles on their heads are 87% more likely to live life on the edge. I seriously developed the hots for Desiree Burch and her magnificent bosom, so I hoped very much to reconnect with her before my Edinburgh adventure was over.  I wonder if my act would go down well in New York?  Ms Bee needed sustenance so she headed out while I mingled, pointlessly distributing Lady Philadelphia postcards (who knows where they’ll end up?  Who realised that Lady Philadelphia is me?) and enjoyed more performances including Abigoliah Schamaun (pictured), a comedienne who, thanks to Yoga, can do the most unusual things with her legs.
Photo: Ian Fox
Outside, I breathed cool night air and headed for the Pear Tree next door, with its inviting courtyard full of people enjoying themselves.  Time for a glass of wine and possibly my first encounter with an actual Scottish person. His opening gambit was friendly, if unremarkable: ‘nice dress’ and ‘is that yer real hair’. However his follow-up was unmatched: ‘wid ye like tae meet ma friend, he’s anely got one leg’. I immediately accepted, curious to discover which I would be introduced to first: the friend, or the space where his leg should be. It was apparent that my new friend considered he’d acquired quite an interesting companion for the evening, as if Ryan with his one leg were not sufficient, because he introduced me loudly enough for everyone to hear. This turned out to be fortuitous: the next thing I heard was ‘Muriel Lavender? Is that Muriel Lavender?’ Who, I thought, could possibly know me here? It was a tiny glimpse of what actual fame must feel like. There at the next table were Lisa and James of the Renroc Café, my venue for the Fringe Festival.  Another of those ‘it’s all going to be fine’coincidences, just like the Cheap Street moment when the strange old man solemnly presented me with a Steeleye Span CD. Did I not mention that? It’s a good story.
Well, Ms Bee and I spent a charming evening with Bobby, Ryan and Alan.  I seem to recall looking at pictures of each other’s children on our phones. We must have managed to catch the last train home to Joppa, and to alight from it at just the right moment. A great start: Thursday beckoned.

Day 2: Thursday 4 August, 2011
Being completely uninitiated, I decided to do my first day’s flyering in heels. Not massive heels, I reasoned, so I thought I should be fine.  We were underway by about midday, and we’d heard the weather in Edinburgh changes every five minutes, so we equipped ourselves for rain, which it did.  I did not equip myself for shopping: a good thing, as the shoes were irresistible – in a looks-great-in-the-shop-but-kinda-slutty-when-you-get-them-home sort of a way.  So we flyered until about 5pm, by which time we were wide-eyed from hunger and lack of wine.  After almost being refused entry to the Beehive on Grassmarket, another Laughing Horse venue like Renroc – and I admit I was ready to get very indignant indeed – we were finally allowed in (on the basis that I was in performance dress, not fancy dress, one of these absurd hide-behind rules of which I have fallen foul before). We ordered food, a bottle of fizzy plonk and the finest show available. The Beehive delivered on all three. John Scott was our first Fringe show: he was very funny, the usual observational humour but with brutal honesty and pickled onion Monster Munch. John Scott belongs on panel shows: he made Frankie Boyle look like a schoolboy trying to shout ‘c**t’ behind a TV reporter (this just in: Frankie Boyle makes Frankie Boyle look like a schoolboy trying to shout ‘c**t’ behind a TV reporter).
Photo: Lynne Morris
So we made complete asses of ourselves by insisting that poor John come out after the show and say hello to the audience, then we continued our flyering. For the rest of the day, though, we made it no further than Underbelly, where we were flirted into seeing three more shows, before heading for the Gilded Balloon, where we were flirted into seeing yet another show. I’ve heard it said that you should always go to a hairdresser of the opposite sex, because if they don’t want to go to bed with you afterwards, then it’s not a very good haircut.  It seems all my show-seeing decisions were based on either a) how cute the flyerer was, or b) how cute they thought I was, or c) in the case of the girls, how forward they were.  I love the sisterhood: the more I got fondled, the more likely I was to go to their show.  I’m sort of joking.  The key to their persuasive powers was enthusiasm, and it was strongest when the performers themselves were handing out the flyers: a good lesson for me. 
With the hectic pace of it all, I soon found myself in an awkward situation: aside from being unable to keep track of anything we were given – like, free tickets (no sooner did they pass into our hands than we lost them by putting them somewhere safe) – I also needed to keep in touch with the little Lavenders between shows. They weren’t always easy to track down. When they were available, I was often somewhere very noisy. Eventually I headed for the street which was quieter than the cavernous mass that is Underbelly, but I was stopped by a burly steward. You can’t go out onto the road with a drink, he warned. Drinks don’t leave the venue. But I have to – I thought, and realised my situation. Right, I said, you’ve forced me into this, I now have to become the ultimate in slutty mothers, thanks to you. I took a deep breath. “Would you mind holding my glass of wine? I have to go and phone my kids.”
A run-down of the day’s choices:
Bluebeard, a Fairytale for Adults – we met them in the street, they were young and cute and enthusiastic, and they gave us free tickets.  Quirky and somewhat disturbing drama, it lingers in the mind… however the tickets were £9.50 and I would have wanted to see a lot of really excellent free shows to make up for it if I’d paid full price.   
Underbelly, Cowgate. 4th - 28th August @ 6.55pm
Sammy J, ‘Potentially’ – the flyerer was cute, he said the show was really good and he gave us free tickets.  He wasn’t lying, this could actually be my most favouritest show that I saw. We spoke to Sammy J afterwards and he said he’d written it very quickly; if that is the case I would have to conclude the man is a genius. The whole show was wound together seamlessly, raising laughs by connecting the seemingly unconnected and surprising the audience with it at every turn.  I loved it. Sammy is my top pick. 
Underbelly, Cowgate. 14th - 28th August @ 8.30pm
When Women Wee – the girls were outrageous, hyper-enthusiastic, they wanted to come to my show, and they said nice things about my bosom.  I immediately felt as though I wanted to go and get pissed with them. By the end of the show I really did want to go and get pissed with them.  By then, though, we already had tickets for Briefs… ‘When Women Wee’ is a Dirty Stop-Out production performed by five girls and set in a nightclub toilet: a disturbingly accurate portayal of different women with their guard (and their pants) down.  Another highly recommended show.   

Briefs. In briefs
Underbelly, Cowgate. 14th - 28th August @ 11.00pm
Briefs – the flyer girl was pretty and enthusiastic. She liked my corset, so she knew I’d like the show. I did. A lot.  ‘Briefs’ are a Boylesque troupe from Queensland: we caught a preview show so although there were occasional moments where they needed a little polish, the twin spectacles of gorgeous male bodies and breathtaking feats of physical strength and skill more than made up for any minor technical mishaps.  Beautiful and talented, but also touching and human – so that’s all my boxes ticked. 
Gilded Balloon, Teviot. 14th - 29th August @ 12.30am.
    We got back to Lavender HQ at 3am.  Fifteen hours in heels. That’s enough.

    Day 3: Friday 5 August, 2011
    Room for two more on top?
    Pie and Ale: d'ye want it? Aye, Blossom
    My first show day.  Screw the heels: I headed for the Royal Mile in corset, frilly pants and commuter boots.  I quickly gave up feeling stupid sitting on buses in knickers and purple wigs.  We flyered all day, and a fine one it was too – the elements smiled on us for a change. I met a Highlander and a lifelong fantasy got the better of me, this isn’t him but a girl can dream, can’t she?; a crowd of Zombies who provided a unique photo opportunity; and I managed to see ‘Counting Syllables’, which was an outstanding piece of free theatre, neatly presented, with almost as much social discomfort as Abigail’s Party.  Superb.  They kindly came to my show, too, so naturally I love them.  The Highlander also attended, armed to the teeth, and to him I am most grateful for his hearty approval of my Scottish accent in ‘Thane Glorious’.  The venue was completely full – what could be better? – with the audience spilling all the way up the stairs. Maybe it was the poetry, or maybe just the pants.
    Day 4: Saturday 6 August, 2011
    Despite our underpinning knowledge to the contrary, the previous day’s fine weather caught us out.  Lulled into good faith by the sunshine, we were ill-equipped for the downpour. The half-dozen brollies I had brought with me, to ensure I was sartorially co-ordinated at all times, remained in my suitcase with my fetching anorak.  While Ms Bee sought wet-weather solutions, I bravely continued to persuade the soggy masses of tourists that an evening of frisky poetry for ladies was exactly what they needed.  I didn’t do too badly: once again I met a great many wonderful people.  In August, one could fall in love a hundred times in a day on the Royal Mile.  
    Here’s the dear little tiny girl I met, who threw her arms round my legs in a huge hug until I cried. Here too is the uniquely talented Nob Stewart: I was unnerved by his crazy specs, initially, but his humour and warmth won me over.  He even offered to film my show, and I was sorry not to have the chance to thank him for it.  Thank goodness for social media.  One of my favourite EdFringe moments came as I was about to walk into Deacon Brodie’s tavern, out of the freezing cold and pissing rain: I was at a bit of a low ebb when a Frenchman, sheltering likewise from the rain, caught sight of me in my knicks and said, Now, I love Scotland.’
    Having caught the Pick of the Fringe earlier in the day (top picks Marcel Lucontmais oui, monsieur – and ‘The Table’ by Blind Summit Theatre company), we just made it back to the Gilded Balloon for Sweet FA – Fascinating Aida, with their ‘Cheap Flights’ show.  These ladies should be on the GCSE syllabus, if only to remind young people that they didn’t invent the word ‘f**k’, and that women don’t cease to exist after the age of thirty.  Damn it, I should be on the GCSE syllabus for the same reason. 
    © Miramax
    Photo: Hannah Lucy Stone
    The show finished at 7.45pm, and the ensuing mad dash through Tattoo traffic gave me my Velma Kelly moment: jumping out of a cab in the rain and running in for a quick change before taking to the stage (the similarity ended abruptly there, since I had neither murdered my sister nor married my grandpa).  Once again the show was fantastically well attended – this time with even more audience members standing outside listening at the door because the Renroc basement was crammed!  Ms Bee and I stayed once again to see ‘Anything to Declare?’ by the Gramophones (pictured). They did another marvellous performance, competing against the noise and bustle of some lively, some might say rowdy, guests. Beautiful, lovely girls, with a hilarious show which was all rather sweet and hockey-sticks – like the Mitfords but without the disturbing political ideas.

    Day 5: Sunday 7 August, 2011
    I missed you in the whole world
    That’s it – my Edinburgh Fringe debut is over.  Brunch and a walk on the sea front (who knew Edinburgh had a sea front?) watching the happiest spaniel in Scotland dig a hole to be proud of, furiously-wagging tail poking up out of the sand.  Final sweep of immaculate residence. Licked bathroom floor clean, having first washed mouth out with baby wet ones.  Felt very dull, dressed in normal Mummy clothes. I admit it, I enjoyed the attention, Darling. 
    Home to my babies.