I’m now in Edinburgh. It has been a while between posts, but Internet cafes are pretty expensive here and I’ve been just barely managing to keep up the emailing, let alone indulging myself with a post or uploading photos.
So, a quick point-form rundown of my first 5 days in Edinburgh. No time to polish this one up.
Hung around at Heathrow for six hours allowing myself to be bumped across two flights. I received Â£ 100 for the first bump and Â£75 for the second, which has been a handy influx of cash. Saw a few Blue Screens of Death and hacked a Visit Scotland booth so it would let me check my email. People paying 10p/minute for nearby internet terminals looked at me funny.
Caught a bus from the airport to the hostel, spent the evening wandering the streets looking at bars and acclimatising to the hostel. Met a lovely couple (one from Belfast, the other from Newcastle (England)) who gave me small Marks and Spencer sausages and told me how lovely the Whitsundays are.
Several pints later I was ready for bed, wrapped in a cosy warm blanket of beer.
Day 2 (Sunday)
First thing, got up and looked around Edinburgh. Walked up to the castle and went on a self-guided audio tour for about 4 hours. It’s an amazing place with an incredible and bloody history. There’s a few photos in the gallery of it.
Sought out Sarah, a friend from Melbourne. Met her at Monument Park (or something like that), with James (her comedian boyfriend) and Jules (a tech on her show). We spent the afternoon hanging out and I got an idea of where everything is. Went to James’ show in the evening, and it was really great. A smart, sensitive comedian. And a nerd! I love it. James organised for me to do a 15 minute spot at Andrew J Lederer’s “Anthology” show on Tuesday. I also bumped into Andy and Laurence who offered me an improv spot at the Phat Cave on Monday night, and Sarah kindly offered me a loan of her Casio so I could do the music (I ended up hiring a proper synth because my stumpy fingers couldn’t play the Casio very well). In the evening Sarah, James and I went to “Spank!”, where James had a spot in the second bracket. We drank and laughed away the evening until around 3 or 4am before I retreated to the hospital, where I quietly waited for Edinburgh Hangover 2: The Highlander’s Revenge.
Day 3 (Monday)
Met up with Andy and Laurence (who are here doing their Somewhat Secret Secret Society Show, with great success) for a meeting about that night’s show. We agreed that I would host it. Other players in the show were Claire, a great comedian from Perth, and Candy, one half of Sista She, an awesome rap-music-comedy extravaganza double-act. Afterwards, Andy, Laurence and I went to see Mark Watson’s “2005 Years in 2005 minutes”, which is exactly what it sounds like – Mark takes the audience through history, one year per minute, highlighting major events using games, missions, songs, paintings, etc. It’s highly interactive, with audience members taking on roles in the show such as Balladeer and Court Artist, as well as various historical figures. That is how I came to be co-musical-director, along with a fantastic violinist called Amy.
At this point, I think I should describe Mark. He’s a wiry 24 year old from England with an absolutely amazing mind, one which seemingly can recall without effort vast reams of information, can count and do mathematical manipulation with blazing speed, and most impressive of all can create truly funny comedic observations on the spot. He’s a genius, and it was an absolute pleasure to be part of his show. He is also shamelessly geeky and unselfconscious, leading to alarmingly high levels of charm and loveability. His patient and loving fiance was a significant part of the show too, helping to keep things under control and coordinating things like the fetching of food and water.
Our first mission as musical directors (apart from a few trumpety blasts from my kazoo for various fights and unveilings) came when Mark left the room to bring his stand-up show audience back to meet his 2005 years audience. After doing a few improv songs, Amy and I helped compose a rollicking song to welcome the other audience to the show, with the rousing chorus:
You’ve come a long way from home,
Welcome to the Pleasance Dome!
while everyone danced with their fingers in imaginary trouser braces.
I then had to run off to shower (it was BOILING hot in there) and get back to the Gilded Balloon in time for the Phat Cave spot with the improvisors. The spot was pretty good, my hosting was a little rough around the edges (I was doing musical accompaniment as well) but the performers made up for it, as I knew they wood. We finished with a rap battle, which worked really well. Micky D joined us on stage so we could have 3-per-side.
Afterwards we danced and drank until suddenly I woke up with a terrible headache.
Day 4 (Tuesday)
Got up around 11, staggered into town with my impracticably heavy hired keyboard (which I’d used for Mark’s show and the Phat Cave), and returned it to the music shop. Ran back to Mark’s show, which had now been running for about 1500 years, or just over 24 hours. My role as musical officer resumed, providing appropriate trumpet blasts for the unveiling of paintings by the court artist. Also ran downstairs with a dozen or so other volunteers to play the theme from Beverly Hills Cop (arranged for casio and human voice) for Steven Berkoff , who didn’t appreciate it, and appreciated it even less when we chanted “Berkoff, give us a wave!” as he tried to get a drink in the bar.
We also played a song for Sir Somethingorother (I really wish I could remember his name, I mean no disrespect here!), in which the whole audience chanted along. He’s a famous Shakesperean actor who’s won Olivier Awards and things of that nature, and he was a tremendously good sport about the whole thing, particularly considering by this stage the room smelled like a zoo.
Took some time off in the middle of the day to perform at Andrew J Lederer’s Anthology show, which went okay. The start of my routine was pretty good, and there were some decent spots in the middle, but overall I think it could have gone better. However, it wasn’t a story I’d ever tried to tell before and certainly there was basically no preparation, so I was pleased considering all that.
Afterwards, I had a shower and returned to 2005 years, which by this stage was in the 1700’s and starting to get seriously crowded as people settled in for the final stretch, due to complete by around 12:15am. Mark was starting to flag a little, going through waves of tiredness, but perked up as he approached the finish line.
During the last couple of hours, myself, Amy, the amazing Balladeer (John), Andy, Laurence and Susie (who’d been making badges) wrote and performed a musical based on Mark’s efforts with the show, his trials and tribulations against the evil trinity of Father Time (You can’t make it! You’re fatigued!), The Sandman (Sleeeep! Here’s a pillow! Sleeeeep!) and Australian comedian Brendan Burns (You’re a c**t and you don’t respect me because I’m Australian! Now I’ve lost at Trivial Pursuit I have to set my f**king pants on fire!).
Also featured heavily were a Scottish C**t and a Drunken C**t, who were defeated by Andrew Maxwell wearing a tall Policeman’s hat. His primary tactic was calling them c**ts 87 times over. I know it doesn’t sound like it in this context, but Andrew Maxwell is a very clever man.
The final rousing chorus of the musical went like this:
Though it’s a lark,
We all know it’s no walk in the park,
We’d rather be here than out in the dark,
WE LOVE MARK!
By the time the musical was over, the end was drawing very near indeed. As the last few years fell away, Mark recounted the cup final winners and a few cricketing scores, pausing so we could all sing Auld Lang Syne as 2000 passed by. At the very end, of course, much cheering, clapping, crazy lighting effects, and thanks for those who participated. There was so, so, so much more to the show than I’ve been able to recount here. Check out the Edinburgh Fringe photos for a few shots I took in the last few minutes.
Afterwards, I stood around downstairs and got wasted with everyone.
Day 5 (Wednesday)
Heaved my creaking body out of bed around 11 and drank 18 litres of water in an unsuccessful attempt to make up for a week of heavy drinking. “I’m not buying that for a second”, my body said. “You can’t un-destroy your liver, it’s against the laws of entropy”. “Alright then, how about some eggs you nagging organ?”, I rasped. “Well, those proteins are actually quite hard to break down, but that’s your enzymes’ problem, not mine. Hop to it!”. My liver and I are like an old married couple sometimes.
Somehow made it to Andy and Laurence’s place for 12 so we could climb Arthur’s seat. They’d had a harder night than me, so it was both entertaining and eye-watering to watching them attempt to get themselves into a condition in which they could climb a mountain. They made it and, joined by Melboune mates Adrian, Heather and Nat, we headed out. After an initial abortive attempt involving an ancient hidden staircase, some nettles, a 12-foot wall and a leg-shattering drop over the other side of it, we decided to go the proper way and found it much easier.
As we ascended, we found a cool breeze from the west made the going much easier than it would have been in the stifling humidity of the city below. Various wacky photos were taken along the way, and we hung out at the summit for a while singing 80’s pop and 70’s disco tunes and almost sliding off the rocks in our inappropriate footwear.
This afternoon we went to an Islamic curry kitchen out the back of a mosque and I had rice with chicken curry and lentils, one meat and one vegetable pastry thing, and a can of Mecca Cola (see photos). Yes, Mecca Cola. The Taste of Freedom.
There is so much that has happened that I’ve omitted here, and I wish I had my laptop or something so I could take it all down. I have a paper diary, but I haven’t been using it as I’m kind of out of practise with the whole hand writing thing. My brain just doesn’t work in that linear kind of way any more, accustomed as it is to cutting and pasting.
Anyhoo, life is really really really really good. Being surrounded by this creative energy is like being high all the time (It’s true – life is the best drug!). I’ll admit, for the first couple of days I felt out of sorts and unsure of myself, but gradually I’m being seduced by this place, these people and this goddamn amazing festival. It blurs the lines between audience and performer, and creative energy flows and pulses out of every doorway and window, every park, every oddly-costumed passer-by, every crowd of people just singing pop songs on top of a hill for no particular reason. I can’t wait to wake up each day (hangover and all) and run into town to find out what’s happening.