Crumbs. I’m setting off for a month of performing at the Edinburgh Fringe. It’s the world’s biggest arts festival and, if you’ve never been, you can’t begin to imagine how joyous/needy/busy/baffling/multicoloured/drama studenty/wearying/exciting/lovely/damp/mind-blowing it is.
I am performing my solo show, Be Kind To Yourself, every night at 11:05pm at the Banshee Labyrinth on Niddry Street. It is a stand-up poetry show that is mostly childish jokes and nonsense but is also a little bit about my anxieties and your anxieties and how we can overcome them without succumbing to trite dogma or comfort-pies. (although I am not above the occasional comfort-pie or soupcon of trite dogma)
Thank you for all the kind wishes! Doing Edinburgh is flipping scary. I’ve not received any funding for this show – which is fine, I didn’t ask for any – but it does mean, like many Fringe performers, I’m gambling several thousand quid of my own money, if you factor in the whole month I’m taking off to perform.
I have no idea how it’s going to go, or whether anyone will turn up, but I know I am so incredibly lucky to have this opportunity. Gigging is gruelling, and the Fringe can be tough, but I am getting to share my own work, and every show that goes well will be mine – and the audience’s – to enjoy. I had a lot of help with this show from the Battersea Arts Centre, who gave me space and time to develop it under the working title Pub Stuntman. I’m privileged to be performing amongst some of the hardest working and best spoken word artists in the world.
Seriously. You should come. If you’re not coming, you know what would genuinely help? Share the link about my show. Someone you know might live in Edinburgh, or might be popping to the festival for the weekend, or might decide to based on your recommendation! It’s great when national press namecheck something in their hastily-constructed trend pieces, but word of mouth is far, far more powerful, and your good word could genuinely transform my run. If you imagine my little show as an attempt to cross the Atlantic in a bathtub, your Facebook or Twitter post is like a Toffee Crisp dropping out of the clear blue sky into my lap halfway through my second week. A beautiful act of kindness that might all the difference.
The spoken word lineup is awesome and diverse and I’m just bursting with pride to be part of it. If you’re heading to the Fringe and a bit unsure of what to see, here are my recommendations:
John Berkavitch’s show represents exactly what is so great about this year’s Fringe Spoken Word offerings. It mixes spoken word, hip-hop, dance, animation and music to talk about mistakes, regret and shame. I haven’t managed to see this show yet but everyone I spoke to who caught it at Latitude loved it. The most common comment was ‘I didn’t really know what to expect, but it was brilliant’. Which is pretty much the perfect description of what you want to see at the Fringe.
See – and here’s another show that is technically Spoken Word, but offers something completely different. Molly Naylor and Iain Ross use music, storytelling and sweet banter to remind us all what it’s like to be teenaged and to ask if we mightn’t be better off channelling our inner adolescent once in a while. I saw it kill to a packed how at the Norfolk & Norwich Festival. I love it. It does so many things a great show needs to – it’s rich, it’s funny, it takes risks, and it’s very much a live experience. Molly and Iain are an excellent double act. It’s part of the Forest Fringe so it’s free, but ticketed. Go, go, go.
And abracadabra, another show with ‘Spoken Word’ as one of its categories, and it’s an utterly new beast again. Ross Sutherland’s show is part psychological experiment, part doomsday cult, and part manic autobiographical stand-up. Armed with a video recorder and looping clips of old adverts and TV shows, Ross starts to draw patterns and messages out of seemingly meaningless retro trash-culture, until you start to wonder… hang on. Maybe he’s onto something. Maybe the TV is talking to me. It’s one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. Everyone who watches it, whether they’re a hardcore Spoken Word fan (this may be a type of person I’ve made up) or whether they’ve never stepped into a theatre in their lives, comes away wowed. Ross is so skilled at taking arty concepts and making them entertaining and accessible. See it. It’s so, so ace.
This is going to be so much fun. A host of dead poets come back to life, to one-on-one, Streetfighter style, in a series of rap battles. The audience gets to pick who steps into the ring each round. Sylvia Plath versus Ted Hughes? You can make it happen. Want to see Scotland’s finest, Rabbie Burns, take on Lord Byron? Of course you do. We all do. I’ve heard some of the bars the dead bards are prepping and they’re immense. I wept with laughter. No show this year is going to be so funny, so inappropriate, and so sneakily educational. The show’s main category is rightly Comedy, but its inclusion in the Spoken Word and Poetry sub-categories show again just what a strong, diverse field this year’s Spoken Word shows offer.
Byron Vincent’s show about his experiences of mental illness and getting sectioned is probably the closest of these five to stand-up, but being Spoken Word there’s room for all sorts of other things to elbow their way in. It’s funny, but it’s also unsettling and gripping and moving. If you’ve ever seen Byron perform you won’t have read this far because you’ll have seen his name then immediately clicked the link to buy tickets. He’s hilarious and impossibly erudite and every sentence has a spidery, glistening intricate majesty that make you feel like he’s building a new annex in your brain. Not in an Anne Frank way. More Kevin McCloud.
Oh, and hey – if you want to see me, Mark and Mixy doing a free show together, come to GRAVE INVADERS, 2-12 Aug, 8:50pm at the Banshee Labyrinth. We’ll be doing completely different material to our other shows, delivering stand-up poetry about the two-week pilgrimage we undertook last year, visiting poets’ graves from the Isle of Wight to Edinburgh, and gigging in offices, pubs, schools and castles along the way.