Tuesday, July 29, 2014


Yesterday we were on the motorway, heading North in a hire van made of sellotape and hope. The skies widened and the horizons suddenly got all massive. As the road stretched out ahead all the signs started to say things like “Carlisle, Penrith, SCOTLAND.”

It’s that time of year: all roads lead to Edinburgh.

On Sunday night I lay in the bath, gin and tonic in hand, studying my feet.

Sorry, feet, I thought. Look at you, all innocent, blissfully unaware that over the next month I will force you to do the famous all-weather fringe trudge as I flyer for, and then perform, two shows a day. Enjoy the warm water and elevation while you can, feet. You’re going to be working like two small nail varnished dogs. Mostly in the flip-flops of optimism.


On Saturday morning I was in Hackney, drinking a coffee and being desperately trendy. My sister Sophie lives in a converted boxing gym in Homerton, and underneath is a warehouse space that someone has just made into a café: all mismatched furniture, perfect flat whites and lightbulbs where you can see the filaments. Sophie, Ben and I were sitting reading our books and eating croissants with things in. Oh, this is lovely, I thought. Like a little holiday.

I was sort of desperately relieved. The night before I'd performed my new solo show, Dirty Old River, at Rich Mix in Bethnal Green and it had gone kind of pretty well. Not perfect. I definitely could've done it better if I had thought to not sweat so much my fingers slid all over the cello.

Just before the show I was sitting in my dressing room (a boardroom with a mirror and a used flip chart in the corner).

I felt the familiar stabbing, low nerves.

Oh God. I don’t think I can do this. I can’t remember loads of it and the bits I do remember are shit.

I started pawing at my chair.

Is there an eject button on this thing?

In the name of distraction, I began leafing through the flip chart. TEAMWORK, someone had written on one of the pages of the flip chart. There were some dots around it, where someone had emphatically stabbed at the paper, no doubt making some excellently-crafted point whilst ruining a perfectly good board marker.

I miss my teams, I thought.

Of course, I got over the nerves, and loved doing Dirty Old River. People seemed to enjoy it right back. I got this excellent feedback:

as well as becoming InStyle Magazine’s latest girl crush. (Hurray! I am definitely going to make myself a badge.) (I'm not even joking. This may be the best thing that's ever happened to me.)

In Edinburgh, though, I’m with my teams.

Eggs Collective: Eggs Collective Get A Round

For five weeks we snuck into our lives and our friendships and picked at the difficult, brilliant bits. We chucked it all in, threw all of our petty triumphs and grand disappointments into the mix, messed about with it all, drank some wine and came out with a show. We worked with a man called Mark, who Really Got It, and who we quickly realized we could be totally ourselves with. (Often in a borderline inappropriate, but totally excellent way.)

One week we stayed in London in a tiny flat, every night watching Made In Chelsea and eating enormous jacket potatoes, or sitting in bars drinking red wine, resolutely ignoring the football. Or watching plays. We were working during the day at Camden People’s Theatre, a mere stone’s throw from the very last place I temped in London before I moved to Manchester five years ago.

(My twenty seven year old self would be pretty pleased with my thirty-two year old self, I thought. (She might tell her to stop whingeing about how tired she is, but apart from that she’d probably approve.) (Actually I think she might've thought she'd be wearing better clothes by now, and maybe have some kind of fashionable haircut.))

We did the final show at Royal Exchange in Manchester, which was the best thing ever because they have fridges in the dressing rooms, which we obviously immediately filled to the brim with post-show Prosecco (it was on offer). Just before the show started, Lowri and I waited behind the pillars, ready to go on. We both pressed our cheeks against the stone and stared at each other, wide-eyed in the half dark, listening to the audience take their seats. The first notes of the opening song oozed in, and the dry ice began to froth, ready for Sara’s entrance.

By contrast, at Latitude, we three stood outside the back of the Live Art Tent, sheened with sweat and Elnett. When those first bars played, we crawled through a little opening in the canvas, through the mud and onto the stage.

In Edinburgh we are performing at midnight every day, in a tiny free fringe venue called The Counting House Attic. If you come along we will feed you wine and love (be warned: you might ingest some Impulse bodyspray, but all in the name of art).

Geddes Loom: Prelude To A Number

When our friend Liz came to see a run though of Prelude To A Number, having seen Eggs Collective Get A Round the previous week, the first thing she said to me was “wow, you’re going to have a split personality in Edinburgh”. She’s not wrong, and I don’t just mean my terrifying mood swings.

After doing a run of the show back in early March we all stepped back from it and went, mmmm, like mechanics, but with fewer practical life skills. Something wasn’t right. Something was rattling weirdly. There wasn’t enough oil in the… Hang on, no, wait. I don’t know enough about cars to take this analogy any further.

Anyway. We didn’t have enough music in it. It felt all a bit too serious, somehow. Not enough ‘us’. Not enough of us as a band who play music together because we all like playing music and not enough of us as people who make jokes together because we like making jokes.

So, having been asked to perform at the Edinburgh Fringe by Northern Stage, we took it all apart and looked at the bits, deciding what should stay and what should go. I got a bit carried away with that bit, merrily lobbing the as many babies out as I could find in the bathwater. Let’s just do it all again! Let’s change all of it! Hurray for ruthlessness! See ya later, Ruth!

Luckily I was reined in, and now, even though we have lots of new bits (including loads more songs) we have a show that we really like, and that is a lot more ‘us’. It’s lovely to perform, I love telling the stories and playing the music, and being on stage with Ben and Dan.

We’re on at 14.50 everyday (not Sundays) at Kingshall (Northern Stage). If you come we will feed you music and love (be warned: you might ingest some maths, but all in the name of art).


We've arrived now. We're sitting in the Kings Hall as a team of Northern Stage champions whizz our set into the venue, and Dan does a series of complicated things with wires. My cello is set up, people are making endless notes to make sure that we can hop in and out of the space every day like pros. Eggs Collective arrive at the end of the week with suitcases packed to bursting with Blossom Hill and dreams.

I am excited! But a bit tired! I have already seen two people that I recognise but don't know well enough to talk to! I have been rained on!