The Edinburgh Festival Fringe has been over for a few days now and I’ve been reflecting on last month’s adventures. I’ve also been sleeping forever, cleaning flyers out of my bag and eating ALL THE VEGETABLES.
Before this summer, I’d been to the Fringe as an actor, a punter and a guest performer at last year’s Loud Poets show. However this is the first year that I’ve been really, REALLY involved in that manic, overwhelming, inspiring medley of theatre, music, comedy and more that overtakes Edinburgh once a year. I joined the Loud Poets for eight nights of their festival run at the Storytelling Center and I had the pleasure of writing for Broadway Baby magazine, the largest reviewing publication at the Fringe. Balancing the two jobs wasn’t always easy, but I enjoyed my different roles, both on and off the stage.
The Loud Poets Fringe show was so slick, so smooth, so energetic and so much fun to be a part of. Not only did we receive great feedback from audiences each night after the show, we also got awesome reviews, standing ovations and even won a new fan in Phill Jupitus, who went out drinking with us after one of the shows! I had a great time goofing off with the other poets backstage and getting to know them better. Who knew that the poet Catherine Wilson was as fervent a fan of The Great British Bake-Off as I am?
Another cool thing that happened was that my poem, 50 Shades, a poetic response to 50 Shades of Grey by E.L James, was actually nominated for Best Poem at the Edinburgh Festivals. I joined the likes of Don Patterson and a few fellow Loud Poets. In the end, the award went to my friend Kevin McLean, one of the Loud Poets, for his raw, moving poem ‘Evelyn’ which he wrote in the aftermath of his mother’s death. I was really proud of him; it’s a beautiful piece.
Overall my favorite aspect of performing was chatting with audience members after the show. One girl I met told me that her sister didn’t like poetry at all before seeing my 50 Shades poem and that poem changed her mind. Wow! I started tearing up when she told me that. I’m glad that our show has helped to demonstrate that poetry is as diverse as any other art form. I hope it encouraged people to go forth, to seek out more poetry and to write it themselves.
Being part of a poetry collective was lovely because these guys really support each other. When I was ill one evening, someone happily stepped in. When someone else was upset after a gig that didn’t go as well as they wanted, we rallied behind them. It was a really great experience that I’m sure stage actors can relate to. To share the stage with people fosters something special: a unique blend of camaraderie, playfulness, support and trust.
When I wasn’t on stage ranting about E.L James, I was writing feature articles for Broadway Baby as their Poetry Correspondent. I only wrote features (no reviewing for me!), so I had the opportunity to chat with many diverse artists about their shows. It was interesting noticing trends in some of the interviews. For example, a lot of these artists were responding to the recent re-election of a conservative government in the UK. I also noticed an emphasis on creative collaboration in many of my interviews: see Jenny Lindsay’s discussion of working on a team with SHIFT and how Jemima Foxtrot and Paula Varjack worked with directors to develop their solo shows. The more I chatted with these artists, the more I understood that there’s no such thing as a ‘solo show’.
Other miscellaneous lessons that I learned during the festival:
-Everything will be more expensive in Edinburgh. Even some of your favorite cafes or bars that aren’t directly affiliated with the festival.
-Word of mouth is a powerful thing. If you like something, recommend it! Share it on social media. It’s a great tool when people are wading through so many thousands of shows.
-Always carry around a bit of toilet roll or tissues in your bag. Is it just me or were all the toilet cubicles always out?!!
-Last, but not least, don’t beat yourself up about not seeing everything you wanted to see. For me, there were SO MANY things I wanted to see but didn’t have a chance to. I think that’s normal? In the end, I did catch a lot of shows and, hey, there’s always next year!
For a full list of the articles I wrote for Broadway Baby, see here.
You can also listen to an interview with me, Doug Garry and Catherine Wilson on Radio Saltire about Loud Poets.