Edinburgh Eve 2013
Tomorrow morning we go to the Edinburgh Fringe. Two days of technical and dress rehearsals before starting the run of Bright Lights on Wednesday. This time next week I will be five shows in. It feels unreal, and I am pinging nauseatingly between heady excitement and abject fear. The weather is obliging me with a bit of heartfelt pathetic fallacy, hurtling between searing sunshine and intense downpours.
I have been meticulously labelling all my stuff, scrawling my telephone number over everything. It's weird, doing a show alone. The buck stops with me. Something's lost? My fault. Words forgotten? My fault. Accidentally chewed off own arm out of sheer terror? Definitely my fault.
Now I sit, surrounded by small bits of tape, doing the annual writing and losing of lists. I keep suddenly worrying that I have forgotten all my lines and having to announce them to the empty flat. Ben and Dan are downstairs in the theatre space rehearsing for their two shows, every so often one of them appears to make some tea or a terrible pun.
Bright Lights is a show based on this blog, in an indirect kind of way. All those years of being a terrible temp, squirreled away behind a reception desk writing earnest blog posts about my CAREER and how I just wanted to SING, they have all gone into this show. It's a show about risk and taking chances. It's a show about failure.
Have you seen my trailer yet? I have been smearing it obsessively across social media sites so you're probably bored of it. However, we all have to be relentless self-marketers, as smug arts websites do not tire of reminding us, so here it is again:
This last month has been Egg-shaped. We trotted off to Latitude, DUCKIE and the Southbank, writing and rehearsing furiously in between. It was all fueled by a heady mix of in-jokes and too many bottles of white wine. Lowri was back from Brazil, Lydia hadn't yet moved to London, Roxy hadn't started her new job, Sara was being her usual excellent self and I was in a highly-strung pre-Edinburgh state. It was brilliant. Now we have a small hiatus before a massively exciting Top Secret Event on December 20th (you are invited, so pencil it in). It was delicious to have a run of excitement with those crazy Eggs Collective lads before we all change gears for a while.
We performed at DUCKIE on the Friday and Saturday nights, stalking about from 9pm until 3am sporting glittery green dresses, beehive wigs and haughty expressions. We had flirted, snubbed and generally click-clacked our way into a really good time. We were the Ginas with that Queen of Cabaret, Amy Lamé. (Look here to get a feel for the night, including the glitter canons at the end of our performance.)
On the Sunday afternoon at about 3pm we were skulking about on the baked backstreets of Camden.
“What was your favourite bit, then?”
I turned to Lydia, who was walking behind me and gazing dreamily into the sunshine like someone who has just realized her major crush on the world is reciprocated. She had clearly been considering the question for a while.
“All of it” I said. “What was yours?”
“Well. There was this moment, after we had taken off our heels and put on our trainers. We flung ourselves onto the dance floor to scrape up the remains of the night. I joined in with some people who were singing along to ‘Build Me Up, Buttercup’ in a circle with their arms around each other. Then more people joined in. Then more. People were breaking the circle to get in and be part of it. It was top.”
We continued walking.
“Yeah” I said. “They were that kind of nights. I’ve got two best bits. The first is when we stormed the Drakes photo shoot and had a stand-off. It was like West Side Story but with more sexual tension. The second is being on stage staring fiercely at eight hundred cheering people, and feeling like joy might just whisk me away.”
We loved Sally, the woman who made and fitted our wigs. She had sharp, fizzy blue eyes and a sharp, fizzy wit, dispensing wry advice and jokes through a mouth full of kirby grips as she squinted at and straightened our beehives.
The Figs in Wigs leapt on the bar every hour for a stony-faced dance routine, and they served the drinks the rest of the time. After we had performed, at about two thirty in the morning, we all put on our trainers and went back down to the club. I was leaning on the bar chatting to a Fig, when Get Lucky came on. It felt like the joy coursed up through my Converse and made me leap and laugh and dance until I thought my legs would fall off.
Two nights of magic. Well over a thousand people. Roxy said her favourite part of the night was watching the four of us warm up. After the madness of getting down to London and getting into costume, swearing at fake eyelashes as they stick to everything but our eyelids, make up, line-runs and prop panics, the warm up is just the four of us, focused on each other. Roxy loves that bit, probably because it means nobody's escaped for a cigarette/glass of wine/wee.
DUCKIE is always a glorious night. This time, though, in Camden Town Hall, both nights were epic and joyous. Two nights to end all nights, or begin all nights. Two nights of feeling like you’re on the brink of the universe.
FILTH at Southbank
I want to get a T-shirt made that reads 'I Sang The Thong Song At The Southbank". Or maybe "I Threw Up In The Purcell Rooms".
I asked Sara what her favourite bit was.
"Sometimes you're in a little still moment, and you catch yourself. I was sitting on a piano stool backstage, dressed from head to toe in Primark, waiting to take a mouthful of fake sick and go on. I could see the back of Dickie Beau's head as he watched another act on the little fuzzy TV screen. You and Scottee were joking about something on another sofa. And I just thought: this is amazing."
(I included that one because it involves me having a joke with someone really cool. But you knew that.)
Roxy's favourite bit was rushing into the kitchen of a Fashionable Restaurant and demanding some free chips. "It's for a show!" she sang, and stared at them for a long time. Eventually a nice chef was disconcerted enough to give her some chips ("I hope the head chef doesn't find out about this") in a small china ramekin. Thanking them, Roxy darted off back down the Southbank, where she begged a "really nice and clean-looking" woman for her recently-emptied aluminium takeaway tray. Abandoning the ramekin, she came back with our essential prop.
Sara re-arranged the chips in the tray and then tentatively sniffed at her hands.
"Oh" she said, disconsolately. "Now my fingers smell like someone else's tuna."
After our performance we all changed into our gold sequin dresses and danced happily into the crowd, who were all lurching excellently like teenagers. Bags had been stacked in piles on the floor as people freed their hands to point at each other and do actions to lyrics.
My sister, Sophie, surveyed us all, thoughtfully. "Ah HA! I've rumbled you!" she said, triumphantly. "This Eggs Collective Ladies' Night thing isn't an act at all. It's just your actual personalities!"
The next morning we woke up deep in the wilds of Bermondsey, in our friend Amy's flat. Lowri and I were top-and-tailing on a mattress, and Lydia and Roxy had shared the bed.
Sara pointed at the blue sky from her tangled sleeping bag on the sofa.
"Look! This is LIFE!"
We then all went to the Mango Landin' in Brixton, where we sat in the sun, and dreamily drank Sangria until our faces melted.
I asked Ben (not 'my' Ben) what his Latitude highlight was and he considered carefully.
"The thing about Latitude is" he said, after a moment's silence. "They really know how to light a tree."
By the time I got there at about 11pm on Friday night everyone was in full festival mode. The two Bens came to meet me from my shuttle bus, where I said goodbye to my new best friends in the whole world (whose names I cannot now remember) and was ushered to our camping arena.
"What" said not-my-Ben, sweeping his arm lavishly around the array of vodka, red wine, white wine, cider, beer, rum, rosé wine and gin, "would you like to drink?"
"Um, can I have all of it?" I said, in the enfeebled voice of a woman who has been on public transport for eight hours in the baking heat (after a full day at work).
"Yes!" he declared, and began concocting me a veritable George's Marvellous Medicine in a small, plastic bottle.
We went off and found everyone else, and the fun began (for me. It had begun for them at about 3pm the previous day.)
At 10 o'clock the following morning we were in the rehearsal tent, eating bacon sandwiches like they might save our lives.
Lydia, whose To Pack list for the festival had been:
1. Wolf leotard
2. Party shorts
3. 'Rock On!' jacket
4. Tent (optional)
was smoking endless rollies. "This is my favourite bit" she said, thoughtfully. "Wait, why does it say 'soya' on my coffee cup? I can't drink out of this, what if someone sees?"
My favourite bits were crawling in the dusty mud at the end of our first performance, rolling onto people's laps. It's always the best bit because, even if the rest of the set hasn't gone brilliantly, when you tell someone sincerely that you love them they will say it back to you, and it really feels like they mean it. Dusty-kneed and sticky-faced, we clambered over Latitude. I hugged one woman and she said "I read your blog!", which was amazing.
Our sets at Latitude were peculiar, because we had written material for people in full party mode, and it was four in the afternoon. We did our very best, lunging and leaping in our gold sparkles, but in retrospect I think we all agreed that we are late night ladies, really.
(A man stole my phone charger from our dressing room, as well. I am still glowering darkly about that.)
The amazing thing about Latitude was spending time with brilliant people. We lazed and dazed, swilling glorious things in the sunshine and regressing to childhood by doing running races around tents and buying small Spiderman badges for everyone. Ben (my-Ben) and I slept in a tent with two others, sizzling like sausages in the early morning heat. I loved seeing everyone crawling malodorously from their tents, blinking like newborn (and slightly hungover) kittens. The sad part was that Lowri had already gone back to Brazil, so we were one level of brilliance down.
On Saturday night we all danced until we fell over and got dust in our eyes.
"I love you!" I said to everyone. I stand by it. I bloody love that lot.
On Sunday night my brain switched to anxiety mode. A neon sign in my mind hummed and buzzed, blinking on and off in an ominously demanding manner. Edinburgh. EDINBURGH.
I went to bed before everyone else, feeling sucked down into nerves and apprehension.
I waved everyone off on Monday as they got in the minibus back to Manchester and I set off for London to work with my director Montse. She is coming up to Edinburgh with me for the first few days, so I am not totally alone. (Ben and Dan are up there, too, but they have two of their own shows to grapple with.)
Now I sit, surrounded by boxes, bits of tape and pieces of paper saying:
and I am feeling the nerves seep in. Tomorrow morning we leave to join a million other performers who are baring their souls for a month.
It is terrifying and brilliant.
I am dreading it and I cannot wait.