Today is the first day since the start of the month that I haven’t had to perform at least one show. Over the last 23 days I’ve done more than 40 shows – 22 performances of my solo show, Be Kind To Yourself, 11 performances of my show with MC Mixy and Mark Grist, Grave Invaders, and a variety of other slots across the Fringe and at the Edinburgh Book Festival. I’ve performed to over 2500 people.
Let me be honest: there were points when I didn’t think I was going to make it through. I cried a couple of times, out of frustrations with the venue and anxiety and extreme exhaustion. But I really couldn’t have asked for a better run.
For Be Kind To Yourself, the room was over-capacity every single night of the run. We had to turn people away every gig. The crowds were fun and generous and I had the best shows I’ve had in my life. I sold all my poetry books and albums and when my publisher brought up more I sold those in two nights. (you can order my collection, Pub Stuntman, my album, Jesus Buys Me Cigarettes – iTunes – by clicking the respective links)
If you came to a show, thank you. Sorry to those people who tried and couldn’t get in! I had an incredible flierer, Rick, who waged a propaganda campaign upon the streets of Edinburgh the likes of which has never been seen. He used his charisma and overwhelming likeability as collateral to get people into the room, with such success that the first ten minutes before every show was spent shuffling the audience around to squeeze extra people into the room. Neil, my tech/maitre’d/fixer did an ace job of tweaking the mic and lights, policing the corridor (the room didn’t have a door, and was connected to an extremely busy, rowdy pub) and occasionally dealing with incoherent drunks so that each show had the best possible chance of not being a traumatic disaster. I couldn’t have managed the run without them. They were amazing.
This year’s Fringe has been an incredible experience. I’m so glad I got to do it. I learned a lot and I think I improved as a performer. If you liked the show, watch out for my debut novel, The Honours, which comes out in April from Canongate.
I have Homework in London on Wednesday, then finally I get a break from performing. I’m going to take a holiday next week – I shall do nothing except go for gentle walks and read. I’m not very good at giving myself time off, but I feel like I’ve earned it.
I plan to tour Be Kind To Yourself next year, including a short London run. If you run a venue or a night and you’d like to book it, you can get in touch with me via the ‘Contact Me’ button on the right. Similarly, schools who’d like to book me to teach workshops can get in touch the same way.
If you saw the show and want to know a bit more about my experiences with anxiety, here’s a post I wrote about them, at the beginning to the month. I love performing and I had great fun at the Fringe. There was incredible team spirit at the PBH Free Fringe and I had great support from my venue captain, Sophia Walker, from programmers Fay Roberts and Richard Tyrone Jones, and from head honcho Peter Buckley-Hill. I’m very glad I put myself in the Spoken Word section and I feel very proud to be part of such a thriving, passionate, diverse, kind scene.