Edinburgh 2013: Week One
It’s nine o’clock on Saturday night and three of my housemates have just decided to have a nap. (In other, totally unrelated, news: the Edinburgh Tattoo with its fireworks that resound across Edinburgh every Saturday night, hearty as haggis, has just begun in earnest.)
This evening I have dragged myself away from the promise of pleasures abound to have a rest. I am weary. My skin has begun to protest against the diet of wine, cobbles and wretched anxiety in the form of a painful chin-based spot.
It was raining hard last Monday afternoon as we pulled up to C Nova, our venue in Edinburgh. Director Montse was already there, cowering under an umbrella. Ben, Dan and I clambered from the van and onto the Scottish sheened cobbles and, after checking in and not quite drinking a cup of coffee, we hefted my set into the studio theatre space to begin the technical rehearsal.
I had been brittle with nerves about the tech. Bright Lights is set around a reception desk with a telephone that acts as a loop pedal to record and play back my voice. All swishily simple, really, and something I can set up easily in my house with my stuff, but I had no idea how to plug it all into an unknown venue. I had never met Ash, the freelance technician I had employed for the run. I had no idea what anything would be like.
As soon as Ash bounded in he began sorting things out. Talking to the venue technicians, joking with Montse, plugging things, testing things and gaffa taping other things. Montse guided us all through the tech, sorting out all the lights and sound, I just stood in the whirlwind and mentally crossed something out on my Things To Be Terrified About In Edinburgh checklist.
We finished at about ten, and Montse and I headed back to our flat. Ben and Dan had already arrived, and had carted all of our stuff – cases, instruments, boxes of cables, set – up the seven flights of stairs. Lifts, apparently, are not the done thing in fancy Edinburgh townhouses.
Simply put: this flat is a palace. Last year we all nearly had to stay in a place that was reminiscent of the place where dogs go to defecate and die. This year we played the Fringe housing game and won gold. (Maybe silver, actually. For it to be gold standard it might have to have a lift.)
The large wooden coffee table in the living room was covered with an array of cheese, wine and small artisan biscuits, around which was an even better array of housemates. There was Ben and Dan, (whom I love and adore and respect and admire as humans and men). Then Tomás, who is performing a show called Tomás Ford’s Electric Midnight Cabaret, and Aaron, his manager. They are from Perth and are both the sort of people who make you laugh so loudly that you worry they think you’re a bit needy. Then there’s Fi, from Wanaka in New Zealand. Fi is funny, gutsy and cool, plays a mean guitar and is a whiz on the whisky. Alex, our final housemate, hadn’t arrived yet, so we all proceeded to bag the best rooms and spent a large amount of time laughing wildly and pointing out the castle to one another. “Look” someone would exclaim at least once every five minutes “at the castle! It’s right there!”. A collective, smug sigh would ensue, before someone else would point joyously in the other direction. “And there’s the SEA!”.
Between then and now all has been brilliantly, weirdly heady. I had the worst dress rehearsal ever, followed by two preview shows (one of which was awful and the other alright). Yesterday I felt like I finally, tentatively began to relax. “Oh, yeah!” my brain mumbled. “I think I might like this.” I have spent such a long time planning and worrying about it, and had somehow forgotten all about the good bit.
I have been wondering recently whether I might be better off just performing my songs. I feel comfortable on stage when I am just being myself, singing songs I’ve written and chatting away to the audience in between. I have played those songs so many times, even the new ones. I know the format of gigs so well that I am rarely fazed by them any more. But this is my first solo show. It is barely out of the packaging: shiny and not worn in. But quietly yesterday I began to feel like I knew it, and today I suddenly breathed and felt comfortable, to my enormous, unending relief.
Today and yesterday I have had good, biggish audiences. Yesterday I performed some songs and cello at C Nova, and tomorrow I am doing a spot on Pick of the Fringe at the Pleasance. I am going to begin doing my proper music slots next week. And I have had a review! Which is very nice and lovely, and was from the preview that nearly sent me under, so I feel heartened. Montse went home today, but she set me up and held my hand, giving me notes and support and being generally on my team in a massive way.
Now I can hear my housemates stirring and I want to go and hang out with them and laugh too loudly at their jokes. We haven’t quite been doing the all-out Fringe party, although there has been some carousing, drinking and seeing shows at midnight (we all went to Tomás’s show, which is insane and hilarious). Now we have been here for nearly a week and it’s starting to not feel weird and scary, it’s starting to feel like that thing that I do everyday. What luck! I can do this every day. I would prefer to do it without a spot on my face, but you can’t win them all.
I think maybe it’s all going to be fine.