Edinburgh Diary – Tuesday 22 August 2017

I’m visiting the Edinburgh International Festival and Edinburgh Fringe from Monday 21 – Friday 25 August.

Whilst I’m here I’m making appearances as co-host on Ewan Spence’s Edinburgh Fringe Podcast.  And I’m keeping a diary, just as you’d expect every good blogger to do. 

After yesterday’s unnecessarily demanding travel-day, I was pleased to get a lie-in this morning.

The pillows aren’t what I’m used to. I’m more of a feather pillow kind of guy. These are foam. But the mattress is firm, the night air a charming kind of Scottish chilly, and the surrounding streets surprisingly quiet in the mornings.

I waited for my flatmate to leave for work (technically he’s my landlord for the week), then clambered out from underneath the duvet and made myself a cup of tea. Fuck. No milk. An emergency visit to the nearby Sainsbury’s Local followed. I showered first. I’m not an animal.

The hint of student accommodation, my self-imposed prudence, and the pre-9am milk trip, brought back memories of my first term at university twenty five years ago. A nice feeling, despite the fact that the first term was incredibly tough. Funny how the brain filters out the bad stuff.

First Edinburgh Fringe Podcast

The first podcast (relayed on the radio doncha know) went reasonably well. It’s only my fourth or fifth time doing live radio. My first experience was working on Sandi Toksvig’s LBC show back in 2005.

There is an energy to live radio I had forgotten about today.

There’s a script, obviously. And, fortuitously, I’d made a point of looking for the clock so I could track where we were in running order. But there are still those moments in time when you catch a look of your host sat next to you, and terror momentarily flashes across your mind. Split seconds of silence can sometimes feel like a full half-hour.

I’ve listened to it all back and discover that it is nothing how I remember it being. Tomorrow, I’d like to manage the sudden drop in adrenaline when the whole thing finishes. That’s punishing. I’d also like to hold back on the dry humour a little. The line, “I don’t really like this guest, Ewan,” sounded funny in my head but was met with a near riot. Deservedly so.

There are also pictures taken by the producer, but I’m reliably informed they’ll be updated soon.

Open Road / Ecce Theatre

My first event was Ecce Theatre‘s Open Road. It’s Ecce Theatre’s return to the Fringe, one of many statements by long-suffering and much-maligned ‘millenials’ at this year’s Fringe.

I’m interested in what that generation are saying to people like me.

This was a sophisticated statement: playful; thought-provoking; and, deceptively dark.

I get excited when I watch people twenty years younger than me doing something that means a lot to them. I get excited for them.

Anxiety and Animal GIFs / Hannah Chutzpah

I liked the idea of this show – at least the synopsis I read in the show blurb on the Fringe app (more on that in the next para).

What I discovered doing the podcast with Ewan was that the show blurb has to be submitted by the artist to the Fringe people in March, meaning that what they provide as a synopsis may well turn out to be different come the finished product.

Hannah’s act didn’t disappoint. I wanted to be challenged. I also wanted to relate to someone’s story.

This was ‘Free Fringe’ – an opportunity for those artists with an act but not a budget.

Production values were necessarily low, but the spirit was there, so too the poetry, which was touching, heartfelt, honest, and brave.

Hannah has a story weaving through her act. She also has set-piece poetry, and a refreshing and reassuring sense of transparency.

It seems criminal she has to pay £400 to get her act listed in the Fringe App and Directory.

Anathema / Bearded Dog Theatre

There is a theme emerging from today’s shows. Youth, eagerness, and new writing.

Anathema dealt with something quite challenging: male rape.

The back page of the programme tackled some of the myths and realities of male sexual abuse.

The truth is that I’d had no idea quite how much detail the play would go into. There were moments when it all seemed a little too close for comfort.

I don’t remember anyone at University daring to take on the issues of the day in such a succinct or graphic way. I am impressed that Bearded Dog Theatre did.

A production full of hope and aspiration. Some painfully acute observations of fresher’s week characters, and Megan Bailes as Riley was perfect.

Today’s learning

The writing is what’s important to me. The words on the page. The thinking. The daring to say the things you think you shouldn’t say that you probably should that you’re not quite sure whether you’ve got the balls to say.

It’s the writing that keeps me going, and when I hear others saying the same thing I feel strangely reassured about keeping going in this weird period of time post-BBC.

Hannah Chutzpah’s show really helped me there.

Tomorrow, I have a veteran pianist to listen to. I’m wondering what he’ll share that resonates.