Here's the diary I kept during Blowfish Theatre's trip to Edinburgh Fringe. With all the worst bits hastily glossed over and possibly a day missing somewhere. Enjoy!
So here we are in Edinburgh, after an eight-hour drive from Yorkshire. On the way we stopped off at a delightful establishment called Llama Karma Kafe, for coffee and bemusement. The latter being provided by chewing llamas and odd decor.
For our playwright Laurence, this was his first foray into the land of the Scots. I'm personally an old hand at Scotland-visiting, but I've been neither to Edinburgh nor Edinburgh Fringe before. And for Smith, our valiant drummer and chauffeur, this is his first Ed Fringe performance. So, firsts all round in the Boris Yaris, which was packed so tight that any opening of the boot necessitated an extra person standing by to catch what fell out.
On arrival in Queensferry, some 35 minutes drive from central Edinburgh, we promptly got lost. Our Airbnb accommodation may have been hard to find, but it was well worth the effort. The flat is lovely and the surroundings utterly stunning. Five of us are currently staying in this one-bedroom flat, a situation which is awkward and fun in equal measures. The decor is...interesting. As actress Liz pointed out (and I now can't get out of my head), it's strongly reminiscent of the TV series Hannibal with its stag theme.
After unpacking, Liz cooked a fantastic meal of fajitas and Eton mess. Wine bottles were uncorked and a rather pleasant evening ensued. I believe some of us got more sleep than others :) Today's plan involves taking in a play by our actress Polly's other theatre company, Ditto theatre, followed by Free Fringe meetings and figuring out how to cut our 75-minute musical down to an hour.
After the show, we headed to ‘Fringewich’ for the best damn veggie burrito in existence. Why did it never occur to me before that scrambled eggs can go in a tortilla? We were seated by the window, which turned out to be an excellent place for attracting the attention of passers-by with our flyers and David's antics. I suspect another trip to Fringewich is in our future.
While some of the group headed to MD Dom’s show The Local (or at least, that's where they thought they were heading), I went to our venue, Bourbon, for a meeting. It was reassuring to see the space, which is cosy but workable. Met some interesting folks there and picked up tidbits of info.
The venue meeting was followed by a practice run at Polly's flat. We have some awesome footage of this. Stupidly, I didn’t bring my music folder, so I’ll have to figure out the changes separately.
A calorie-laden meal of pizza and chips followed, and then we headed to the PBH Fringe meeting, where we met up with Kyle and Shelby for the first time. The meeting was useful for getting the feel of the ethos of Free Fringe. It's just people like us, performers who orchestrated a backlash against the massive expense of performing at the Fringe. I wish we had something like it in Sheffield to run alongside Tramlines.
After the meeting we had a group outing to scope out one of our rival shows. What can I say about that experience? Let's just say our confidence in our own show is reaffirmed.
Can’t believe how much we managed to fit into that one day. The next hurdle will be to get our first show out of the way.
Very, very tired today, and we’re about to begin Day Four’s performance, so I'll keep this short.
Yesterday we did some serious flyering, with David dressed up in full Boris regalia, complete with wig. “A musical about me!” he screeched, over and over. I think we have footage.
The performance itself went well; the energy among the cast and band was high. I made a few mistakes myself, but I think overall we still have a great account of ourselves and the audience absolutely loved it. It was full beyond capacity, which was a fantastic start to the run. In terms of income, it wasn’t hugely generous for the amount of people that came, but if we replicate that amount each night, we’ll break even. That's the most we can hope for really at Edinburgh Fringe, and personally I’ll just be glad if we don’t make a loss.
Laurence also made the announcement last night that we’ve been offered some support as a company from a regional theatre, so this buoyed up the mood considerably.
The day of our second show. As it was a Sunday, we took the car and nabbed a free space in Edinburgh centre. But before that, we headed to Greensides to catch our MD’s other show, The Local. It was my second time seeing the show, which was all about pub closures. Dom was gracious enough to give us a code to get in for free. It was even better the second time around - same great tunes, but with a slicker performance.
After that the team headed off to do some flyering, but I was badly run down by that point. With nowhere else to turn, I headed off to the car for a little time on my own and a short nap. It perked me up enough to get through the show. Our performance had less mistakes but perhaps a little less energy too. It went down well though, with a full and appreciative audience. Unfortunately, while their appreciation showed on their faces, it did not in most cases stretch to their pockets.
Afterwards, some of us stayed to see a burlesque show, and then went for chips and a beer on the pier. It was a lovely way to wind down - it's so beautiful out there. This has been and will continue to be a challenging experience, but nevertheless there are moments of stillness and joy to be found.
My ‘day five’ was a day off, so I'll mostly tell you about everyone else’s day.
Kyle had a lovely breakfast with his girlfriend Shelby and her nan, and then enjoyed a performance of The Local along with David. It was David's first time seeing The Local and he came away very impressed with Dom and Kate’s writing and composing skills.
This was followed by a flyering session, during which David was interviewed by Capital FM. Craig was approached by a staff member of the National Museum and Library of Scotland, who archived one of our flyers for each.
Laurence (in his own words) attempted to foist himself onto a series of strangers, armed only with tattered flyers and charm. His expectations were not met, but he remains hopeful.
As for me, I had two trips to the pier, one late at night (lovely with all the lights) and another very early in the morning. I did some rock-clambering, which was not the greatest idea I’ve ever had. I slipped on a seaweedy rock and fell on my arse. Fortunately my arse is still soft enough to take the hit, but my left hand is now injured.
Audience numbers weren't quite as high as before, but still very healthy. It was a good solid performance, marred slightly for me by the malfunctioning of my keyboard pedal. Upon our return to Queensferry, we continued our late-night tradition of “pier beers” and horrendously unhealthy takeaway food. Back at the flat, Kyle settled in for his first night staying with us, and David proudly showed off his willy. It was an odd night.
So we lost a Blowfish member today. It was unfortunate, but not totally unexpected.
As we don’t have anywhere to rehearse properly between shows, this was difficult to get around. It meant many unrehearsed changes, which obviously didn’t go smoothly. The mistakes had a bit of a domino effect on the actors too, so overall it was not our best show.
We got through it though, and the audience still enjoyed themselves. Some of them even came out singing our praises.
Before that, we spent the day flyering, being shouted at by drag queens, and (for me) trying my best to learn a new instrument, knowing I’d be performing it onstage that night.
One good thing has come from this: I’m no longer a bag of nerves when I go on stage. If you mess up enough times, you eventually realise that it's going to happen sometimes and all you can do is carry on and learn from it.
We’re running low on flyers now, so I didn’t spend a great deal of time flyering today. We went to Dom's venue (Greensides Infirmary) to help carry gear across to our venue. Having got there a little early, I lolled outside in the sunshine on a fabulously comfy green deck chair, which I gave serious thought to stealing. It would have made a lovely addition to our little Queensferry patio.
It's been an emotional day for me and this keeps creeping up on me at inconvenient moments. This is partly due to the events of the last few days and weeks, and partly just sheer exhaustion.
After Dom's show, the band headed to parking bay 5 for an open-air rehearsal, just off the mile and auspiciously located next to a sewer. As well as bemusing several onlookers, we managed to tighten up the set a little ahead of the show.
The performance went much better than last night, though it was by no means perfect. It was also a strangely unresponsive audience, though they did give generously. Afterwards, Laurence went to have dinner with some family members, Liz chilled on the sofa with a glass of wine, and the rest of “6B” (Kyle, David, and I) went for pier beers - or in my case, wine and Quorn eggs.
The rain is back. It's our last show tonight, and our last chance to recoup our expenses. With hardly any flyers left, I went in search of “wee blue books” - the catalogue of all PBH Free Fringe events - to give out instead. They’re supposed to be in stock at every Free Fringe venue, but we’ve had trouble getting hold of them. I eventually tracked down a box and headed to the mile to hand them out. I was stationed at St Giles’ cathedral looking after everyone's bags, so I couldn’t move much, which is difficult when flyering. The other team members were more successful though. Laurence ran into the chap from Cambridge Footlights who plays Trump in “Trump’d”, one of our rival shows.
Having got down to the last two of our flyers, which were now very soggy from the rain, I wished that we had ordered 5,000 for the week, plus bigger posters for the venue and a couple of A2s for the sandwich board we stupidly left behind. But you live and learn.
At about half four we had a short break, and I got a cappuccino and an enormous chocolate croissant from a Portuguese coffee shop. After that, Kyle, Laurence and I went to the Underbelly to see a show called Starship Osiris. It was a very diverting sci-fi farce, which lifted the mood considerably before our last show of the run.
The performance was reasonably good, similar in quality to last night's, with good audience numbers. Takings were again pretty good.
We had intended to celebrate at a karaoke event in the pub across the road, but we were turned away. I think it's because we're English. So we headed to another pub, where a band was just finishing up. Somehow we got chatting to a friendly bloke whose partner didn't seem to like us very much. One of my favourite moments - “Shouldn't you be having some sort of after-show party?” - “Yeah mate, you're at it!”
Okay, so I lied in the title. There isn't anything "beyond" Edinburgh Fringe at all. So sue me.