Having gone to Edinburgh Fringe got a couple of weeks in 2010 to do various five minute spots, I thought I knew what to expect for when I returned in 2011. Oh, how sorely mistaken I was. It was a brutal experience.
Things got off to a bad start when I ordered 10,000 flyers that were delivered to my address in London, instead of direct to Edinburgh. The most stupid thing though is that was actually intentional. Me and Paul split them between us and each took up 5,000 separately.
I left early in the morning to catch the train, carrying my flyers in an Asda bag for life. Only, the bag split at the end of my road. I was also carrying the rest of my luggage. I somehow managed to just about hold everything together, although I seem to recall needing a luggage trolley for assistance at King’s Cross. Whether or not I used one, I can’t remember.
I boarded the train stressed and sweating profusely, in what would become an annual tradition of getting on the train to Edinburgh.
The show I was doing with Paul was called A Mixed Bag. I thought this would be a good name as a way to deflect criticism and lower expectations. “Well, what did you expect when the show had a title like that?”
I was keen to get the experience of doing a full-run at Edinburgh Fringe without appearing on anyone’s radar. I think it’s fair to say I achieved this, and have done so consistently in my other years at the festival.
We were each going doing around 25 minutes on stage. In fairness, neither of us had a solid ten minutes then. Some would argue that I still don’t after ten years of doing this thing, but then these people haven’t done three official sold-out runs at Edinburgh Fringe. So they can shove it.
My set involved a lot angst about working in a charity call centre, while Paul was ranting about the royal wedding and the Chilean miners.
And our venue was The Three Sisters. I shudder whenever I think of that place. It was stag do and hen do central. It’s loud, busy and often smells of vomit or disinfectant, depending on what time of the day you go there.
We could usually fill the room at weekends, but they wouldn’t always hang around. One particular memory will haunt me forever with this. It was the first Saturday of the Fringe and we had a full room. But they were mainly rugby fans who’d come in to get out of the rain. I was on first and died on my arse. At the 20 minute mark of my set, about half of the audience got up and walked out, leaving me floundering on the stage. There was nowhere to hide. I wrote this entry here where I tried to put a positive spin on it, probably to convince myself that it wasn’t so bad when I was eating biscuits.
And then there’s the small matter of our one-star review from ThreeWeeks. Paul called me up to tell me about it and read it out to me over the phone. I could only laugh. But then I later had my revenge on ThreeWeeks when I started doing paid shows at The Stand. Performers are asked if there are any publications they don’t want to receive comps, and I always say: “Actually, there is one publication…”
Another prominent memory of the 2011 when Paul had been watching the Man United V Arsenal game in the courtyard at The Three Sisters. Paul is an Arsenal fan and they lost 8-2. He’d already had two pints, but a Man United fan bought him another pint for every goal that went in. Ten pints later, he had a show to do. Unsurprisingly, he was a mess and didn’t do very well. And he was performing wearing a kilt made of leftover flyers, complete with a sporran. I had made a waistcoat. I had to go on after him and attempt to salvage our final gig. I think I just mocked Paul for much of it and it seemed to work.
Nevertheless, we learned a lot that year and had some fun. And people occasionally enjoyed the show, said nice things and put some money in our bucket. It also didn’t break us and we went back for more the next year.
Accommodation was pretty good in 2011. I was sharing a flat with Moz that was fairly central. He was great company, but appalling at washing up – as I felt the need to make a note of.
I will be talking with Paul on a forthcoming episode of my podcast Edinburgh Fringe: The Year Off. Moz is so far refusing to appear. I can’t think why.